If you’ve ever been to Artbridge, which you likely have if you’ve been to Yerevan in the last decade, then you probably know the name Shakeh Havan. She’s the Tehran-born Armenian woman who opened up the cafe-slash-bookstore in 2001. Shakeh and her two kids moved to Armenia after her husband passed away while they were living in Boston — the kids were 4 and 4 months. She’s a truly inspiring woman — both for her strength as a single mother and her business savvy — and she talked to a group of young women about her life and work at a Women’s Club event.
Shakeh hasn’t always been a businesswoman though; she used to work as a manufacturing engineer in Boston. When her husband died and she came to Armenia to get away, she knew she wouldn’t be able to find a job in that field. Some luck and her instincts brought her to Artbridge and it’s her gut that keeps her store thriving after 14 years, even as other businesses in Yerevan topple around her.
During her talk, Shakeh touched on the fact that she had to work twice as hard as a female business owner, but the beautiful thing is that she never felt less as a woman. Even though women may have to work harder to have a voice here, it’s important that they don’t feel inferior. That’s why these kinds of events and talks are highly important and inspiring for young women here. There’s so much potential in Armenia for entrepreneurial spirits, and part of your success depends on how much you believe in yourself. If Shakeh felt she didn’t have the right to be in a position of power as a female, then Artbridge would never exist today. It’s clear from her message and aura that she knew she could do whatever she put her mind to, whatever she needed to do to support her two young kids. Thanks to that unyielding passion and drive, Shakeh is one of the most successful businesswomen in Yerevan today. Apres!