Making Deals Happen: JCP's Signature Firm-Level Assistance Program
SUCCESS STORY: Rami Haikal “The Banker Who Made Candy”
Born in 1983, Rami Haikal has lived his entire life in Amman, where he graduated from the Princess Sumaya University with a degree in Computer Science. With his degree in-hand, Rami began work as a software developer at HSBC. Six years later, he was making candy full-time.
Rami’s journey is an increasingly common one in Jordan. Thanks to an initiative backed by Queen Rania, the Kingdom’s education system is shifting to encourage more young graduates to make good on their business ideas. Supporting them has been the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the USAID Jordan Competitiveness Program (JCP).
Through its partner Oasis500, Jordan’s premier start-up incubator, USAID JCP has assisted 43 start-ups founders to develop business plans, secure funding, and get their enterprises off to a solid start. Much of that work has begun through outreach programs attended by hundreds of recent graduates like Rami.
It was at one such event that Rami heard about USAID support for young entrepreneurs interested in participating in international trade shows, where they can market their products and connect with potential buyers from around the world. His product, Toffimelt, was seemed like an ideal candidate.
“The business was officially registered in 2013,” Haikal explains, but before that and while I was an [HSBC] employee, I used to make candy at home after the working hours.” The candy’s story goes back 85 years, when Haikal’s grandfather began making candies in downtown Amman.
“His dream got bigger when he opened his first shop in downtown in the early 1940’s, followed by a candy factory,” says Haikal. “So I grew up in a family of candy makers, with a passion for putting smiles on peoples’ faces with our creations.”
Haikal began by experimenting from his home kitchen, selling toffee and caramels at seasonal events and markets. His fan base grew, eventually allowing him to quit his job and dedicate himself full-time to his passion. Six years later, Haikal employs five people and has plans to grow his business thanks to new export deals secured with USAID support.
Those deals originated at the Yummex food exhibition in Dubai, where Haikal participated in the event in 2017 and 2018. It was there that he gained insight into the global confectionery market and its major players, refining his marketing pitch to distinguish himself from the larger pack. He also learned about import requirements in various target markets in the Gulf, ultimately securing sales to buyers in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait.
Although the specific revenues growing out of these deals are confidential, Haikal is confident that they will lead to more. He has plans to expand sales to Qatar in the near term and hopes to take his products to exhibitions in the United States and Europe. As part of his preparation for this expanded marketing push, he has been working with advisors supported by USAID JCP to develop a Search Engine Optimization plan for his company’s website, making it easier to find for a broader audience.
“Our ultimate dream is to take Toffimelt worldwide,” Haikal says, “with a flagship store in each country where people can buy our caramels and toffee.” Getting there will take hard work and participation in more global exhibitions, but Haikal’s story — which began with a simple love of candy-making — proves that his business is capable of just that kind of ambitious growth.
JCP’s efforts at accelerating Jordanian exports have been fueled by its Firm-Level Assistance (FLA) program, which has helped dozens of Jordanian firms through two rounds of strategy and marketing assistance. As of October 2018, JCP had completed export readiness assessments for 41 companies and assisted 24 companies to reach new markets by sponsoring attendance at trade delegations and exhibitions in the United States, Europe, and Africa. The program was initially developed to help Jordanian firms take advantage of relaxed Rules of Origin for export to the European Union (EU) as part of the Jordan Compact.
To leverage the lessons of this EU-focused work, which comprised the first round of the FLA program, and ensure that there is a sufficient pool of Jordanian companies able to export to the EU, JCP expanded its efforts to include participation from the Jordan Investment Commission (JIC), Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Supply (MoITS), the Jordan Enterprise Development Development Company (JEDCO) and others. Together, these institutions are working to ensure sustainability and continuity beyond JCP’s lifetime.
As it looks toward a sustainable future for its efforts, JCP has also been working with similar projects, funded by other donors, to map what kind of FLA assistance is on offer and how different donors and projects can work better together, serving ever-increasing numbers of export-ready firms with more efficient and effective services.
In addition, to assist in penetrating new markets, JCP has been providing support to export-ready companies by facilitating participation in international exhibitions and trade missions. In June 2018, JCP worked with the Jordan Exporters Association (JEA) and Jordan Cosmetics Association to assist six companies to attend a European exhibition in Morocco, SPATEC Europe, at which a total of 118 business-to-business meetings were conducted with different stakeholders from several hotels, spa firms, and health resorts, such as the Four Seasons Hotel in the UK, One Spa at the Sheraton Grand Hotel (also in the UK), and Hotel Barriere in France.
The USAID Jordan Competitiveness Program (JCP) has assisted a variety of Jordanian product manufacturers and service providers to participate in international trade exhibitions. In October and November of 2018, JCP partnered with the Jordan Exporters Association (JEA) to make possible a substantial Jordanian presence at two of the world’s leading food exhibitions. All told, 31 Jordanian companies reported that the Yummex and Gulfood exhibitions generated 78 leads with an estimated value of approximately $375,000 so far. The Jordanian companies joined 1,600 global suppliers from 60 countries showcasing the latest food and beverage manufacturing business improvement tools. Participants in both exhibitions received partial JCP support for space rental, pavilion design, and other administrative costs.