Women’s Entrepreneurship Conference Explores New Opportunities for Armenia’s Emerging Businesswomen

YEREVAN–Women entrepreneurs from across Yerevan and Armenia’s regions gathered at the American University of Armenia on November 24-25 for a two-day conference focused on uncovering new opportunities for women entrepreneurs.

The conference, sponsored by the Armenian International Women’s Association (AIWA), attracted over 90 graduates from the AIWA-AUA Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (WEP)–an AUA Extension program pioneered almost a decade ago in partnership with AIWA. 

The first of its kind since the program’s inception, the conference featured both presentations as well as a series of educational workshops that covered a gamut of topics focusing on navigating the e-marketplace,  taxes and legal aspects of business ownership, sources of innovation and strategies for commercialization, the future of management, social media marketing, exporting goods and services and executive communication.

AUA President Bruce Boghosian opened the conference on Saturday with welcoming remarks that focused on how the Women’s Entrepreneurship program has positively impacted the growth of Armenia’s small and medium enterprise (SME) sector.  Drawing from research done in issues related to women’s entrepreneurship, Dr. Boghosian depicted the global picture of the existing disproportion between men and women entrepreneurs, while focusing on the effective role of women in realizing sustained economic growth.

Mrs. Narine Badanyan, CEO of Pepsi Armenia, was the next speaker.  A graduate of AUA herself,  she spoke about the distinctive patterns of ideas, beliefs, and norms which characterize the way of life and relations of Armenian society. Among the elements of success she emphasized were the need to have stretch goals; to have a passion for what you do; to work harder than most; and to have an open mind–an open mind for new ideas, new information, new ways of thinking, new approaches towards work, and more.

“Most of us are brought up with a set of beliefs and values and, throughout our lives, tend to surround ourselves with people who share the same values and beliefs,” said Badanyan. “Therefore, it can be difficult when we’re faced with ideas that challenge our own and, though we may wish to be open-minded, we may struggle with that. There is much to be gained from opening the door to your mind and letting new ideas and beliefs come in.”

Throughout her talk, Badanyan stressed that empowerment contributes to the productivity of employees, families, and communities and ultimately increases prospects for the future generation of professionals.

During the luncheon, participants had the opportunity to hear the Resident Representative of the Asian Development Bank ‘s Mission to Armenia, Dr. David Dole, discuss ADB’s upcoming entrepreneurship programs, and the Bank’s focus on women’s entrepreneurship in Armenia.

Dole discussed ADB’s objectives in designing an entrepreneurship program in Armenia and highlighted how that program will provide technical assistance to the SME Development National Center of Armenia. He also discussed how ADP’s entrepreneurship program will provide support for a loan package to help grow the small and medium enterprise sector in rural Armenia through reduced interest rates and loan guarantees. 

Speaking next at the luncheon was Jemma Israyelyan from the Armenia Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Executive Development. She spoke about the engagements of her office in different entrepreneurial endeavors, including what may be expected under the USAID-EDMC program.

The U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, H.E. John Heffern, spoke following the luncheon. The Ambassador voiced his support for women’s entrepreneurship in Armenia and cited several U.S. government programs in Armenia that offer opportunities to women entrepreneurs.  The Ambassador took questions from conference participants and toured the various workshops.

Sunday’s agenda opened with conference Emcee, Anahit Ghazaryan, presenting messages to the participants from Armenia’s Diaspora Minister, H.E. Hranush Hakobyan and the President of AIWA-Armenia.

Presentations were also then made by two WEP graduates, Nune Gevorgyan and Lilit Sargsyan, who shared  their personal business success stories. Another WEP graduate, Laura Avagyan, followed the two with a discussion about the Women’s Entrepreneurship Circle (WEC)–a newly established non-governmental organization founded by AUA-WEP graduates. In her remarks, Avagyan spoke in detail about the mission, vision and objectives of the WEC and invited conference participants to join the new organization.

About the sponsor

The Armenian International Women’s Association (AIWA) was founded in 1991 by three dynamic women with diverse backgrounds, skills and experiences, who shared a common belief: the need for a new Armenian organization made up of women, governed by women, and focused on the interests and needs of women.  AIWA is a nonprofit organization with members worldwide. Its mission is to promote and enrich the social, economic and personal advancement of Armenian women worldwide through educational and other community activities that unite Armenian women, promote gender equity, and emphasize the Armenian cultural heritage. AIWA has founded and continues to sponsor the AUA Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (WEP).

About AUA Extension:

AUA Extension serves as the continuing education arm of the American University of Armenia. Extension provides innovative learning programs to students of all ages, pre- and post-graduate education. By offering accessible, relevant, cutting-edge knowledge and skills, AUA Extension helps people achieve their personal and professional goals. The focused methods of instruction at AUA-Extension are designed to improve the intellectual capacity of the country. AUA-Extension also offers needs-based courses to corporate Armenia, governmental and non-governmental organizations, focusing on professionals to become better skilled at transforming Armenia to a better place in which to study, live, and work.

About AUA:

The American University of Armenia (AUA) is a private, independent university located in Yerevan, Armenia.  Founded in 1991, AUA is affiliated with the University of California.  Through teaching, research, and public service, AUA serves Armenia and the region by supplying high-quality, graduate and undergraduate education, encouraging civic engagement, and promoting democratic values.

The AUA is accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, 985 Atlantic Avenue, #100, Alameda, CA 94501, 510-748-9001.