Sona Mkrtchyan: Owner of By Sona, a brand of handmade jewelry and handbags
Sona, how was your business born?
I’ve been in the jewelry business for a long time, since 1996. Those were the years when there weren’t many opportunities to find a job or do business in our country. We started importing jewelry from abroad and had a small shop in the underground shopping center of the Barekamutyun metro. At that time, a lot of other people were also importing jewelry so we all offered more or less the same products. It bothered me a little and made me think of how I could make my offer more unique. I came to the realization that if I wanted to be different, I had to make my own jewelry. So I started buying beads, necklaces and various jewelry items, started disassembling them and making new things out of them. I experimented until I would make something that I would like wearing myself. I also had a hobby of drying flowers. One day it occurred to me that I could make collages with them. I started making pictures with dried flowers, they turned out beautiful but I noticed that after a while the flowers went brown and lost their colors. I realized that there’s something in the technique of drying flowers that I hadn’t yet uncovered. So I started experimenting with different techniques and my husband joined me. Finally, our experiments paid off and I started making my own jewelry using the flowers I’d successfully dried.
In 2009, I slowly started selling my own jewelry along with what I’d already been selling. It was at that point that I applied to FINCA for a loan to expand my business and from that moment on my friendship with the company started.
You used an interesting word to describe your relationship with the credit organization – friendship. Why is that?
First of all, it’s mutual trust. When applying to FINCA, I realized how convenient it is to interact with this organization. The loans were approved and disbursed fairly quickly, which is very important in business in terms of not missing the right moment. Apart from that, I really liked the customer service at FINCA, its customer-centric approach. Our friendship started from that moment on and I think it’s much more than just customer service.
And how did the business start to develop?
What I started making was a very new for the jewelry market and it quickly started to attract the attention of customers. However, initially there were active sales mainly before holidays, like Women’s Day and New Year. When we felt that the interest in our jewelry was gradually increasing, the whole family got involved in the business processes. We would all go to collect flowers in summer and would carefully dry them. We set up our workshop in one of the corners of our house. Later my daughter got involved in the production process and started hand-painting on bags. So, we expanded our product range, offering handbags along with jewelry.
Sona, is making jewelry a hobby or a creative process for you?
It used to be a hobby, now it has become a profession. And when you specialize in something, you start to become more creative. It’s impossible to work without inspiration, I have to paint the picture in my head and then sit down to create it. When I start making something, I detach from reality and don’t even hear or see what’s happening around me.
Did you have such hobbies as a child?
When I was little, I used to make necklaces from the seeds of mallow and jewelry from feathers, but it never occurred to me that in the future my childhood hobby would become a business.
Whose works inspire you?
I really like Van Gogh’s and Saryan’s paintings. I’ve recently started using them in my jewelry and accessory designs. There was a time when I was inspired by patriotic themes which were also reflected in my work.
Sona, how many shops do you have now?
I have 3 shops, but I also cooperate with different stores where my products are sold. I often take part in exhibitions, my clients have even presented my jewelry at foreign exhibitions. Tourists like my work quite a lot and, in general, foreigners always appreciate handmade items.
In this age of online sales, how are you utilizing the online platforms?
I have Facebook and Instagram pages for my brand. At the moment, online platforms are more for creating a brand image for By Sona, rather than sales. There are some orders, of course, but they make up a small percentage of my overall sales. People mostly look at the designs online, check the addresses of my stores and come to pick up the products directly from the shop.
And what is your vision for the future of the brand?
I would like to enter foreign markets and am looking for ways to cater to other countries. It’s my number one challenge right now and I’m certain I’ll successfully overcome it, especially with FINCA by my side.
I’ve also planned to pass on my knowledge to the younger generation. I value our children’s participation in creating our future, their desire to create and spread what’s beautiful. In this sense, the contribution that I can make is to pass on my knowledge to the younger generation. I would also like to organize educational and skill-building programs, especially in the regions. I hope to make this idea a reality soon.
What advice or message do you have for the younger generation?
I would advise the younger generation to never give up on their dreams, never get lazy and never back down.
Interviewer – Naira Tovmasyan