This is the story of a courageous Armenian pet lover, who decided to embark on an entrepreneurial journey in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Stuck at home during lockdown, Kristine Soghomonyan saw first-hand the benefits to herself and her children of owning and caring for pets.
Four German shepherds and a parrot helped her family cope with pandemic-induced isolation and inspired her to open her first Pet City ‒ a magical pet food and accessories store ‒ in Yerevan.
Pet City is a client of the EBRD Women in Business programme in Armenia, supported by the European Union and Sweden.
Kristine’s aim in opening her first shop was to reward these loyal companions by creating a cosy environment, filled with laughter, colour and pleasant aromas, that people could visit freely with their furry friends.
Pet City offers a wide array of pet pampering products, from accessories and toys to grooming products and delicious and nutritious food, but as Kristine says, “nothing comes close to the love and loyalty our little friends share with us so generously”.
‘’Owning a pet makes you kinder, more thoughtful,” says Kristine. “Wet noses, wagging tails, cuddles, the sheer joy they show on seeing us … pets are part of the family and give us unconditional love and emotional support, even when we are feeling low.”
Now with three branches across the capital and an online shop, Pet City employs 24 people. All believe in the “pet effect”, that the strong bond between pets and their owners brings not only physical health benefits, but improves mental wellbeing and reduces anxiety and feelings of isolation.
‘’We are so lucky to be in this business,” Kristine says. “From the outset, we have made so many friends ‒ with our employees, our clients, their pets, we feel like a big, happy family.”
Kristine and Pet City joined the EBRD’s Women in Business programme (WiB) with a loan from a local partner bank, Converse Bank. The loan enabled Pet City to buy a space for one of its shops, rather than rent.
“Women entrepreneurs play a critical role in driving economic development around the world, and Armenia is no exception,” says Kristine. “When Converse Bank first learned of our intention to buy a space for one of our shops, they offered us help through the Women in Business programme. Our project became a priority and all administrative tasks were processed smoothly and quickly.”
Through WiB and together with the EU, the EBRD works with local partner financial institutions, such as Convers Bank, to help female entrepreneurs access the finance they need to grow their businesses. The programme also offers advisory services with funding from Sweden to help women-led companies excel in marketing, management, human resources and more.
“After securing our space for the shop, we feel much more confident than before. We are ready to move forward,” says Kristine.
“This is just beginning of a long journey,” she adds. “Our aim is to remain a beloved destination for our loyal clients and their furry friends and to do everything possible to turn occasional clients into loyal customers.”