Syrian-Armenian women entrepreneurs: “Being a woman can’t stop you from working, if you continue to work”

Syrian-Armenian women entrepreneurs, founder of the Halep Oriental product chain store Aleen Sarian and founder of Hayland Ecovillage Complex Caroline Zakarian are pleased to state that though they were the first to start their businesses in their field in Armenia, they are now ready for competition.

In an interview with womennet.am, Aleen Sarian said it was very difficult in the beginning. “We came to Armenia in 1998. In Aleppo, I was a builder by profession and was working at the Municipality of Aleppo. Moving to Armenia was our decision. There was no sign of construction in Armenia in 1998. So, I started thinking about what I could start with. Since I was a part of the Old Aleppo Development Program in Syria, I knew everything about the program, including the scent, the spices and the culture. I decided to take advantage of that knowledge. I started from scratch. Being a woman can’t stop you from working, if you continue to work.”

The woman entrepreneur recalls that not much time had passed after the war and that the laws were constantly changing. “My accountant would barely master a new law before another one changed two months later. In the beginning, I was the only one. Nobody had thought of doing such a thing. It was new, and that helped me quite a lot. Now, as in all fields, there is competition in this field as well, and I’m ready.”

Why do most Syrian-Armenians visiting Armenia complain that they can’t do anything here? “They were forced to leave Syria. It wasn’t by their will. That is very important. If we look at the reality, at first, I also thought that Armenia was the reason. Then, I said to myself-wait a minute, that’s not the case, you need to adapt wherever you go. Those Syrian-Armenians don’t want to adapt yet.”

Founder of Hayland Ecovillage Complex Caroline Zakarian doesn’t have many competitors in her field. “There was no such thing as an “ecovillage” in Armenia when we started. We have a restaurant where we serve Armenian and Lebanese cuisine, and our food is ecologically clean. We make it with our own products. Since there is no such thing in Armenia, our business flourished immediately. We have a hotel made from wood. When we were just starting our business, we thought our main customers would be tourists and foreigners, but it is my pleasure to say that most of our customers are from Yerevan, and we receive representatives of many organizations.”

Zakarian wants to share her experience with Armenian women and help them. “If you haven’t seen such things, how can you start and run such a business? The women here still have a lot to learn, and I’m certain that they’ll slowly begin and achieve success.”

Aleen Sarian has a different opinion. She says when she first came to Armenia, she would “seek” the men in the country. “Women were in the food market, gold market and at schools. I’m serious. This country was on the shoulders of mothers. In 1998, I would keep asking myself where the men are. I would see 5-6 men standing, talking and eating sunflower seeds. Now, things are different. But if it wasn’t for the mothers and sisters in 1998…”

H. Karapetyan

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