Hajer Kammoun: I’ve always been engaged in multitasking

You know, sometimes you meet people that just make you want to sit down and reconsider your life’s objectives. Hajer Kammoun is one such person. She’s a medical student, a member of the International Association of Medical Students (Assiociamed), runs a school magazine, has participated in the SUSI program and is aiming at launching a social enterprise this year.

It doesn’t stop there. Hajer also plays the lute and is an active member of the Junior Chamber International (JCI) with which she directs the ‘HopiClown’ project which brings clowns to hospitals to cheer up sick kids. Hajer is now trying to revolutionise the Tunisian educational system through her upcoming social enterprise. Read on to get the biggest dose of inspiration you’ll receive this week.

Let’s start with the ‘Hopiclown’ project, how did you come to be the director it?

I always wanted to be a member of a ‘Clowns in a Hospital’ group. Since I didn’t find one , I wanted to create my own team. I had in my mind a new approach which was to engage youth and give them an opportunity to all experience being clowns. This was to unlock their potential, challenge them, organize them as a team (for many of them, it was their first time preparing and presenting shows in public), show and present them in public and have fun. All while creating happiness and bringing hope and joy of living to patients in hospitals.

I presented my idea and strategy to Junior Chamber International (JCI), a nonprofit organization of young active citizens age committed to creating impact in their communities. While some of the members approved the idea of organizing an event that targets children, the majority were against it. They thought the whole idea of us doing clown shows would be ridiculous and that it’d be better to hire professional clowns for this project.

They thought it would be impossible for us to cheer up sick children because it requires experience. But, I wasn’t convinced! I was so driven by the dream of being with my clown family and drawing smiles on children’s faces that the only thing I had in mind was to find another strategy to do it.

What did you do to overcome this challenge?

First, I had to get permission and know more about any challenges we could facing. Then, I wrote a letter asking to the Chief of Pediatric Service. On our first round, I went with my sister, two JCI members and a friend to a hospital. We took with us some gifts and decoration bought from our own money. I also brought my lute with me.

Even though we weren’t dressed as clowns, we talked to children and to their parents and made them laugh. I played my lute for them and we sang all together. This experience taught us a lot about working with sick children and their parents. We learnt things we would do again and things we’d have to avoid, the best gifts and the way we should give them… Most importantly, we saw the joy in the eyes of children and the happiness shared between parents as we performed. This proved me again how important my clowns in a hospital project would be.

Still, I had to ensure that I, and anyone involved in my project, were able to deal with sick children and understand their psychology without making any unnecessary errors. To motivate and create my team, I organized an open event, a training called ‘HopiClown’ in collaboration with a pedopsychiatrist, Mrs Sarra Bousleh and a comedian actor and producer, Mr. Wissem Slimene.


Did the training help with finally establishing ‘HopiClown’?

People who assisted loved the first training , many of them got comfortable with the idea of being clowns or at least with being disguised as fairies, cats, etc. I was able to grow my team by many members. We then had another training with Mr. Slimene to show us how to put on a clown’s play. From that day on, we became a large team organizing full clown shows with theatre, music, dancing, storytelling, team games and more.

The gift we get each time we put on a show, is the joy we see on the faces of children and their parents. We’ve one put on a show after the death of a baby and managed to change the atmosphere 180 degrees.

I love how we create this huge impact while at the same time developing our skills and having a lot of fun too! I now have a large clown family who have put on great shows with their amazing skills. Moreover, they keep asking me each time we meet about the next event. People I’ve never met before have contacted me to ask for my help with putting up shows in carcinology service and the elderly home of Sousse.

Why did you decide to start a magazine in your secondary school?

There were three things that gave me this idea. First, wherever I am I want to leave my fingerprint. I want to make it so when I leave, I’ve made a change in the environment so it’s not the same as when I entered. So, I had it in my mind to leave something to my school.

Second, one month before I started working on the magazine, a group of Belgians came to our school. I witnessed how different their perspectives of us compared to our reality as young Tunisian students.

I thought that it’d have been much better to have something to show them. Like a product of our school that informs about us, our culture, our talents, our ways of living, our thoughts etc. Third is that we never had a school magazine before, so I thought it was high time we made one.

This is how I got the idea to combine students’ skills to create a product that will last forever in our school, a magazine. We used the income that came from selling the magazine to buy some missing material and also left some the next generation. This was so that it can be easier for those following the same path to publish future editions. I shared my idea with friends, one of them was motivated and we started working on the magazine together. I’m definitely grateful to all the teachers who helped us, especially Mrs. Najoua Dahmeni

It took us some time to raise the money needed but when we published it we chose to call it LPS Archive. LPS is the abbreviation of the name of our school, Lycée Pilote de Sousse.lps-magazine

You’re working towards starting a social enterprise this year, what steps are you taking to ensure that your enterprise survives?

