We met Tatev and Arshak at Park Hotel Artsakh busy with VERELK Business Bootcamp*. After three months of intensive trainings, they were launching the Bootcamp with 13 finalist teams to get ready for the final pitching session to receive investments and continual mentorship.
Arshan and Tatev during the interview with Repat Armenia at Park Hotel Artsakh, Stepanakert.
Tatev (Petrossian) and Arshak (Mesrobian) are repatriates. Tatev moved to Armenia from France in 2018. She was born in Armenia, grew up in France, worked in different countries, and 3 years ago decided to repatriate to Armenia. Here, she founded ‘’REvolve Consulting’’ business consulting agency.
Arshak repatriated to Armenia from the USA in 2006 with his family. Architect by profession, he is also an active member of the ARF party currently serving as the ARF Youth Office Executive Director. Volunteer during the war, Arshak moved to Stepanakert postwar and continued his service on the ground.
And here is the story about rebuilding the postwar Artsakh step by step, one business at a time uniting Artsakh, Armenia and the Diaspora.
''Three months of intensive trainings led to VERELK Business Bootcamp launch with 13 finalist teams getting their hands on pitching preparation''
Straight To The Cyclop’s Eye
‘’We launched our (ARF) Artsakh revival and development program in January with 4 different directions, including security and economic growth. The realization that our actions can define what the future of Artsakh looks like and the importance of investing in Artsakh youth to stay in Artsakh today, became the anchor of our projects. We felt that the youth is striving for development and perfection. Especially now, when there are so many hardships. Admiring that aspect and taking it as the base, we wanted to help them to ‘’build the whole building.’’ As an architect, I couldn’t bring more visual examples than this one (smiles)’’ - Arshak Mesrobian.
Arshak Mesrobian. Photo by Emma Marashlyan
Tatev Petrossian. Photo by Emma Marashlyan
‘’We started researching, contacting different organizations and stakeholders to learn more about what is actually needed, where we can have a quick impact. Six sectors, which are Mobile Development, Hospitality and Tourism, Sustainable Agriculture, Green Energy, Food and Beverage, Innovative Agriculture, were targeted. Soon, fundamental courses in business management and financial training were developed. 109 registered participants took the training, out of which 20 participants with 13 projects were selected for the final pitching session to receive investment and mentorship.
During the training we saw that participants were excited to work on themselves, were very responsible, and recorded great results. We received some amazing feedback from the trainers and participants. Constant follow ups and feedback from both sides helped us to provide the development and progress within the program.
Repatriate and volunteer during the Artsakh war, Hrayr Barsoumian (Certified Financial Risk Manager, Associate at Riviera Capital CJSC) conducting the financial training for Bootcamp
The average age of participants was 20-22. From beginners to already experienced, they realize what issues and problems should be solved, what are the gaps to fill in to both improve the quality of life in Artsakh and be able to scale up. They know exactly what they need and where to grow. So, we decided not to choose how many of them will receive fundings, but agreed on providing and focusing on quality. We developed a special scorecard for this program that helped juries to vote. The projects that received the fundings have passed the third stage of the program, which is more accelerator and mentorship monitoring. So, step by step we will try to support them to realize their dreams.’’ - Tatev Petrossian.
Artsakh, You Are NOT Alone!
‘’Don’t let the emotional trauma lead you to a comfort zone and make you escape from the reality and responsibility. You can contribute with your visits as well. If you are visiting Armenia, consider a 2-days trip to Artsakh. All efforts count, however, they can be a drop in the ocean if we don't think of more sustainable ways of support. For example, supporting the building of a greenhouse can lead to better results rather than just giving away some money. Developing the earning capacity among the society is something we were focusing on while researching the sectors we can have an impact on’’ -adds Tatev.
‘’Post war Artsakh was left alone. Uncertainty, political instability in Armenia, post war security issues and socio economic challenges lead to migration; Artsakh might stand in front of a catastrophic challenge of not having Armenians living on their ancestral lands.
And we not only talk about financial challenges. It is important to understand that besides professional and financial support to Artsakh, it’s vital to provide physical presence. Locals need to know that they are not alone. You can only feel the urge of that need when you are here in Artsakh. Repats who moved to or stayed in Artsakh after the war can confirm.’’
‘’At Verelk, we are not only focusing on developing personal growth or providing benefits to the participant, but also emphasizing the importance of being a part of Artsakh’s development and the value of social corporate responsibility. It was mandatory to include this component in every project/business/initiative they were presenting’’, says Arshak Mesrobian.
Tatev and Arshak together with Vartan Marashlyan, co-founder/Executive Director of Repat Armenia foundation. Photo by Emma Marashlyan
VERELK: Your Postwar Therapy
‘’Initially a pilot project, VERELK’s success and impact is encouraging for us. We didn’t know what to do back in Diaspora, we were organizing different initiatives here and there, but on a global level, none of us knew what should be done. This was changed when I came to Artsakh. Slowly, but surely, step by step, we are planning to create a massive impact. In short, VERELK has become my postwar therapy.’’ - admits Tatev.
‘’I realized that everything is possible if there is a will. The word ‘’disappointment’’ should be removed from our vocabularies. Instead, we need to use those words that will change our lives, words like ‘’resilience, will, hard work, cooperation’’. Once we include them in our daily life, there will be only victories for us.’’ - adds Arshak.
Photo by Emma Marashlyan
‘’How to engage with the project and have your input? It’s simple! We need professional trainers, business coaches, content developers supporting us by their skills and experience. It’s not a necessity to be physically present in Artsakh to support a business to grow, especially during the pandemic. So, if there is no opportunity for you to come to Artsakh, don’t let this disengage you. Just contact us, we will figure the way out. And if you want to support VERELK financially by investing in our finalist businesses, don’t even hesitate for a second. At VERELK, we decided not to do the grant system as we need to understand the level of responsibility among the finalists. They will receive loans. We will monitor their journey and they will have their KPIs checked and audited quarterly. So, it’s not just giving, but creating an ecosystem to rebuild Artsakh brick by brick.’’
*VERELK Business Bootcamp is a hybrid entrepreneurship program initiated and organized by the Youth Office of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) and the Armenian Youth Federation of Artsakh in collaboration with Revolve Consulting and other specialist groups.