Mary Badalyan (LL.M. ‘08) Believes Armenia Can Become a World-known Wine Tourism Center

4 min read

Mary Badalyan (LL.M. ‘08) chose to study Master of Laws (LL.M.) at the American University of Armenia (AUA) to enhance her knowledge in law and become a well educated businesswoman. As she remarks, she wanted to learn more about laws that apply to or regulate the business sector to be able to effectively realize her business ideas. She is the co-founder and CEO of EventToura, a company that specializes in organizing festivals and other types of events. Among the most popular events the company organizes is the annual Yerevan Wine Days. In the interview with us, Mary talked about her career path in the business world, the Himalayas, and her team’s efforts of establishing Armenia as a wine tourism destination. 

From Law to the World of Business 

Before AUA, I studied at the Moscow Entrepreneurship Academy, majoring in law. But, to be honest, becoming a lawyer was never my main goal; I have always been more interested in entrepreneurship. Growing up, I saw my parents working in our family business, which inspired me to become a businesswoman. So, considering what I wanted to do in life, I decided that to be a professional entrepreneur and to understand business from the inside out, I also needed to know business laws. So I came to AUA’s LL.M. to learn the law and become an entrepreneur who knows how to navigate business uncertainty adeptly and effectively. I knew about LL.M. and its many good courses in tax, contract, and international transaction laws.

As a student at AUA, I loved many classes taught in the program, acquiring several skills and creative approaches for solving problems, which I still use in my job: breaking down a law article into pieces, then eliminating all unnecessary words leaving only those without which the core meaning of the article would be twisted. This was one of the most important skills I took from AUA, and particularly from one of the professors of the time, Vahan Bournazian; and it helped me through my career path. This tactic taught us how to find and only pay attention to the most essential provisions and to core issues. It also developed our analytical thinking. 

After graduating from AUA, my path didn’t change; I just became a more skillful business manager. Besides understanding the relevant laws, starting or owning a business is about leadership and sound decision-making. Knowledge of the law helps you to keep from calling your lawyer for every minor legal issue and make decisions on the table when negotiating with business partners and clients.

A Meeting That Was Meant to Happen 

There is a very inspirational story about how ®Yerevan Wine Days and EventToura started: I love hiking, and when I went to Nepal, I fell in love with the mountains and decided to move there to live with and learn from the sherpas while training to climb Mount Everest. At that time, I was managing a few businesses in Yerevan. So, when I came back, I had made up my mind and was getting ready to leave for the Himalayas in a few months when I met my love — my future husband — and shortly after I met Nune Manukyan, my current partner, who at that time had been organizing the Areni Wine Festival event for ten years. Nune told me she had a great idea and needed a partner to help her bring it to fruition. The idea was to host a wine festival in Yerevan, but she lacked the funding. The idea was fascinating, and I told her I would need to see the project. It turned out there was yet to be a project on paper. So I started developing it based on her idea, after which we started fundraising for the initiative. During the first year of Yerevan Wine Days in 2017, I was the fundraising manager, then the project manager. After the festival’s big success, Nune and I decided to start our own company, EventToura, which organizes festivals and events, now including Yerevan Wine Days, Beer Days, Beard Fest, Yerevan Music Night, MetaExpo-Tourism and others. 

Life had its plans for me, and I ended up canceling my return trip to Nepal and stayed in Armenia. So, I took all these events as fate and abandoned my intentions of climbing Everest; I have no regrets because it was a carefully-thought-out decision. 

Marking Armenia on the Map of International Wine Tourism

Last year Yerevan Wine Days won the “Event of the year” prize of the Wine Travel Awards,an international competition and winner recognition. The award ceremony was held in London and, though we didn’t manage to be there to receive the prize ourselves, the mere idea that Yerevan Wine Days was recognized as one of the biggest wine events in the world and the name Yerevan was mentioned several times during the ceremony was a very emotional and proud moment for all of us. We are proud that Armenia is again recognized as a wine producing country and is designated as such on the world map of wine producers. 

During the past six years of the festival, we have conducted surveys asking people why they were in Armenia for the festival, what country they came from, and whether they came specially for the event; more than 30 percent of the festival participants have responded that they traveled to Armenia for Yerevan Wine days. As the event organizer, we value the opinion of all visitors, as well as locals participating in the event. Last year, we hit a record number of 60+ thousand people attending the three-day festival.

Our initiatives are not only geared to helping grow the wine industry in Armenia, but also developing wine tourism in Armenia. We run a socially responsible company that values its employees, promotes wine makers, and also assists charitable organizations and NGOs that are associated with education and/or helping our soldiers.