Work and Money
This Woman Helps Bring Tunisian Design to Homes Around the World
Living internationally can offer exciting new perspectives and opportunities. Entrepreneur Pauline Eveillard discovered this firsthand after spending nine months in Tunisia as a Fulbright scholar. There, she studied ancient Roman mosaics and became inspired to bring some of Africa’s vivid culture back to the U.S. in a meaningful way.
“This was a formative experience, personally and professionally,” she tells CircleAround. “It was not only the beginning of lifelong friendships and connections to Tunisia, but also an experience that awakened my entrepreneurial spirit.”
Eveillard is the founder and president of SOUKRA, a curated online marketplace designed to showcase Tunisian creatives based in San Francisco. The name was inspired by the Tunis suburb La Soukra, where many of Eveillard's friends grew up.
Initially, her site specialized in sales of fouta, a lightweight style of towel used in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries, typically in hammans, or communal bathhouses. Eveillard soon elevated her business plan to include clothing, home goods, and even gourmet food items, sourced from all over Tunisia.
She rebranded as SOUKRA in 2017 in an effort to raise awareness for a new community of entrepreneurs who emerged in Tunisia after the Arab Spring. “SOUKRA provides a platform for these Tunisian entrepreneurs to share their work in apparel, home décor and accessories, beauty, and specialty food with the world.”
The website’s blog features articles about design and politics, giving readers insight into Eveillard’s business, values, and ties to Tunisian culture. The brand also puts on events to create community around the brand. One of their first major events was a five-day pop-up, consisting of SOUKRA’s products and a series of engaging programming related to Tunisia, the sellers, and more.
"When I moved to Tunisia, I was living in a new place and feeling vulnerable. I had to keep an open mind and adapt often,” she tells CircleAround. “I felt the same when starting my own business. But with challenges there are new opportunities to discover."
Operations have become more virtual since the start of the pandemic, but Eveillard has learned valuable skills by working with international entrepreneurs.
“When I moved to Tunisia, I was living in a new place and feeling vulnerable. I had to keep an open mind and adapt often,” she tells CircleAround. “I felt the same when starting my own business. But with challenges there are new opportunities to discover. This is ongoing as business expands with new ideas and initiatives.”
Eveillard says prioritizing the many elements involved in her company can be challenging. She’s consistently trying to stay on top of artisan sourcing, listing items, working with teams around the world, and engaging with customers in virtual ways.
“In any job, remember to zoom out every few months to make sure you’re working toward a larger goal,” she advises. “We can get bogged down in the details and keep our head down to get work done. It’s important to step away and check in with overall project goals, progress, and our well-being.”
Eveillard is currently focused on the growth of her business and discovering new designers and products to feature. She also looks forward to visiting the people and country that inspired her personal and professional growth. “The biggest reward is to see emerging designers’ works sell and be used by people across the country,” she says. “Tunisian designers, entrepreneurs, and artisans — a majority of them women — are transporting each customer to Tunisia through their work.”