Through FAR’s Small Business Assistance Program (SBA) Hovsep Bozyakalian has successfully started his family business off on the right foot.

Hovsep, 42, left Syria in October 2013. The painful and difficult decision to flee his country came after harsh battles erupted near his home, accompanied by the eventual realization that there was no hope that things would get better. His wife and eldest daughter left Syria for Armenia before he followed them.

“I could flee by military jet. The journey was risky and difficult. Even in the jet, they were shooting at us. Luckily, we landed in Damascus. From there we headed to the Lebanese border, then to Beirut. It took me two days to reach the Armenian border,” recollected Hovsep.

Even with 23-years of experience as a barber under his belt, Hovsep had a hard time finding a job in Armenia. Among the challenges were the language, and the social and financial hardships that came with trying to establish himself professionally. However, Hovsep eventually found a job at a local barber shop, learned the local techniques and tricks of the trade, and even picked up the specific slang used by the locals.

In August 2017, Hovsep opened his beauty salon Hovsep with his wife, Alice, 32, who provides nail care services. Located in the center of Yerevan, Hovsep has quickly become a favorite place for many locals due to Hovsep’s and Alice’s warm and professional attitude and the variety of services they provide. The SBA grant enabled him to furnish most of the salon and purchase necessary tools like scissors, combs, and manicurist equipment.

“Yerevan has become our beloved city,” remarked Hovsep who has decided that he will never go back to Syria. “My children live in the type of carefree, safe, and happy environment that they lacked in Aleppo. Here, they enjoy freedom and peace, and I’m happy for that, too.”

SBA has already supported 17 small businesses by Syrian-Armenians who have fled the war in their home country since it was launched in 2012.