Verelk Business Program is a hybrid Capacity + Capital + Capabilities entrepreneurship program initiated and organized by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Youth Office and the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) of Artsakh in collaboration with Revolve Consulting and other specialist groups. Established through the donations and support of the ACAA Artsakh Fund, the three-phased program’s goal is to create and scale a set of comprehensive skills and technical knowledge for aspiring young microentrepreneurs (18–35 years old) in Artsakh to launch their microbusinesses, thereby leveraging the development of an entrepreneurial ecosystem in Artsakh in the aftermath of the Artsakh War.
The first phase of the Verelk Business Program focused on developing the capacity of 109 participants from Artsakh over the course of three months, from March to May 2021, and concluded with the promotion of the top candidates to Phase II. The five-day reinforcement bootcamp took place in June 2021; participants pitched their entrepreneurial concepts and six won in their selected sectors to receive financial support and continuous mentorship throughout the implementation phase. The third and final phase of the Verelk Business Program is a contract-based phase in which the grant recipients will be guided by a mentorship program to launch their microbusinesses.
The Armenian Weekly staff recently interviewed the following award winners to learn more about their microbusinesses.
Vahe Martirosyan is a 21-year-old farmer from Martakert, who has always been passionate about the raspberries in his village. Martirosyan was introduced to the Verelk Business Program by a friend, and he chose to enroll in the training sessions. Martirosyan realized that he could create a sustainable livelihood by growing and harvesting the raspberries that are abundant in Martakert thanks to his training. During the Verelk phase II pitch presentation, he demonstrated raspberry production and was awarded the funds required to invest in his agricultural enterprise. Martirosyan was able to expand his farming field by 10 times thanks to the professional assistance he received, and he now farms his delicious raspberries on a 6,000-square-meter plot of ground. He intends to lead the Artsakh raspberry manufacturing market before exporting his goods to Armenia and other countries.
Syuzanna Margaryan is another young entrepreneur from Shushi. The 20-year-old energetic young woman offered Nektar Honey as a business project to invest through Verelk’s grant. Margaryan first learned about the Verelk Business Program at Artsakh State University, where she is a student. Honey production was her family’s industry in Shushi, and she wanted to restart it after moving to Stepanakert by investing in branded honey manufacturing and even beeswax-based cosmetic products. Margaryan has placed an order for 30 hives, which she plans to activate in the spring after getting the award.
Tirouhi Gasparyan from Martuni is a member of AYF of Artsakh. She is pursuing a degree in tourism at Artsakh State University. She earned the award for her handmade candle-making project, “Nrbasdeghts,” after following the sessions of phase I. Gasparyan employs organic ways to make her scented and designed candles at home, and she aromatizes and decorates her crafts using flowers from Artsakh’s natural flora. She was able to obtain all of the tools needed to produce roughly 900 candles thanks to the award. She is already displaying her candles in local shops and receiving orders from Armenia and the diaspora after publicizing her products on social media.
Inna Bagiryan and Narine Hovhannisyan are both Artsakh State University students. They came up with a microbusiness concept called Buy4Artsakh: a box full of Artsakh signature products including honey, jams, herbs for infusions, and other handcrafted items. The carefully constructed boxes are on their way from Yerevan to Artsakh, and once filled with all the goods from Artsakh by February 2022, they will be available for purchase online.
Karineh Harutyunyan and Anna Zakaryan are about to open a coffee shop in Stepanakert near Artsakh State University. These two young women observed that the university itself could be regarded as a fixed asset for starting a business while attending training classes, so they came up with the idea of a coffee shop nearby. Harutyunyan and Zakaryan purchased a tiny cabinet after receiving the money and are now planning to open “My Coffee” on February 9, 2022 to provide hot coffee to warm the students throughout this hard winter.
Svetlana Movsesyan is a 19-year-old Artsakh fashion designer. When she learned about the Verelk Business Program at the University, she decided to apply. Thanks to the award, she now has a clothing line called “SilVi.” All of her designs are made in Artsakh. Movsesyan has been in business for a month. Her collection is now accessible on her “SilVi” brand’s Instagram page.
The ARF Youth Office launched this initiative to address the risks of emigration, economic disparities in Artsakh’s youth, the need to connect Diaspora Armenians and their expertise with Artsakh’s youth, and to introduce long-term and sustainable solutions for Artsakh’s youth. After the success in Artsakh, the Verelk Business program was also implemented in Syunik.
Those interested in investing in the program may visit the ACAA Artsakh Fund. For entrepreneurs and young professionals interested in participating in any of these programs, please contact the ARF Youth Office at [email protected]. You can also follow ARF Youth Office and Verelk-Վերելք on social media for periodic updates.