Blue Cheese Production, Shirak-TRDP Entrepreneur Slavik Chapanyan

Slavik Chapanyan learned about the American University of Armenia’s Turpanjian Rural Development Program (TRDP) years ago when he was the head of the municipality of Berdashen village, Shirak region. Since this program gives an opportunity to get loans at low interest rate, he decided to apply in order to get necessary financial resources and knowledge for developing his business. Before applying for the program he already knew what kind of business he wanted to establish. Since he and his family already had the experience of producing cheese and he examined techniques of producing a new type of cheese in the region, he was confident in his decision to produce Roquefort cheese.

Within the scope of the TRDP training Slavik obtained new skills in organization of business, fundraising, marketing, competition in the market and further development of the business. Attentiveness and consistency during the training helped his business to develop in the future. During the training he liked the working environment and obtained information on different topics related to his business. The most important skill that he acquired during the training is the ability to see his own business from different aspects and know his competitors in the market. Due to obtained skills now his business is developing. In his opinion it would be even better if another kind of training for already established businesses would be organized, so that entrepreneurs could acquire deeper knowledge in business management.

Slavik shared his knowledge with his friends through providing them with consultations, evaluating risks in their businesses and motivating them with his own experience. He also keeps in touch with other TRDP beneficiaries. While constructing his cheese factory he even used some of the services that other TRDP beneficiaries provide.

Establishing a business in one of the coldest villages of Shirak region was not an easy task. Roads, connecting the village to Gyumri, are in a very bad condition. Moreover, production of the cheese was risky due to its price and demand. Despite these factors, Slavik decided to produce Roquefort cheese due to the financial and educational support from TRDP. In the region his cheese production is unique, since he uses high quality milk. This is his competitive advantage in the market. Roquefort cheese is highly demanded in the market, but due to its high price it is not affordable for everyone. Therefore, he decided to produce a cheese with lower prices than in the market. Currently his main customers are in Gyumri and Yerevan.The uniqueness of Roquefort cheese made his busin  ess successful.

“…in France Roquefort cheese is considered as a product that ensures your long life. It’s an antibiotic that prevents from many diseases and treats the existing ones”, Slavik said.

Even though he was busy with cheese production for many years, he started Roquefort cheese production in November 5, 2015. Currently he has 7 employees, who are highly motivated to work in the business. Employees work in clean sanitary hygienic conditions, wear special working uniform. In order to encourage employees to work even better Slavik uses the method of bonuses.

Production of Roquefort cheese is not easy, since it is considered as a mold cheese. While producing the cheese we try not to infect the factory with the mold. Moreover, it is very hard to find mold for producing the cheese. It is imported from France rarely, therefore he gets mold in high amounts. Mold has an expiration date, and if it is not used on time, it loses its effects. Since mold is very expensive, it could be considered as an obstacle in the business. In order to overcome it currently Slavik works on producing mold by his own. He already got a sample of it, but the results of testing could not be seen yet.

Slavik plans to enlarge his business first in the national market, than in the international market. However, he needs to get the permission from the importing country in order to export his product which is hard.

Cheese production business positively influenced on Berdashen’s community also, since now people work in the factory. Moreover, they buy milk from local producers with higher price than others, which also help them to get more profit from selling the milk. Slavik admitted: “We also help people in our community. We provide milk and cheese for school lunches. When we feel that during some events people cannot afford to buy food, we give them from our products also. It is impossible to work without helping others”.

“Of course we get profit from our business, but when you produce a qualified product and people talk about you and your business, you get proud of your business”, said Slavik.

Slavik thinks that running a business compared to working for others is not easy. You have to work hard, but in addition you will have a chance to get more profit. “Three factors that ensure successfulness of the business are hardworking, ability to find new things and ability to adjust to market needs.”

Slavik advised future applicants of the program to apply and spend the money they get on purpose. In over cases they won’t be successful. ”I don’t think that without TRDP’s help my business would have been successful, since financial and mental support was necessary. They helped us to understand that we can do what we want to do”, mentioned Slavik.

”In five years I see myself in Armenia and nowhere else. I see my business enlarged already in international markets”, said Slavik while talking about his business in the future.