Stories 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. Our latest pioneers are shaking up the tourism industry with affordable getaways, including ziplines and bike rentals in Armenia’s exquisite backcountry.
The first affordable hostel in Alaverdi, Armenia
Arthur Manoukyan is a man of many trades and talents. As an eager entrepreneur, Arthur decided to learn the ropes of running a business from a friend. His friend, Narek, participated in Jinishian Memorial Foundation’s Youth Business Armenia project, whose intention is to extend technical and micro-lending capabilities to entrepreneurs through business startup basics and continued mentorship.
Together, they researched the economic market of Armenia and the city of Alaverdi to find the demand within the region. They found out that there were almost no affordable hotel or hostel options in Alaverdi, a city in the Lori province in Armenia, near the Georgian border.
With this preparation, in tandem with JMF’s lending, Arthur and Narek opened the first cost-efficient hostel in their hometown, Mini House Hostel, conveniently located in front of Arthur’s home. Being a people person with a degree in social psychology from the Yerevan State Pedagogical University, this was a perfect opportunity for Arthur to use his social skills to complement Armenia’s naturally charming hospitality.
More currently, Arthur bought land with the profits from the hostel to open a cultural center geared toward travelers attracted to village life or living like a local in Armenia.
Arthur was also particularly excited that this hostel and cultural center would bring in new employment opportunities for his beloved hometown, which he hopes will lead to more active tourism in the area.
Thanks to the sponsorship, business training, mentorship from JMF, Arthur and Narek are currently working on their new project: Northern Armenia’s first zipline! Like a domino effect, they strive to inspire others as JMF has inspired them.
They hope by educating others on how to start a business, they will be able to pass the baton on to others, who will continue to open businesses and pay it forward.
Self-taught and hand-crafted: Enhancing tourism in Chambarak
Through a generous sponsorship and mentorship from JMF, Vigen, a geographer by study remodeled a hotel in Chambarak with his own two hands. He was his father’s apprentice and became a self-taught architect, plumber and interior designer. He undoubtedly has knack for working with his hands. With little supervision and minimal vocational study, Vigen constructed bathrooms that sparkle and shine with no flaws.
To complement his university education and his vocational studies, Vigen enrolled in JMF’s Youth Business Armenia program to enhance his knowledge of running a business in Armenia. With this, he opened Guesthouse Chambarak, one of two accommodation options in the area. His intention was to bring in more tourism to the charming city.
To set himself apart from the other hotel and hostel options in Dilijan and Sevan, Vigen came up with an idea. It is not very often that a hotel provides free bicycle rentals. For avid cyclists, this is a great way to see the surrounding cities and explore the glorious landscapes of Chambarak. 15 km from the glorious Sevan Lake, a bike-friendly distance toward paradise, one that Vigen provides.
Vigen believes: “If you can see it, you can do it!” As the 1989 film, Field of Dreams famously states, “If you build it, they will come!” And so, they are!
So jump on a bike, head out and explore!
Today, JMF is coaching 22 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.