Empowering those who empower others

"We teach, enhance, and ultimately help our participants use their talent to generate income."

Natacha Kalfayan | Women Entrepreneurship Programme | Armenia

Natacha Kalfayan is highly experienced in turning vision into reality. After all, that is what an artist does: form a tangible product out of creative plans. But Kalfayan's imagination extends beyond her own workshop. She is the founder of MADE, a social enterprise established in 2018 that promotes artisanal talent in rural areas of Armenia. MADE provides budding creatives with a platform to develop their skills and bring them to market. "We want to endow artists with the ability to start their true careers," says Kalfayan. "We teach, enhance, and ultimately help our participants use their talent to generate income."

Yet when it came to gaining business traction for MADE, Kalfayan realized she could use a little help, too. Getting the word out to both participants and potential financial backers proved to be a challenge. Like any startup, Kalfayan needed a network.

That is why she answered the call to join the Women Entrepreneurship Program launched by Impact Hub Yerevan and the EFSE Entrepreneurship Academy. According to the World Bank, women's under -representation in Armenian employment and entrepreneurship translates into an economic loss equivalent to 14 % of the country's GDP. 1 Together with the EU4Business initiative, the nine-month program is connecting women entrepreneurs to peers, mentors, and philanthropic investors in order to accelerate business ideas that seek to close social gaps in their communities.

One other such business is Ardook, founded by Shogher Atanesyan. Upon becoming a mother two years earlier, the former fashion industry executive became keenly aware of the di²culties of balancing work and family obligations. "The struggle is especially difficult for mothers of disabled children," Atanesyan observes. "Often they cannot work outside the home at all, but public .nancial support is barely enough to cover basic needs." Atanesyan's startup Ardook - which means "iron" in Armenian - aims to help these parents supplement their income by enabling them to do paid ironing work at home. She continues:

"I feel tremendous hope coming from the mothers who join this project. That is very motivating, but also creates a huge sense of responsibility to make this company successful. I am grateful for the support of tthe Women Entrepreneurship project offered by Impact Hub and the EFSE Entrepreneurship Academy. We've been polishing our business concept, and so far already have one partner and five employees."

Kalfayan shares this sense of responsibility to her clients. "We do more than just sell art. We want to change lives. We assist people in finding a design identity, establishing consistency, and increasing the profitability and sustainability of their work. In return, we hope they eventually become change makers in their communities."

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