After eight years of selling anything from flowers to clothing to food in various stores, 33-year-old Shushan Voskanyan decided to become her own boss. Last December, she opened up a small grocery store in her hometown of Verin Karmiraghbyur, in Tavush Province.
FAR’s Start Your Own Business Project, which was launched last year through our Breaking the Cycle of Poverty Program (BCPP), helped her to do so by providing her with the necessary resources and advice she needed to actually establish her own business.
“I was still an employee at a local clothing store when the idea occurred to me. I used to earn USD 4 per day, which would hardly cover daily snacks for my children,” she said, adding that her current income has now doubled that to about USD 200 per month.
A divorced, single mom of two sons, Haykaz, 11, and Alex, 6, Shushan wants them to have everything they need for a healthy childhood. She lives with her parents, Volodya, 60, and Nina, 56. Their family budget consists of her father’s teaching salary of about USD 200, and the allowance she receives as a single mother of two, which is about USD 63. The additional income from the shop makes a big difference for them.
Shushan renovated the small garage of her home to house her store. Currently, she serves 50-60 customers a day who live in her village and rely on her store to easily access everyday goods. There are no other grocery stores in her part of the neighborhood, so locals love the convenience.
“Working in retail wasn’t my dream job but my ex-husband doesn’t support me financially,” Shushan said, referring to her past work experience. “And because I wanted to support my father who was the only employed person in the family, I took these sorts of jobs.”
Shushan studied Armenian language and literature at Berd College but never worked as a teacher after she got married.
“The villagers often buy food on credit and then pay off their purchases once they sell their harvests or receive their salaries/pensions. I understand and I want to help them because they simply can’t make it otherwise,” she said, noting that she’s also trying to diversify and increase the number and variety of goods available at her store. “I always follow my customers’ demands. If I don’t have the product, I make note of it and then call my suppliers.”