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Story and Photos by Anna Araqelyan | Development Principles NGO
“Justification is just an excuse for not doing something. Do not justify the things you didn’t do, instead, be proud of your achievements”−this was the motto of about 190 youth from the rural YES! Youth Clubs, who through their own diligence implemented businesses and generated income for the first time in their lives.
For one year the business education direction (or area of study) has been building the entrepreneurial capacity of Armenian youth to start their own businesses. About 220 schoolchildren were involved in the classes, and the most courageous presented their business plans for an initial investment of 40,000 Armenian drams, or about $100.
A wide variety of business projects were received, with most involving the youngsters’ own contributions and investments in both financial and non-financial terms, such as corresponding land for the activities and advice from experienced people they knew personally. Most of them had done a great job of exploring the market and organizing their activities so that their products and services would be competitive and attract customers.
It didn’t take the youth long to realize that the most important thing to businesses is the customer. It is the customer who makes the final decision. Avetis, a young entrepreneur from Verin Getashen, shared a vivid example of this:
“I was in the market, trying to sell the garlic I cultivated. However, I noticed that people were indifferent towards my products. Then, I remembered what we learned during the business education classes, that even the most regular product should be presented in a unique way to be successful in the market, so I prepared a little ad for my product: I took the biggest garlic; colored it with various pencils I had with me and painted a smiley face on it, so that the roots of the garlic resembled the hair and the face smiled to the people who passed by. Everyone noticed this immediately, and I managed to make quite a solid amount of profit–around 48,000 Armenian drams, or $120.”
The youth chose business projects that corresponded to their location and geographic situation. The 189 total approved projects included breeding pigs, rabbits, chickens, sheep, cattle, goats or ducks; beekeeping and honey production; turkey production; garlic, onion and potato cultivation; baking; bedding linen, souvenir crafting; grape, raspberry or strawberry cultivation; computer literacy; and service.
Moreover, there were three joint projects–the bedding linen production in Sevan, which eventually started producing table covers, too, following the demand; in Tsaghkut village, the joint project of 10 young individuals on sheep-breeding; and in Sariar village, the schoolchildren combined their efforts as souvenir craftsmen.
This project helped the rural youth gain confidence in their own abilities and build their capacities to practice that confidence in a very productive manner. Apart from the knowledge and experience gained during this project, the youth acquired more personal traits, such as sense of responsibility towards their work and towards others and a sense of dignity.
Project participant Avet said, “When I had just started the work, I heard on TV that hail was expected in my region. I was a beginner in the work and my main adviser and helper–my dad–was not at home that day. So I started to figure out possible solutions for the situation. I decided to prepare a ‘roof’ for my garlic (plants), which proved to be quite effective, and I managed to protect my harvest. This was the first time in my life that the whole responsibility was on me, and I made it. I was really proud of myself that day. I was also able to make a step forward in the world of business, for which I am very thankful to people who made this project happen.”
Because his business plan appeared very realistic and reliable, and to help encourage him, Avet's family made an investment of 150,000 Armenian drams, or about $370, in addition to the $100 he received through the project and his involvement in the YES! Youth Club. Having more start-up cash, Avet could better utilize his available resources, such as land and his time, and have more success in this business project. He did such a good job taking care of his garlic, his harvest was very plentiful with a yield of almost 3,000 pounds of garlic, from which he earned 250,000 Armenian drams, or about $600.
The business projects were very successful as some of the participants have already finished their project and successfully completed the POGs, and most of them continue and enhance their business with the income generated during the previous year. There were no unsuccessful projects, keeping in mind the unwritten rule in business: making your first business a reality, not necessarily making a profit initially, but being able to pay all your expenses, can be considered success.