“Masreni” Tea Room: Empowering Women’s Entrepreneurship in Rural Armenia
April 11, 2023
In November 2022, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Armenia, in partnership with the Government of Armenia, launched an innovative entrepreneurship development initiative that recognizes the immense potential of novice entrepreneurs in the country. Among the various projects, the Accelerator program was launched which specifically targets women and young entrepreneurs with already established businesses. Through this program, implemented by UNDP's ImpactAim Venture Accelerator and IRIS Business Incubator, participants gain access to essential skill-building, mentorship, and theoretical and practical knowledge related to business growth. The aim is to support these entrepreneurs in building the necessary skill sets and knowledge to take their businesses to the next level.
Young entrepreneur Magda Tovmasyan is one of the participants of Accelerator program. She is the founder and owner of “Masreni” tea room. Located in Tsapatagh village on the eastern shore of Sevan Lake in the Gegharkunik region, the tea room was established to help tourists connect with the rural environment and the local villagers. With around 5,000 visitors each year, the village is a popular destination for those wanting to enjoy the nearby hotel complex and Lake Sevan.
Magda's journey began when she moved to Tsapatagh after getting married. Initially, she and her family planned to build a small pavilion to allow local villagers to sell their goods to tourists. However, this idea eventually evolved into "Masreni," a tea room that serves as a bridge between the village and visitors. “At that time, I was involved in “Women’s Economic Empowerment in South Caucasus” project implemented by UN Women and UNDP and after receiving relevant entrepreneurial skills and a small grant, we opened ‘Masreni,’” says Magda.
"We have created a traditional environment that not only attracts foreign visitors but also appeals to Armenian tourists. Our aim is for people to not only enjoy their time at our tea room, but also get to know the villagers and their local culture.”
The villagers of Tsapatagh have migrated from different locations and settled in the area over time. Magda noticed that their unique traditions and customs were being forgotten and lost, so she decided to share their stories through the tea room. Many of the antiques in the tea room are owned by the villagers, and Magda has included unique traditional dishes in the menu."We are still a work in progress, and new ideas about the tea room are constantly emerging," Magda adds.
Currently, "Masreni" operates only during the summertime, making it a seasonal business. However, despite this, the tea room has welcomed hundreds of guests since its opening and has received a lot of positive feedback. Magda is proud to say that they already have regular visitors, and she is hopeful that the tea room will be able to generate a stable income in the near future.
Despite being a mother of four young children, Magda remains dedicated to her business and continues to educate herself in entrepreneurship and its various aspects. She is constantly exploring ways to use her skills to develop her business and overcome the challenges that come with running a seasonal tea room in a rural area.
“There are projects for women entrepreneurs, there is support which is quite exciting. It was thanks to these types of projects that I was able to open the tea room,” says Magda. She believes that in order to succeed in today's market, it is important to stay up to date with the latest trends and continuously develop new skills.
As she notes, the business development courses offered through the Accelerator program and provided by IRIS business incubator were a valuable resource. “The knowledge I received at Accelerator program helps me to think about different aspects of my business,” says Magda.
Magda notes that she seeks to constantly involve her fellow villagers in her business activities."We source all of our food for the tea room from local producers, and we also showcase and sell handmade goods and accessories made by our villagers.”
Currently, "Masreni" has one employee, and Magda and her family members handle all other business-related issues. "I had a fear when starting my business, not knowing if it was possible to run a business while raising four kids. But luckily, my family is very supportive, and I believe that with their help, everything is possible."
Magda has a clear vision for the future of “Masreni”; she dreams of seeing it always full of people and becoming more than just a regular tea room. “I don’t want it to be a typical tea room, there are many like that. ‘Masreni’ is about history, culture, and I want it to be a unique place with its own character,” she says.
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