La pâtisserie, c'est comme la haute couture
My name is Radhia Kamoun. I was twelve when my mother founded Gourmandise. Today, I am its CEO.
My mother was passionate about baking. She used to bake for friends and family all the time. One day, in 1976, she decided to make it her profession. As a single mother, she wanted to give my siblings and me a better future. Her dream was to open a patisserie shop in Tunis, which my brother was to run.
She started making Tunisian cakes in the kitchen of our home in Sfax, and she was very successful. In 1984, thanks to a loan and with the help of the family, she grew her business with a small “laboratory” in our garden, where she could experiment with new recipes. Sadly, she passed away in 1987 and was unable to see the fulfilment of her dream.
My brother and I took over without any knowledge of baking, or a penny to our names. What we did have were the values we inherited from our mother and which are today the values of Gourmandise.
My brother quit his job and took over the laboratory in Sfax while I opened our first store in Tunis – which exists to this day.
Through trial and error, we continued, always heeding specialist advice while respecting the values and culture of our little family business. We wanted our employees to be committed to the brand, while establishing long-lasting, quality relationships with our partners.
Frankly, the two following decades were very tough, but it’s in this period we built the brand, the company, the ownership and commitment of our teams. It’s when we opened our next six stores.
When it comes to recruitment, I try to ensure total fairness. I am the CEO, and a woman. Our HR manager is a woman. Our network director is a woman. Our administrative and financial director is a woman. Our marketing direct is a woman. There are many women in production, operations and sales. Beyond that, I’m a member of several clubs and associations which have aim to encourage women entrepreneurs. I also coach women who are trying to make their way in the same sector I have.
We quickly came to the realisation that Tunisian pastry is a seasonal product, only sold for religious events or marriages. That’s why we decided to look into French pastries. They are very different. While Tunisian pastries are made with dried fruit and sugar syrup, French pastries are lighter, and easier to sell year-round.
We brought in some Meilleurs Ouvriers de France (a unique and prestigious award in France) to provide us with training – they worked for free, with only their expenses covered. That’s how we did it, bit by bit, because we didn’t have anything to spare, and we still had to pay back the loan our mother had taken out.
À chacun son moment Gourmandise
Stepping up our game
From 2000 to 2010, the market asked for more and more, and we were ambitious enough to want to provide it. So we came up with a “haute couture” approach to pastries, with an annual collection which is presented to our clients at a glamorous tasting. In those years we innovated a lot in terms of processes, products and concepts, and we became ISO 9001 and ISO 22000 certified.
At that time, Gourmandise started making a name for itself in Tunisia. Our network of stores doubled.
In 2010, we decided to expand our production capacity, and we bought a plot of land for a new “laboratory” in Tunis, fully in line with the international rules and regulations.
Then, in 2011, the “Arab Spring” revolution started, in Tunisia. This put a stop to our development. We didn’t want to open any new stores until the economic and political stability had returned to our country.
In 2015, because of the costs of the new workshop and our inability to open new stores, we found ourselves in a financial bind. It’s at that time that we decided to welcome AfricInvest as a shareholder. They shared our values and provided us with the necessary contacts to further develop our network.
With the arrival of AfricInvest we updated our methods of governance; we started doing monthly reporting and created a clear and defined corporate structure.
After a customer satisfaction survey, we realised that in Tunisia, people had stopped inviting people into their homes. Instead, they rather go out for coffee, lunch or dinner. This was an important market, and we had to get into it.
From 2015 onwards, all our stores subscribed to the new concept. We had rebranded all our locations, opting for a white and gold model, with a zen and uncluttered atmosphere in which a client could feel at ease. The new stores are more spacious and include a kitchen and seating area. It’s a new business.
By 2019, the revolution had passed, and the orders started coming in again. By the end of the year, we had raised the money to launch more concept stores. In the largest, Lac 1, there are 500 seats and a magnificent view on the lake. It’s our flagship store, with a restaurant, café, salad bar, master class room and children’s area.
At the moment, we have 27 stores in Tunisia, of which 10 franchises. We are present from Bizerte to Djerba, from the north to the south. We are a brand that offers enjoyment and an artisanal product of the highest standards, 7 days out of 7, from 7 AM onwards, all over Tunisia. Furthermore, we have included a home delivery service and produce a variety of delicatessen.
My mother’s dream was to open a store in Tunis. The dream of brother and I is to take Gourmandise international. In April 2022 we opened our first store in Libya, and we intend to export our concept to those regions with similar culinary habits in Northern Africa and the Gulf, and, later, why not to Belgium and France?
BIO has invested in several funds of AfricInvest.
AfricInvest has invested in Gourmandise, a Tunisian pastry brand.
Ms Radhia Kammoun is its CEO. This is her story.
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