Interview with Anahit Markosian, founder of Nairian
Find out why Anahit Markosian was inspired to launch Nairian, a leading Armenian brand that offers natural plant-based skincare.
Nairian develops its unique formulas through years of scientific research, and crafts its natural skincare solutions with aromatherapy principles and the highest quality essential oils. Its organic ingredients are grown on the Nairian sustainable farm in Armenia.
What is your career background?
My formal education was in physics. I have a masters degree in radiophysics and electronics from Yerevan State University in Armenia.
I spent nine years doing research in the field of laser physics and crystallography, then, upon moving to the US with my family, I started to work as a software engineer for the semiconductor industry in Silicon Valley, CA.
This continued until 2012, when I realized that I had a unique opportunity to completely change my career and lifestyle by doing what I truly love and am genuinely interested in—aromatherapy.
Where did the idea for Nairian come from?
I was concerned about the negative environmental impact that the mining industry was having on the unique and very fragile nature in my homeland, Armenia.
I noticed how mining corporations were convincing local farmers to sell their community and agricultural lands for pennies, leaving the people with no choice but to transition to hazardous mining jobs.
Witnessing this trend, I started to think about the creation of alternative and sustainable jobs in Armenia’s rural regions, the kind of work that would make mining jobs less attractive to villagers.
I knew that Armenia, being a mountainous country with a relatively warm and arid climate, had exceptional conditions for growing many essential oil bearing plants, so I started to think about establishing a small essential oil production farm. Eventually, this venture developed into our skincare company, Nairian.
How did you move from idea to actual business?
I was actually encouraged by my former partner Ara Markosian to take a risk and start a real business. He offered to use his own experience in organising startups and helped me in taking the very first steps: creating the actual company, hiring workers, finding and renting facilities, etc.
After starting the company and making our first (somewhat disastrous) attempts at essential oil distillation from plants we wild-harvested in the mountains, we realized that we needed to move our production facilities to a place where we could establish our own plantations.
We also started to search for ways to close the production loop and to produce not only raw materials but also the final products in which these materials could be used. Since I was a longtime fan and an avid user of natural, plant-based cosmetics, the choice of what that final product would be was fairly obvious – we decided to start our own natural cosmetic brand, which is now Nairian.
Of course, in order to realize that intention, I had to start learning again and acquire knowledge in aromatherapy, cosmetic chemistry, cosmetology, etc.
What is your brand’s USP?
We offer a range – including skin care, body care, and hair care – of plant-based all-natural cosmetics, formulated with rigorous scientific research and aromatherapy principles.
A large percentage of our ingredients are wild-harvested or grown locally on our high-altitude organic farm in the heart of the Armenian Highlands.
Who’s your target audience?
Our target audience is men and women who are environmentally conscious consumers. These are people who like to make thoughtful purchases and lifestyle choices, and who truly appreciate the nurturing and healing qualities one finds in nature.
How do you spread the word about what you do?
We have two boutiques located in bustling downtown Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. In addition, we sell our products in many hotels, specialized shops, and other places frequented by tourists throughout the country.
During the agricultural season in Armenia, which stretches from May to November, we organize tours to our farm and Lab in Arugyugh, a small village in the Armenian Highlands.
We often do educational sessions at boutique restaurants and popular beauty salons; we call these our “Tea with Nairian” events, which are a friendly and informal way to introduce our production to new audiences. Of course, a large portion of our marketing happens online.
We organize regular Q&A sessions on social media, which is critical to our international outreach. Nairian is sold throughout Europe, Russia, and North America, which means that we regularly work with creative teams in different countries to ensure that our messaging is translated for diverse markets.
What’s been your most successful marketing strategy?
It varies from country to country, depending on whether we have brick and mortar shops in the area or only do online sales. I think participating in various cosmetic competitions and spreading the word about our successes works well everywhere.
Being active on Instagram and Facebook also matters a lot; and it’s not about advertising so much as creating an organic online following and community. In the places where we don’t have boutiques or products on physical shelves, setting up temporary pop-up stores can help find potential customers.
What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?
It’s not unusual for startups to come up against significant obstacles and crises – and Nairian has had it’s fair share. It took us a little time to figure out what our strategy is as a company. How big do we want to be and what are our core values etc.
We’ve had changes in leadership as well, which can be a rough transition sometimes. Ultimately, I think we’ve pulled through because we’ve had team members on board who really understand and care about the brand. I think the success of a business only partially depends on the initial idea behind it.
It is equally important to have a cohesive and hardworking team that supports this idea and is able to bring it to fruition. The lack of such a team is the biggest obstacle to success.
And your proudest moment so far?
I feel most proud of Nairian whenever I hear people saying that we have created a brand that is worthy of representing Armenia in global markets – it means a lot.
Why is work so important to you?
As I mentioned, this whole project was launched with a goal to promote nature conservation and sustainable development in Armenia. Nairian also provides job opportunities to many women, especially in rural areas, so besides promoting sustainability this project also provides support for rural communities.
Conservation and sustainable development are important to me personally, which is why my current work is so fulfilling.
Who inspires you?
Jane Goodall and Vandana Shiva have always been my heros. Their persistence in defending and promoting their ideas has always been the source of highest inspiration for me.
How do you balance your business with your family?
When I was a regular employee working for a corporation, I managed to balance my work-family life pretty well. Of course, I think I was able to do this mostly because of the great help I was getting from my mother, who would come and live with us during the school year, helping me to take care of the children and the house.
It all changed when we started a family business. On the one hand, this gives you more flexibility in managing your work time, but on the other hand, this kind of business introduces a new level of complexity into family relationships and so you have to work harder to find the right balance.
What are your three top pieces of advice for someone wanting to do something similar?
- When founding a business, try to understand every single aspect of it personally. You have to investigate all the tiny details and see your business from every angle—from the perspective of the person harvesting roses to the perspective of the person managing marketing.
- Surround yourself with the right people. Especially in a startup, teamwork and collaboration are everything. Think hard about who you hire and make sure that they understand the mission and ethos of your company.
- It can be hard, but try to maintain a healthy work-life balance. You always need to carve out space for your personal life that is separate from work.
You can find out more about Nairian on their website.