Aylkerp: Success Through the EU “Women in Business” Project
Women’s entrepreneurship plays a crucial role in driving economic growth and job creation. However, women often encounter barriers related to financing, business development, and other challenges.
“Aylkerp,” a company founded in 2014 by three women – Sofya Khachatryan, Elina Melikyan, and Anahit Hakobyan – exemplifies the positive impact of the European Union’s “Women in Business” project.
At its inception, Aylkerp aimed to fill a gap in the market by providing high-quality Armenian language board games. Sofya Khachatryan candidly admits, “When we produced our first product, we didn’t anticipate it selling more than 1,000 copies.” Yet, the product garnered significant interest. Elina Melikyan adds, “With the birth of our children, we decided to expand our offerings to include high-quality children’s games and activities.”
Nonetheless, like any business, Aylkerp faced the need for improvement and development, particularly in marketing, social media, and audience engagement. Anahit Hakobyan reflects, “We were managing our sales ourselves, but our knowledge was insufficient for deeper growth. So, when we learned about the EU “Women in Business” project, we decided to apply.”
The “Women in Business” project, managed by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and funded by the European Union, Sweden, the Early Transition Countries Fund, and the Small Business Fund, strives to empower women in business. It provides financing, business guidance, and essential knowledge to facilitate growth. The project targets women-led small and medium enterprises (SME) with fewer than 250 employees, an annual turnover of less than EUR 50 million, or a closing balance sheet of less than EUR 43 million. To date, the project has allocated approximately EUR 86.2 million to 12 private finance initiatives (PFI) in Eastern Partnership countries. Utilising the First Loss Risk Cover (FLRC) component, PFIs have extended 5,961 sub-loans to women-led SMEs, totalling over EUR 99.5 million.
Under this project, Aylkerp developed a comprehensive digital marketing strategy, leading to improved brand recognition, increased customer numbers, and higher sales. Elina Melikyan expresses her gratitude, saying, “Thanks to the project, our work has become much more efficient. It enables us to better understand our consumers’ needs and how to create and market the right products.”
Furthermore, the founders of Aylkerp actively participated in various workshops, seminars, and business meetings. They found value in networking and sharing experiences with other business representatives. As part of the project’s training component for women, 13 workshops engaged 543 participants, and 589 business consulting projects were supported. Additionally, 1,181 women entrepreneurs received face-to-face training through Women in Business workshops. Impressively, more than half (56%) of women-led SMEs reported increased employment one year after the mentoring programmes concluded, resulting in a net job creation of 2,666. Around 78% of these SMEs reported increased turnover.
The Aylkerp success story is just one of many. These visionary women have created a gaming app available in foreign languages, that is planned to expand into international markets. “We now have the tools acquired through the project at our disposal, and we have many exciting plans ahead. Soon, we will begin implementing them step by step,” conclude the founders of Aylkerp, highlighting the transformative impact of the “Women in Business” initiative.