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The economic development of any country can be correlated to the equal development of its regions. Armenia is no exception. Once a gym and now a modern business centre, the Sevan Innovative Business Centre has already become a hub for new business ideas and initiatives in Sevan, a popular Armenian resort town located in the eastern province of Gegharkunik.

Helping the SMEs, especially young entrepreneurs, the Centre is a joint project of City of Sevan and the Gegharkunik Chamber of Commerce and Industry, made possible by a two-year grant under the EU-funded Mayors for Economic Growth (M4EG) initiative supported with EU4Business. Set in motion in January 2017 under the Eastern Partnership, M4EG supports mayors and municipalities in becoming active facilitators for economic growth and job creation at the local level.

The EU stands with local SMEs

As part of the “EU4Sevan: SME platform for Business Development and Innovation” pilot project, the new Business Centre began full-scale operations in August 2019. Zoya Safaryan, 19, herself from Sevan, was one of the first beneficiaries. “I heard about the innovative business centre in Sevan that helps the young people who have an idea but don’t know where to start and what to do,” says Zoya.

While she was still in school, Zoya found her passion—marketing. “I noticed I was spending most of my time on social networks and I thought, ‘why not earn money from it?’” says Zoya. “As I explored things more, I came across marketing and started to learn about it.”

She discovered how to develop a business plan to open a marketing centre and develop marketing in her hometown. “I will be teaching marketing and we can provide SMM services at our centre,” she says. When the business plan was ready, she began to get job offers as a social media manager. “It’s a great opportunity so that I can work and save money to carry out my pet project over the next few years.”

More than 60 entrepreneurs have already benefitted from the Centre’s services for developing a business plan, just one of the many options provided. Supported by the EU, the Centre invites experienced experts from different fields to hold workshops and share their ideas about how to improve the building blocks of the local economy. Some 200 participants have gone through the workshops and got the benefit of knowledge-sharing opportunities.

In parallel with business support, training and assistance is provided to job seekers, especially young people, women and disabled individuals. This enables them to get jobs as qualified professionals.

Volunteering at the Centre, Zoya believes that marketing has a future in Sevan and that the centre can help many people in the same way that it helped her. “Since modern young people spend most of their time surfing the net, they can also learn how to earn money on the internet,” Zoya says.

Fighting the pandemic through online support

Seminars and workshops are part of the activities the Business Centre has been designed for. The modern building includes fully equipped co-working spaces and conference halls, filling a key niche in the local business environment, so the Centre provides a platform for collaboration and knowledge sharing.

While the current pandemic has made it impossible to make use of its infrastructure, the Centre devised online support services for SMEs to help cope with the impact of the lockdown and quarantine. The language, programming and accounting courses, and the market research and business planning services provided by the Centre support SME efforts to keep their businesses afloat nowadays. Consultations are provided free of charge to SMEs regarding the state programmes to ease the economic impact of the coronavirus and crisis response.

By contributing to substantial economic growth in Sevan, the Business Centre supports the transformation of the town into a financially independent, economically sustainable, and socially attractive community.