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EPIC Hosts Hack Night With Founders of Coffee House Company

4 min read

YEREVAN, Armenia On December 7, the Entrepreneurship and Product Innovation Center (EPIC) of the American University of Armenia (AUA) hosted Harutyun Mkrtchyan and Narek Qeyan, co-founders of the fast-growing Armenian takeaway coffee market leader, Coffee House Company. The hack night “From Love of Coffee to a Love Brand” attracted over 200 students, EPIC entrepreneurs, faculty, and community members that filled Manoogian Hall to capacity. The co-founders provided honest and practical advice on how to build a successful small business in Armenia and realize aggressive growth. The talk was especially interesting and relevant for AUA students who can observe firsthand the highly popular, thriving Coffee House just across the street from AUA and may have even savored its delicious products or experienced its friendly ambiance. 

Mkrtchyan and Qeyan co-founded the Coffee House Company in 2017. They created the business when they were students, like most of their clientele is, setting off to realize their dream of having a successful startup. At the time, there weren’t many competitors in the takeaway market, and they believed their business concept was rather unique. Without prior experience or background in the industry, they took the entrepreneurial plunge. Their first attempt failed, causing them to go bankrupt within a year. They persevered and decided to give their business concept another try, having learned from their earlier mistakes. Back then, the takeaway culture was not well-developed in Armenia, but they knew their unique branding approach, attractive product mix, and customer-centric attitude would lead the Coffee House to become a popular brand among Armenian youth.

Today, one can observe enthusiastic customers waiting in line for their turn to order in front of the Coffee Houses in various Yerevan locations or lingering outside to socialize while sipping on their drinks. With over 150+ employees and 27 coffee shops in five cities, the company continues to expand at a rapid pace. As Qeyan recounts: “Several years ago, when we only had one coffee shop, I saw several students in Republic Square walking around with Coffee House cups in hand. This was an amazing moment for me. Now, we see Coffee House cups everywhere.” When asked about their recipe for success, the founders could not point to one singular ingredient that makes them successful; instead, they claim, success is derived from a combination of three critical elements: good timing, customer-centricity, and love. The Coffee House team has shown love to its customers and got love back. And Mkrtchyan adds: “The component of love has been there from the very first day — love toward our customers, love toward our employees, love toward our job, and love toward coffee. Love is what has helped us get to where we are today.” 

The hack night began with a presentation by the co-founders about the history of the company, the team, and their challenges. The stories, successes, mistakes, and difficulties the speakers recounted were both humorous and informative considering that most of those in the audience would have witnessed the company’s growth trajectory over the years. The presentation was followed by probing questions from the audience about details of the startup and the motivation of the founders, as well as suggestions on how Coffee House could improve its product, service, and overall operation. Questions, humor, and advice prevailed while the speakers openly shared their secret to success and business formula for building the “love brand.” 

As AUA student Siranush Makhmuryan (BAB ‘25) highlights: “The Coffee House event was both memorable and motivating. Listening to their story, which echoed concepts similar to what we have learned in class, and drawing meaningful parallels was a valuable experience. They showed us the other side of their success story that most of us wouldn’t see, including their failure and disappointment. The co-founders persisted through challenging times and built what we now see as a successful business. All aspiring entrepreneurs and business people in the audience had something to learn. All in all, the conversation was authentic and informative.” In turn, student Hayk-Ter Stepanyan (BAB ‘25), elaborates: “Mkrtchyan and Qeyan were very friendly and honest with us. They shared their success story and what I appreciated the most was that they were not afraid to talk about their weaknesses and failures. Another important thing to remember from their talk was that many factors contribute to creating a successful business, and when just one component fails, the whole business may collapse.” Dr. Brent A. Anders, director of the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment at AUA, wrapped up: “This hack night was a great experience in that it provided the real-life experiences of successful entrepreneurs in Armenia. I really appreciated the Coffee House co-founders’ story as well as their specific recommendations on consumer psychology, in general, and customer experience, in particular. I can’t wait to see what other events EPIC will bring to the AUA community.” This was the third EPIC Entrepreneurial Hack Night of the fall term. Previously, EPIC hosted entrepreneurs Vahe Kuzoyan, co-founder and president of ServiceTitan, and Victoria Aslanian, CEO of Golden Grape ArmAs winery.

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.