My Way Home

Armenian by Birth
Shant Kotchian
Shant Kotchian
| From Latakia, Syria | Moved in 2013

While Electric Yerevan was happening in the streets, Shant Kotchian was creating another kind of revolution in Yerevan’s nightlife.

Shant first moved to Armenia in 2013, leaving Syria with his family to escape the war. Originally from Latakia, Syria, he grew up in a typical Armenian home but studied at an Arab school, as there were not many nearby Armenian schools. During university he majored in management information systems and went on to work an office job – but it was not long before he realized that kind of working environment was not for him.
Having always been attracted to the nightlife, Shant started a side business for event sound and lighting, and moved to Aleppo where he worked at pubs and Armenian weddings.

He continued that business upon moving to Armenia, starting from zero, branding himself as DJ Shant and bringing a new style of music to Yerevan. Meanwhile, he was observing the ins and outs of how to run a successful business in the nightlife scene of Yerevan.
After attending a sound and lighting exhibition in Frankfurt in 2015, the vision of his own nightclub came to him: Paparazzi.

Paparazzi first opened in Republic Square in June 2015 and moved to Abovyan Street in May 2016. When Shant discovered that the rooftop of the same building was available, the vision expanded. On July 1, the multi-level, open-air rooftop café celebrated its grand opening.

Paparazzi Café & Club has become a place where both locals and diasporans come to eat, drink and dance. Shant has indeed achieved his vision of creating a cozy environment where all feel welcome.

At the same time, he has kept his side job as a DJ, working at special events, weddings, and of course Paparazzi. Building these brands separately – as a DJ and as Paparazzi – has been one of Shant’s biggest challenges.

Though it is difficult to create your own business in Armenia, Shant has shown that it is possible with patience and hard work. Because it is a small country, he says it is especially important to focus on quality rather than quantity.

One key to Paparazzi’s success has been Shant’s well-managed, friendly staff made up of about 60% locals and 40% diasporans. The trust that has been built among his team helps the customers to trust them, too.
Shant says that while repatriates are sometimes shocked by the local mentality and culture upon arriving to Armenia, this is common to anyone going to any new country. Just because someone is Armenian by blood does not mean they will fit in automatically. “We have to be flexible…  you have to make your own culture and choose the people who surround you.”

And this is what he has done through Paparazzi. “I’ve made my own rules,” he says. “Everyone who wants to be under Paparazzi’s rules is welcome here.”

Though he travels quite often, getting new ideas wherever he goes, Shant is always happy to come home to the place where he has created his own culture: “I don’t know what the secret is, every time I travel, I always look forward to returning to Armenia.”

Interview: Tatevik Babayan
Written: Melanie Nakashian


Read More

See all
  • Digital Nomad
    Discover Armenia: A Haven for Digital Nomads
  • Repatriation
    Embracing Learning and Adventure: A Day in the Life of a Kid in Armenia
  • Repatriation
    Taking Time for Self-Care in Armenia
  • Repatriation
    There are no job opportunities in Armenia