Housed at the American University of Armenia Extension Department, and funded by AIWA, the Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (WEP) is a comprehensive business training program for women in Armenia.
The vision of the Women’s Entrepreneurship Program is to empower Armenia’s women by providing them with the education and tools to establish and run a small- or medium-sized business. A partnership between the American University of Armenia Extension School and AIWA, WEP addresses the need for entrepreneurial thinking – an empowered approach to growth and an openness to change.
WEP offers training in topics such as conducting market research, making financial projections, and writing business plans. Program participants are selected from a variety of backgrounds through a competitive application and interview process. The program has had the added benefit of connecting Armenian women with one another and fostering networks of support. AIWA takes pride in the achievements of these women, which include realizing their dreams of having their own small businesses.
Over 250 women have completed the WEP program since its founding in 2002.
The positive feedback from graduates is heartening to us at AIWA, and we are inspired by the knowledge that we have been able to make a difference in the lives of so many Armenian women. The program has also received positive and enthusiastic feedback from AIWA’s members and supporters.
The training, which contains special components for women-only audiences, addresses the need for entrepreneurial thinking – an empowered approach to continuous search for change, solutions approach to change and exploitation of change as an opportunity — as well as specific business skills, including how to conduct market research, make financial projections, write a business plan, and apply for funding. Program participants, called WEPies, are selected from a variety of backgrounds with business ideas, through a competitive application and interview process. In addition to the training, a new initiative provides grants/loans to assist WEP graduates who own small businesses.
Over the years the course has evolved, based on experience and changing conditions. A highlight of the sessions has been the final competition, when business plans are judged, leading figures in economic and financial circles are invited to attend, and prizes are awarded. Most years the course has been offered by the AUA Extension School twice a year, sometimes outside of Yerevan. In 2013 one of the sessions was designed for the specific needs of women who had immigrated to Armenia from Syria, and in 2015, a companion Women’s Leadership pilot program was added. AUA Extension Dean Sergey Tantoushian and WEP Program Director Anahit Ghazarian approach the program with enthusiasm gathering on the potential role that can be played by women in realizing sustained economic growth. Various programs have been held to provide mentoring for WEP students and graduates. More than 245 women have completed the WEP program. Most heartening has been the very the knowledge that AIWA is able to make a difference in the lives of countless Armenia women.
AIWA takes pride in bringing women together to advance their professional goals and economic futures. Through intensive training and mentoring, these women are given the skills, knowledge and network they need to realize their entrepreneurial dreams.
For more information about the Women's Entrepreneurship Program, click here.
AUA Extension Celebrates 10 Years of Successful Collaboration with AIWA in Women Empowerment Programs
YEREVAN, Armenia – This year, the American University of Armenia (AUA) Extension is proud to mark its tenth year of fruitful collaborations with the Armenian International Women’s Association (AIWA). With generous support and sponsorship from AIWA, the AUA Extension continues to organize and offer successful programs geared toward women empowerment. The goal of these efforts is to promote and enrich the social, economic and personal advancement of Armenian women through educational and other community activities that unite women and promote gender equity.
Advancing Women Leadership in Leadership and Decision-Making is a leadership module dedicated to equipping participants with the mechanisms and skills needed to empower women in society, break stereotypes, and create equal opportunities. The program launched in 2015 and proved to be in high demand with courses led by Dr. Irina Ghaplanyan, a political analyst and published author who has worked in a number of international organizations and think tanks including the UNDP, Eurasia Foundation, and Georgetown University.
The Women Entrepreneurship Program (WEP) has had over 200 graduates and continues to serve as a platform for business entrepreneurship. The program enables women to strategically plan and articulate their business vision and assume the roles of successful entrepreneurs. In 2008, the program inspired several graduates to establish the Women’s Entrepreneurship Promotion and Empowerment Center (WEPEC). WEPEC was launched by WEP alumni and is currently coordinated by Anahit Ghazaryan. The organization is dedicated to women entrepreneurs who have completed the WEP training and are pursuing their passion in starting or expanding small and medium businesses. WEPEC is also open to those graduates who have decided to seek other employment or avenues, but are still interested in being part of the WEP Family and share common goals as WEP Empowered Women.
WEP brings top-notch experts together with aspiring businesswomen and uses a unique business model canvas to develop individual organizational skills, as well as the ability to identify business challenges and make respective decisions. This year, 19 participants were admitted after a rigorous selection process. Instructors and mentors of the program continue to be prominent qualified experts in their respective fields.
The 2016 WEP featured instructions from Armen Avagyan who currently serves as counsel to the Prime Minister of Armenia. In addition, participants also visited BioFarm, a company founded by AUA alumnas Karine Sargsyan and Narine Badanyan. Their example of a flourishing business proved very confidence-inspiring to all trainees.
At the end of the program, each participant was given the opportunity to present their business plan to a jury comprised of representatives from banks, private companies, and AUA’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Center (EPIC). Three of the best proposals were selected to be further developed within the framework of the EPIC’s startup incubation program. A farewell party was also held for participants at Ingredient cafe, a company founded by a 2016 WEP participant and graduate Vardanush Petrossian. After a healthy and delicious dinner everyone played the well known Aylkerp (Other-way) board game, a business project initiated by another 2016 WEP participant, Sofya Khachatryan. The successful startup environment provided a great atmosphere and opportunity for entrepreneurial networking.
Currently, the University is working to expand both WLP and WEP modules. In coordination with AIWA Executive Director Jennifer Phillips, AUA Extension will incorporate greater alumni participation in the selection process, as well as involve a professional selection committee. By pairing applicants with specific mentors throughout the AIWA and WEPEC networks worldwide, applicants will have access to expertise and key mentorship. This will allow participants to form more targeted business plans according to the trends in industry, retail and service organizations in Armenia.