Women on Top: Aline Kamakian

Let nothing and no one get in your way. Follow your heart and do whatever you feel is right.

Aline founded her own brokerage firm Insurance, Investment Consultants – IIC sarl, which focuses on corporate insurance. IIC grew into one of the biggest brokerage firms in Lebanon.

In 2003 she founded Mayrig, the first Armenian restaurant in Lebanon in 2003. She then developed and opened Batchig – a Mediterranean Bistro that offers Lebanese and Armenian cuisine with a twist. 

Aline has also published ‘Armenian Cuisine,’ a comprehensive cookbook of Armenian culinary heritage reciting small stories of Armenian mothers.

Aline is the treasurer of the Lebanese Franchise Association and active board member the Lebanese League for Women in Business. She has also been an active member of AYA and AGBU. Aline was awarded “Woman entrepreneur of the year 2015” by BLC and Mayrig gained the socio-economic award in 2011.

She is currently producing “Cook with Aline” an online cooking show, telling the story of the Armenian people, their struggle, their love and pride through mother-to-daughter authentic recipes.

The Interview

How did you get your business idea and what was the main drive that pushed you?

My father dreamed about having a small restaurant where he could invite everybody and where he could introduce the world to the immensely rich Armenian Cuisine. After my father passed away, I wanted to realize his dream. I then decided to open an Armenian restaurant to share my grandmother’s unique cuisine with the world, to show the world about our culinary heritage.

What was your biggest fear before starting up? How did you overcome it?

Mayrig is the first Armenian restaurant in Lebanon and even in the world.

Armenian food was still unknown, and people made fun of me ‘what are you going to serve? Soujouk and Bastirma sandwiches? All they knew about Armenian food was the street food, but at Mayrig we taught them to appreciate the tastes of typical Armenian dishes. We can proudly say that after 16 years these dishes are now widely known. 

How do you describe your core business activity and what’s the key value you offer to your customer?

We are in the food business to make people happier; we are client-oriented, making sure each client receives their own special personal experience of Armenian food. If we cannot have our heart put into things, why bother?

What are the key strategies you use to expand your business?

Franchising and partnerships, which have allowed us to open Mayrig in Riyadh, Yerevan, and Male at the Maldives Four Seasons.

What do you look for when recruiting an employee?

Passion! Nothing beats an employee with eyes that glisten for the business. Knowledge and experience are of course important, but passion is the drive that takes any employee from point A to point Z.

How many employees do you currently have? How do you describe your management style?

All in all, through the restaurants in Lebanon and abroad, we count 150 employees. The management style is more relaxed, we are restauranteurs and trend-setters after all.

How do you describe yourself in 3 words?

Daring, go-getter and enthusiastic. 

What’s your favorite part of your business, and why?

The food 🙂 It keeps the memory of my father and our ancestors alive; it is a constant reminder of what we – as the Armenian people, have been through. It is also delicious!

How do you advertise your business? How do you advertise your product/service?

We usually use ads in magazines, ads on boards, online as well as a lot of social media planning and posting and a whole marketing strategy around it.

What made you choose this type of business?

I have always felt an attachment to the kitchen, I am known as a passionate chef in Beirut which led me actually to produce my own cooking show ‘Cook with Aline.’ All of this was driven by passion for food and love for my heritage.

If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?

Let nothing and no one get in your way. Follow your heart and do whatever you feel is right. Always have a backup plan and always have the upper hand!

How do you balance the different aspects of your life? (well-being, family, social and professional)

They say time management is a learnt skill, I am still learning to juggle so many responsibilities, between the insurance company that I founded 20 years ago, the restaurants, travels, family and friends, one has to plan things ahead and have good time management.

Women on Top Series

Berytech has partnered with the Lebanese League for Women in Business – LLWB, to create ‘Women on Top’ to highlight women entrepreneurs and executives in a series of motivational interviews about their stories, overcoming their own challenges and their entrepreneurial endeavors. Read more.

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