Story by Michelle Aslanyan, Birthright Armenia intern
Young adults looking for a future have poured out of the former Soviet republics since independence, a “brain drain” of her children that motherland Armenia cannot afford. To turn the tide, the Jinishian Memorial Foundation is on the cutting edge of business development in the most neglected regions. With technical support and access to capital to launch and grow their own small businesses, young entrepreneurs are creating value for their families and communities.
Sevak and Artyom are two friends from the city of Gavar, in Gegharqunik region of Armenia. Artyom was a participant of the Jinishian Memorial Program’s (JMP) Youth Business Armenia program. Together, perfecting their basturma recipe, they decided to expand into a market outside of their hometown.
Basturma is an incredibly seasoned Armenian cured beef that is air-dried for a long period of time. Sevak explained that everyone in Gavar has their own recipe and method for making basturma. The two entrepreneurs focus on making basturma, soujoukh, and basturma-flavored jerky, which, they say, is best consumed with a beer.
One thing that sets these artisans apart from other producers is the quality of their meat. Sevak’s father worked in a meat processing factory. This is where he learned what makes a good cut of meat. To make the highest quality basturma, the freshest non-frozen meat must be used. If meat is too red, that means it’s old. If it’s dark colored, that means it’s fresh. Sevak and Artyom work with slaughteries directly because they specifically inspect the meat for high quality, a value that they are committed to upholding.
The flavor profile also sets them apart from other basturma producers because they don’t use powdered seasoning. Instead, they grind the spices themselves, which gives for a more potent flavor.
One of the setbacks for the basturma-making duo is that, culturally, basturma is eaten in the fall and winter, particularly for New Year’s Eve. Because of this, Artyom also runs a year-round clothing store business.
Both Artyom and Sevak emphasize that they would not have been able to start up their business without the help of Jinishian. Since obtaining a loan in Armenia is extremely difficult, because of interest on loans as high as 24% (JMP’s being 4%), the young entrepreneurs are extremely grateful for the opportunity to fulfill their dreams.
Looking into the future, the duo hope to expand their business further. Although they currently sell their products to nine stores in Yerevan (mostly Tsiran Supermarket), there are still other large supermarkets in Yerevan, such SAS and Parma, that hold opportunity for the entrepreneurs. They will persevere and are encouraged that with JMP support, their future holds great possibilities.
Today, JMP is coaching over 70 young entrepreneurs to help them face challenges in their businesses while making low-interest funding available for up to five years. Offering this long-term technical support, while business owners strengthen their position in the marketplace, is unprecedented. The formula is paying off: the new business accounts are the best performers their funder’s portfolio. For those who were otherwise ineligible for any loan, the success is a remarkable turning-point, and the young entrepreneurs are deeply grateful for the opportunity to stand on their own feet.
Give securely online to support the Jinishian Memorial Program. For young people living with poverty who see no way out, your involvement in the work of the Jinishian Memorial Program helps give them a chance at a different life.