To ensure that my enterprise survives, I will first take considerable time choosing my team members. I want to bring together highly motivated people from different regions, with different talents. I’ll keep telling my team how important their mission is and how much our enterprise can impact future generations and change Tunisia.

I’ll make everyone feel their work and intervention are fundamental to the working of the enterprise and will listen to them. I’ll also learn from their ideas and give them different responsibilities. This way, everyone in my team feels this enterprise is theirs and that they have a say in its success. If my team sees themselves as part of my enterprise, they can’t leave it.

Then, I’ll organize training  for my team members especially team building ones to empower them, create harmony and build strong relationships. I’ll try my best to make the team members mission driven so that the work will be shared between them when I get too busy.

As for my work, I’ll take a more supervisory role ensuring that everything is going the way it should. Above all, I’ll always make time out for my enterprise. What matters is that I won’t stop, and I’m convinced that if I want something to happen then with work and especially God’s help, it will.

My life is only mine due to all its challenges. I know starting an enterprise won’t be very easy but we’ll never celebrate successes so happily if success was so easy to reach. So I’m completely prepared for the challenge!

What pushed you to engage in so many entrepreneurial activities as a student? How do you balance your studies with your other interests?

Voluntary and entrepreneurial activities are the essence of my life. They’re what make my life worthwhile. I believe every single person was born for a reason, for a mission that only she can accomplish. Everyone has something unique to add to the world.

Living with this belief, and trusting that I can make a change in the world, make me walk forward and aspire to always achieve more.

What do you do when the stress gets too much?

I make plans and do everything because I love to, not because I have to. I mean, I don’t do everything. I do things I love doing and that will get me closer to my objectives in life.

I have programs for studying and programs for other interests that add to my practical knowledge. I select priorities among my interests, decide what really matters to me and focus on them. When the stress gets too much I opt for the priorities. I’ll only spend my time in acting, learning and participating in things that get me closer to my objectives in life. There’s no loss of time at all. I’m not a fan of TV or hanging on social media just for the sake of it.

I actually got used to having many varied interests from a very early age. I’m grateful to everyone who inculcated this value in me, especially my parents. They made me integrate a karate club and music lessons since I was 5. I started playing the lute at 6 year old and I never stopped engaging in different things while studying.

I think this is how I got used to multitasking, it became a crucial way of living. Since I’ve always been engaged in many things at the same time, I got used to a stressful life. To give one example of balancing many things at the same time, let me tell you about my Baccalaureate year. In that year, I was active in my school’s artistic committee and preparing shows with them. I also assisted at many Amideast meetings, applied for ALA (the African Leadership Academy) and got accepted and published the magazine.

Would you say you enjoy the challenges that come with the various activities you’re involved in?

Honestly, the stress pushes me forward. It makes me achieve more than what I dreamed of. It makes my life exciting, full of surprises, meetings, giving, smiles, joy and challenges! People may feel sorry for me when seeing me very tired but I’m far from thinking about running away from stress or challenges. I’m just in love with the challenges and I’m definitely chasing them because they’re what make my life more worth living.

We want to know what amazing things women are doing in your communities! Tell us about them here.

Sibahle Khumalo: Balancing a baking business with my studies in Genetics

For some us, side hustles only became real when we started our careers. For others, it starts much earlier. Sibahle Khumalo is a university student and a #MotherlandMogul. Between studying to complete her degree in Genetics, she bakes and sells cakes. Sisi Lwandle recently caught up with Sibahle for a chat where she discovered what it takes to balance studies and entrepreneurship, and what Sibahle views as success.

How did the idea for your baking business come about?

It was actually my mother who had the idea of me starting a baking business. I learnt how to bake muffins and cupcakes from my mom and I had tried baking cookies and brownies before, but I had never baked a “big cake” as I called it. So, early last year I was feeling brave and I searched on the internet for a good chocolate cake recipe. To my surprise we had most of the ingredients I needed in the house. I just had to buy a round cake pan, after which I proceeded to bake my chocolate cake and decorate it.

It was the best chocolate cake I’ve ever tasted and everybody in the house was so surprised to see that I could bake a delicious cake in just one try. My mother loved it so much she took it to work the next day to share with her colleagues and they loved it to. She then told me that I could actually start my own small baking business and from then I started modifying the recipe and practicing to bake it perfectly. After some time I started advertising my creations on Facebook and well one thing led to another and I found myself starting my own small business.

Where did your capital funding come from? How were you able to start up?

