EPIC Launches STRIVE to Inspire: First Steps in an Entrepreneurial Journey

3 min read

YEREVAN, Armenia In April, the American University of Armenia (AUA) Entrepreneurship and Product Innovation Center (EPIC) launched a first-of-its-kind program in Armenia called STRIVE. It is a pre-incubation program where talented individuals begin to familiarize themselves with entrepreneurial concepts and understand what it takes to become a successful entrepreneur. The program aims to engage individuals in the core aspects of the entrepreneurial mindset, instilling in participants a way of thinking that would allow them to adapt and succeed in a constantly evolving world by developing entrepreneurial attitudes, behaviors, and skills.

The 22 participants enrolled in STRIVE come from diverse backgrounds and experiences. They attend twice-weekly workshops, discussions, and real-life simulations that help them understand the role of creativity, problem-solving, resilience, and resourcefulness, among other skills, in the process of making informed decisions. STRIVE’s core focus is to help participants shape ideas into opportunities, then, through practice and experience, cultivate confidence and courage to act on those which will likely be outside of their comfort zone. Through STRIVE, participants also build a strong network of like-minded individuals.

Speaking of her experience, AUA student Ovsanna Hovhannisyan (BAB ‘24) notes, “At STRIVE, I learned lifelong lessons that are important for not only entrepreneurship, but also for career growth. I had the opportunity to work and get acquainted with people from different fields and different professions, which is a great asset for my career growth.”

At the core of the program are readings and stories about ordinary people who think like entrepreneurs and accomplish extraordinary feats. During workshop discussions, participants extract and evaluate key entrepreneurial essentials from the stories: for example, making conscious choices versus allowing circumstances to determine the course of one’s career or life; or recognizing problems as opportunities and then focusing time and effort on the particular problems that can be resolved, rather than on those things that cannot be changed, thereby overcoming self-imposed limitations and transforming opportunity into action. Concepts are further illustrated through experiential simulations. For instance, each STRIVE participant identifies the top three problems they encounter in their daily life. Similar problems brought up by the participants are then grouped together as common to all, then validated among potential customer groups to determine if a business opportunity exists.  Finally, teams move on to identifying and evaluating viable, alternative, and best solutions that are subsequently tested and validated.

AUA B.A. in Business student and STRIVE participant Anush Muradyan remarks, “I would say that from the beginning of the program, I had one goal: to launch my startup as soon as possible. At first, I thought my idea was perfect; however, after attending the program, I learned many new concepts, which helped me realize that my idea needed much work. When applying to the program, I did not even know it would be this interesting and eye-opening for me. If asked what one decision I will never regret, I would definitely say it is applying to STRIVE.”

Program head Alisa Chalakhyan shares the highlights of working with STRIVE. “There are many reasons why I’m so passionate about this program,” she says. “Most fulfilling is seeing the ‘aha’ moment in the eyes of the participants whenever a new piece of information is shared with them. The simulation games help them gain hands-on experience with different real-life situations that challenge their ideas and beliefs. This allows them to see beyond the scope of their specialties and narrow verticals. This is what we are seeking as a successful outcome from the program the realization that there are 100 ways of tackling a problem, and if 99 of those don’t lead to ultimate success, there’s always that one that eventually will.”  

An important part of the program is organizing networking events with entrepreneurs from the local community. Hosting Armenia-based founders and investors who share insights about their journey, give valuable tips, and answer participants’ burning questions  enables them to find common ground with and be inspired by those that have dared, risked, and succeeded. 

The Entrepreneurship and Product Innovation Center (EPIC) is a platform of the American University of Armenia (AUA) for promoting entrepreneurial education, cross-disciplinary collaboration, and startup venture incubation. EPIC provides an ecosystem for emerging entrepreneurs consisting of first-class facilities and collaborative workspace, programs and events, and a network of mentors, advisors, and investors. EPIC fosters the understanding and application of entrepreneurship in students and faculty at AUA to craft high-impact multidisciplinary ventures.