Arevik Manukyan (MPSIA ‘03): A Person with Multiple Careers

4 min read

Arevik Manukyan (MPSIA ‘03) is a graduate of the American University of Armenia (AUA) Master of Political Science and International Affairs (MPSIA) program. She is the co-founder and director of Achajour Natural Food LLC. As Arevik loves  to say, around every ten years, she likes to add a new direction to her career path. Having started her education in sociology, followed by graduate studies in political science, she is currently pursuing a master’s in applied psychology at the Public Administration Academy of the Republic of Armenia. In our interview with her, Arevik talked about her student years at AUA and how she succeeded in managing businesses and people using the skills she had gained at her alma mater. 

What brought you to AUA? Why did you choose the PSIA program?

Before coming to AUA, I had received my bachelor’s degree from Yerevan State University, where I studied sociology. After graduation, I started working as a sociologist in different projects for several years. In 2002, I felt the urge to continue my academic education, and applied to AUA. I wanted to experience new methods and approaches, and AUA was the best alternative. I chose the PSIA program because the subjects taught in the program were very close to my interests at the time. 

What was your favorite class and who was your favorite professor? 

There were many subjects that I enjoyed, partly because they were more structured and delivered in a different way than I had experienced in my earlier studies. At AUA, students were actively involved in class discussions and were encouraged by the lecturers to analyze topics from different perspectives. 

Dr. Lucig Danielian was my favorite professor, and I especially enjoyed the democracy course she used to teach. She delivered the subject thoroughly, explaining the pillars and principles of democracy, further elucidating the subject matter with examples. She also had a very keen sense of humor and could also be quite sarcastic, so the subject’s delivery, combined with her personality, made it a favorite subject for many of us. It was an excellent learning experience for me. 

Tell us about your professional journey. How and where did you start your career after graduation? 

After graduating from AUA, I worked as a sociologist in the NGO sector for a while, before becoming a project coordinator. In 2008, I was awarded a scholarship to study sociology and social anthropology at the Central European University in Budapest. My goal then was to open my own center of sociological research. However, following some political developments in Armenia, I changed my mind in view of potential manipulations of social scientists. As a social scientist myself, I had a few options: to continue my studies, work for the government, or be part of civil society. Neither of these options seemed right for me at the time, so I decided to change my career path. I entered the business world and started from scratch. At the time, new franchises were opening in Armenia. First, I became the brand manager of the Italian store Motivi and later collaborated with Tateossian London as the brand manager and director of the store. Everything was new for me, and I was involved in the whole process, starting from store construction to customs clearance; everything was on my shoulders and, although I was working in a totally new domain, the skills I had learned at AUA gave me confidence. I had mastered the skill of multitasking and, despite many difficulties, I was ready to accept the challenges. I discovered in myself management skills and truly enjoyed managing business operations and people. A few years later, I became the director of Achajour Café.

You joined the Achajour team in 2010 as manager. Tell us a bit more about how you crossed paths with Achajour Café. 

The newly renovated “Lovers’ park” was opened in 2009, but it was financially very consuming, so a decision was made to start a business in the park that would cover part of the park’s expenses. Achajour Café was opened in 2009, becoming one of the first social enterprises in Armenia. I joined the team of Achajour in 2010, at a time when it was facing many challenges. But I had a map of solutions in my head to help the business grow and prosper; accepting those challenges was like betting on myself, and I went for it. I changed the menu, hired more staff, and changed the way of managing the Café. Step by step, business started to grow allowing part of the profit from the Café to be allocated to maintaining the park. I was very proud of that achievement. 

You are the co-founder and also director of Achajour Natural Food LLC. What inspired you to establish it? 

As the Café started to grow, we decided that we needed to bake our own bread, so we opened a bakery on Parpetsi street; then we opened a second café. With time, we started offering catering services. As we grew, we were able to separate the concept of Achajour from the park. While it still provides for the park, it has also become a separate business entity. Achajour Natural Food LLC was established in 2013. 

What is your favorite thing about your job?

Right now, the most enjoyable thing is to see the business function without necessitating my day-to-day management. I currently oversee the Café’s operations, but I am not involved in its day-to-day management. Another enjoyable moment is seeing my employees grow. I like that we have a family atmosphere in the Café, and many of our former employees are still in contact with us and don’t hesitate to jump in when there is a need for their help. And, of course, seeing our customers happy with our services is another proud moment. I enjoy getting positive feedback from customers about our food and service. 

With the fast-growing number of healthy food cafés and food services, how is Achajour standing out in the field?

Indeed, it is not an easy task to sustain competitive advantage these days, but a few secrets help a good business retain its high reputation. One is maintaining the consistency of your product, keeping high quality while being flexible to move along with time and market demands. Most importantly, the staff, atmosphere, and work environment constitute the main pillars of a successful business. 

Do you have any advice for current AUA students?

My advice would be to read a lot and hold discussions and debates with classmates because that is the way to retain the acquired information in your memory. Also to take everything easy, because that makes the learning process much more productive.

As we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of your graduation this year at the annual Alumni Homecoming event, what are you looking forward to celebrating on this occasion?

Celebrating the 20th anniversary of graduation is a significant event, and I look forward to a big celebration with my classmates and professors.