The Best Lahmajun Place in Yerevan — Mer Taghr or “Our Street”:'
“A friend in need is a friend indeed”
Volunteering in the field of microfinance since May 2009, I have encountered numerous borrower stories that absolutely inspire me. For many, receiving a small credit is a matter of survival, not a matter of ambition. The borrowers’ commitment to work and their willingness to fight so hard are two reasons why Kiva exists. Kiva’s goal is to remove the conditions for this need. Through my encounters with Kiva borrowers, I have learned to appreciate the opportunities that the world of business can give people.
At the beginning of September 2009, I took a friend to what had been presented to me as the “Best Lahmajun place in Yerevan, Armenia.” That evening, we had the pleasure of meeting the owner–Mr. Sargis Grboyan–who shared the story of his the vision for restaurant “Mer Taghe.” I enjoy meeting entrepreneurs like Sargis, who would, in Kiva Slang, be “graduates” from the organization in the sense that their businesses are already well developed. These are the entrepreneurs who fall in the category in-between needing micro-credit and heading a big business. If everyone had access to credit resources like Mr. Grboyan did, Kiva and the field of microfinance would not be as vital in the fight for alleviating poverty as they are at the moment.
According to Mr. Grboyan, the past 20 years have brought about a positive climate for entrepreneurship in Armenia while the Soviet regime kept the hands of businessmen tied. When his parents moved to Armenia in 1947, Sargis began studying at the local university. In history lectures, he was taught that Capitalism was the worse system and that as young people create families, they must make sure to educate their children of that fact. What he learned from this “brainwashing” was to get “into the blood of a customer”–just like the Communist ideal was supposed to get under the skin of people–and to make sure no client forgets “Mer Taghe.”
Sargis was brought up understanding how to “make money;” but more importantly, he was brought up a good and sociable person. One of his visions is being kind to others, while his everyday priority is to meet new people and help them. He says that if from age 14 you help everyone around you (and most importantly your neighbors), at age 18 one of these people will return your kindness and give you credit to start a business. Sargis says, “If you asked me for money, the first thing I would ask you is ‘Why are you not going to your neighbor’.” You have to seek out the acquaintances that could help you in a hard situation.
It was precisely thanks to such a generous hand that Sargis was able to leave his successful textile business and open a restaurant. Using their own hands, Sargis and his brother, Vazgen, engineered and decorated the place on Tumanyan Street, where they is currently employing 20 people. Sargis thought through every detail from the connection with the kitchen, through the type of seating, to the little Armenian-English wisdom-notes he puts inside the menus:”
“A good name keeps its luster in the dark”
“A fool and his money are soon parted”
“Strike while the iron is hot”
“An honest man’s word is a good as his bond”
I wish all Kiva Borrowers to be able to achieve the ambition, comfort and enjoyment that Sargis Grboyan finds in his work. Part of Kiva’s mission is to provide entrepreneurs from all over the world with the necessaryconnections to develop their business to such an extent. Helping others in a sustainable way is the goal of all of us who commit to the Kiva Community.
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