Tarazard booth (photo Aram Arkun)

Armenian Trade Delegation Visits Glendale


GLENDALE, Calif. — An Armenian business delegation visited the Los Angeles area from December 1 to 7 as part of the 2022 Armenian American Business Bridge and Armenian Trade Show programs, organized by the Armenian American Business Council (AABC) with the Liva Elite Business Group LLC. The International Business Relations Support Council (IBRS) in Armenia provided assistance from Armenia. The public highlight of the visit was a trade show held in Glendale on December 3-4 under the auspices of the Consulate General of the Republic of Armenia in Los Angeles. Some fifty producers from Armenia and Artsakh participated, with small booths arrayed outside at the Glendale Civic Center Plaza displayed their wares or services under tents, forming a mini “vernissage.”

At the center of the Glendale Civic Center Plaza (photo Aram Arkun)

Visitors to the trade show could sample many types of Armenian dried fruits and sweets from several different companies and sample different wine and other spirits produced in Armenia. Armenian-made carpets, clothing and leather goods vied for the attention of visitors. One company even had a collection of clothing embossed with Urartian cuneiform writing. The representative of a new luxury hotel in Yerevan, the Golden Palace, provided information and offered gift cards encouraging visits, while photographer Hayk Manukyan displayed photographs of Armenia’s picturesque sites, thereby promoting tourism, and noted that proceeds from sales would go to help needy families in Armenia.

In addition to the usual products that one would expect to see at a vernissage, there were high tech companies such as Volta, providing solar energy and heating solutions, and traditional manufacturers of items such as plastic cups and containers. Other booths highlighted specialized importers of medical devices to Armenia and Artsakh (AM Medical Group); a company providing laboratory analysis of food, drugs, tobacco and microbiological substances (FDA Laboratory); producers of vitamins and other medical products (Tonus-Les), and a company producing products based on microbiological techniques (JV Smart Technologies Systems, the Armenian branch of a company based in Riga, Latvia). The Legara transportation company offered its services in Armenia, Artsakh and Georgia for moving cargo and leasing minivans and buses, as well as freight transportation to neighboring countries.

The FDA Lab booth (photo Aram Arkun)

Several of the participants explained on December 3 that in addition to familiarizing people with Armenian products, the participants in the business delegation hoped to establish business-to-business connections in separate meetings as well as through a business conference that the city of Glendale was hosting on December 5. For example, the dried fruit producers hoped that their products could be sold in various American supermarkets or grocery stores through the connections this trip would make. The participants also said that there was great competition in Armenia to get accepted into the business delegation, so that only a small number of applicants succeeded in joining the trip.

Cups and containers produced by Oval Plastic (photo Aram Arkun)

According to the Facebook site of the Armenian Consulate General in Los Angeles, the business delegation visited their offices on December 1 to meet with Counselor Nazeli Hambardzumyan, and on the next day was hosted by the Glendale City Council and Mayor Ardashes Kassakhian. The counselor, mayor, and members of IBRS and AABC delivered welcoming speeches at the official opening of the trade show on December 3.

The city of Glendale provided the space for the trade show and some of the other events. It also helped in making some introductions of the vendors to people who could help them with marketing in the US. Mayor Ardashes Kassakhian later declared, “We wanted to provide whatever assistance we could because we believe that given our large Armenian population, good trade relations with Armenia are critical…And the timing could not be more perfect because it also coincides with the holidays, so a lot of folks from our community came out to do their holiday shopping.” He noted that in a sense all this is a continuation of the mercantile spirit of the Armenian people, which has been evident for at least several thousand years.

Glendale Mayor Ardashes “Ardy” Kassakhian (photo Aram Arkun)

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Behind the Scenes

Former Consul General of the Republic of Armenia in Los Angeles Valery Mkrtumyan, who holds the rank of Minister Plenipotentiary, provided some background to the Armenian Trade Show. Earlier efforts to encourage trade relations between Armenia and California included the 2015 creation of the Armenian American Business Council, promoting business relations between the US and Armenia, of which Mkrtumyan is a founding member. Mkrtumyan declared, “Our main aim was to attract Armenian companies to the United States to actively participate. We first started with travel shows, and then we tried to organize some kind of exhibition, but we didn’t manage to do it due to Covid-19 restrictions and consequent developments.” The AABC is a nonprofit organization based in California and its current, third president is Artak Ghazaryan.

Mkrtumyan declared, “California offers some unique opportunities, from the point of view of its vast marketing opportunities and for foreign entrepreneurs to be represented here.” In 2021, imports from Armenia to California totaled $41 million dollars, he said. Therefore, he continued “we thought about creating a platform called Armenian Trade Show to facilitate the presentation of Armenian goods, producers and services, especially for companies that didn’t have any chance to get to the United States market.”

There was a first version of the show in Burbank, California, in May, 2022, at which 20 companies participated. They signed over a dozen agreements or contracts, Mkrtumyan said, which was a good beginning. The second version in December had many more participating companies as well as visitors, and the public show was expanded to two days from one.

Mkrtumyan emphasized the unique character of the trade show. The US through the US Agency for International Development, which closely cooperates with the US embassy in Armenia, has been involved in this initiative from its very start, while back in Armenia, the IBRS, a governmental organization under the Ministry of Economy of the Republic of Armenia, supported the show as well. IBRS was created to help Armenian entrepreneurs and businessmen participate in various trade shows and fairs, Mkrtumyan added. Finally, the platform was completed with the participation of several companies based in California as well as with the help of the AABC.

Liana Vardanyan, cofounder and CEO of Liva Elite Business Group LLC, stated that her company’s main purpose is to support the entry of Armenian manufacturers into the US market. The Liva Group helped organize the Armenian American Business Bridge project and with its business partners the Armenian Trade Show platform.

Liana Vardanyan, cofounder and CEO of Liva Elite Business Group LLC

She noted that after the first trade show in May, her company signed contracts with several Armenian manufacturing companies, and after the second trade show is now in the course of negotiating terms with several more companies. If an Armenian company engages Liva’s services, it will help with all necessary registration for the US market, such as with the Food and Drug Administration, the US Department of Agriculture. This includes ingredients review, nutrition facts review and labelling design. Liva, she said, collaborates with many Armenian-American partner comapnies in order to help with product shipping, and after the importation, marketing, advertising and actual sales in the US. Liva Group, she said, works with companies in the fields of food, alcohol, textile, souvenirs, jewelry, leather goods, and many others.

The first step will be online sales through a website, and after all the necessary approvals have been obtained, the products will be imported and distributed to Armenian stores. The final stage will be to have Armenian products sold in big chains like Trader Joe’s or Ralphs, when, Vardanyan said, the necessary quality and quantity can be assured.

Vardanyan remarked that in the future, the Armenian Trade Show intends to present specialized shows and events in different fields such as industry, agriculture, tourism, hotels and the medical sector. The Armenian Trade Show is a non-profit enterprise, but of course when companies enter into contracts with Liva, then this becomes a for-profit business arrangement.

Vardanyan and Mkrtumyan both said that after the success of the second trade show, the organizers plan to make this an annual event.

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