My capital funding came out of my pocket as I have a part-time job as a coach at a local high school. I used the little money that I had to buy equipment and even now I use some of the business’ profit to build the business. Slowly but surely my dream of having my own bakery is coming together.

You’re studying a degree in Genetics. This is a complete contrast to the industry of your current business, where and how do they both fit into your future plans?

That’s a very good question. I plan on continuing my studies and going into medicine as it has been my life long dream. At the same time, I plan on growing my bakery business to the extent where I don’t have to work myself but have staff working for me, I’m planning for it to become a passive form of income.

As a full time student, how do you juggle academic responsibilities and the demands of your growing business?

I won’t lie, it’s very tough. Sometimes I find myself having to turn down customers because of writing tests or exams. Other times, I find myself stressing and not having enough time to study. But with the help of my mom and aunt I get everything done in time, which usually means going to bed at midnight.


How has being an entrepreneur and student affected your social life?

I’m surprised it hasn’t affected it too drastically, I still have time for my friends and family. It just takes a lot of pre-planning for things to work. So now I actually have a use for calendar/journal.

What advice would you give to other university students who wish to become entrepreneurs?

Go for it! There’s nothing worse than just keeping business ideas in your head, start small and grow your business from the ground up. Understand that success isn’t something that happens overnight, but know that all the hard work will pay off soon.

And also, be prepared to have to choose sometimes between your education and your business.

If you won the lotto right now, what would you do?

If I won the lotto I would open my own bakery/cafe. And I’d also treat myself to a long deserved holiday, baking can get really tough.

What motivates Sibahle Khumalo?

Making my customers happy, there’s nothing better than putting a smile on someone’s face.


What is your favourite aspect about being an entrepreneur?

Being able to say, “I have my own business” has to be my favourite part!

But, what I love the most about being a black female entrepreneur is having the platform to inspire other people.

How do you define success?

Success is the result of an ongoing process of bettering yourself and working on your goals.

Which company or business person inspires you?

Buddy Valastro, the owner of Carlo’s Bakery, most commonly known as the Cake Boss.

Want to see women you know featured on SLA? Tell us what amazing things women are doing in your communities here.

Making sense of cents: Quick tips to improve your financial literacy

In an increasingly consumerist society it is very easy to get swept up in the barrage of not-so-gentle persuasions on how to spend your money. It ranges from the seemingly harmless dine-out options you yearn for all month long, the glitzy red bottom heels, to a new gadget that you just have to have.

Financial literacy is muscle, the more you engage it the stronger and better skilled it becomes. It is important to practice intense amounts of self discipline. It sounds daunting, doesn’t it? Growing up, having a job, earning your own money and then be told be disciplined with how you spend it. Very few people are raised to understand finances beyond what they spend. It is much like not ever teaching children how to read then expecting them to be able to fully engage with a highly literate world as adults. No fair, right?

Don’t worry though, help is at hand. We are going to learn this financial alphabet together. Here are a few tools that are easy to understand and implement, provided you’ve got that discipline we spoke of.

Draw up a budget

It isn’t as scary as it sounds. First, you write down a list of what you need to spend money on for the month. Then, you take out the cost of those items from the amount of your income. When you see just how you want to spend money you may reconsider what you thought was a necessity.

Put together a list of your short and long term goals

Whatever your goals, they need to be financed to become a reality. Arrange them in order of importance and find space for them in your monthly budget. While having to say, pay for a course module vs. a really expensive night out with the girls may hurt, in the long run it works out. Once you’ve graduated, you will be able to afford many girls’ nights out.

Review previous month’s expenditure

Once you’ve given your brave new budget a whirl, go over your expenses. Have a hard look at where you spent money wisely and where you did not. Look closely at where you spent most, check whether you spent money on things that tie into your short and/or long term goals. Then review your habits so that moving forward, you make decisions that give you long lasting value for your money.

Save 10% of income

It is important to save. Life happens, a family member could pass away, a car could be involved in an accident or a job may be lost. There are plethora of unforeseen circumstances that could hurtle themselves into one’s life.  It is always wiser to be on the right side of caution. As your spending and saving habits grow, you could even increase that amount from 10%. It is key to note that knowing you can change your habits makes you the boss of your finances.

Join a free online financial literacy class

The internet is your friend.  There are a many resources available to you, should you want to exercise that financial muscle we mentioned above.

Ultimately, financial literacy is about attaining freedom, autonomy and peace of mind. There is a life that exists without ponzi schemes and loan sharks. It can be accessed the moment positive, informed decisions are made. In South Africa at least, there are 95 men for every 100 women, that means we ladies have more… um… manpower.  The power to change the trajectory of African women is ours.