Hovnanian, Baghdassarian and Crow Share Secrets of Their Success as Distinguished Business & Community Leaders

GLENDALE—The 2007 honorees of the 4th Annual Business Awards Gala of Armenian American Chamber of Commerce (AACC), were recently interviewed about their lives, successes, challenges, and thoughts on the future. Vahak Hovnanian, Hacop Baghdassarian, and Sonia Medzadourian Crow are being honored by the AACC because they are exemplary businesspeople and generous community philanthropists. The Business Awards Gala will take place on Friday, March 9 at the Omni Los Angeles Hotel at California Plaza (215 N. Olive Street, Downtown Los Angeles). Hacop Baghdassarian is the owner of Massis Kabob, a Los Angeles-based restaurant chain. For over four decades, Baghdassarian has worked tirelessly to make his businesses successful – his motivations always being providing for his family as well as contributing to the Armenian community. For the past several years he has sponsored the construction and renovation of dilapidated elementary schools. Sharing his experience and thoughts, Baghdassarian had the following advice: "You should not let anything stop you from the success you think you deserve. Hard work and perseverance go hand in hand. Everyone will fail at some business venture- even the most successful businessmen in the world will tell you about all the failures they have had in the past. The key to success is to learn from your mistakes and keep trying until you get it right. The one’s who make it are the ones that keep trying. "Several new businesses open up with the most beautiful aesthetic look possible- but the restaurant business comes down to one basic ingredient- consistent great tasting food for a fair price. If a customer is not satisfied the first time he eats at your restaurant, she will never come back. Repeat loyal customers are the backbone of this business. Other than that, you just need to stay on top of your employees to make sure they provide the consistent service your customers deserve. "Because my father died when I was at a young age, I had to leave school and run his business. Because of that I have always valued a proper education since I never experienced it. I have stressed the same with my children. Schools are very important and in some cases the most important aspect of child’s life. It hurts me to see the conditions of some of the schools in villages in Armenia and Artsakh. The Armenian Education Foundation has tirelessly tried to improve the quality of education in Armenia one school at a time. The cause is dear to me and I will continue to help rehabilitate Armenian schools for as long as I can. I don’t look it this as a charity but rather an obligation for every Armenian who lives outside of the homeland as has benefited from a proper education." Sonia Medzadourian Crow is a consultant whose career encompasses the practice of law, senior White House appointmen’s, and extensive professional involvement in government and political affairs, not to mention communications and public relations work. Crow has been actively involved in many projects benefiting Armenia, including the US–Armenian Business and Investment Association and the Armenian American Cultural Association. Offering a glimpse into the exciting and meaningful work that she does, Crow had the following to say: "For many years the focus of my work was to help jump-start private sector economic development and job creation in Armenia. The Internet enabled a remote, land-locked nation with two closed borders to enter the global marketplace. The Information Technology sector was the obvious winner and other sectors, such as Tourism, have benefited from global linkages made possible by the Internet. To me, another interesting aspect has been the amazing creativity expressed by Armenia’s in designing some of the best websites in the world. "My best advice is to get involved — start local and go from there. Work on a campaign at the grassroots level for a candidate you believe in or help a nonprofit in your community. You don’t need a mentor, just your own internal compass that points you toward issues and activities that matter to you. "Over many years, the Armenian American community has been persistent, organized and effective — step by step we have educated the mainstream press and the political establishment about our history. Our resolve and the justice of our cause have not been enough to overcome the resistance of successive U.S. administrations who have chosen to placate Turkey, a NATO ally. But that wall is crumbling due to a convergence of events driven, in large part, by Turkey’s own actions. The world’s attention has finally focused on Turkey’s long-standing denial of its genocidal past because of Turkey’s enactment and enforcement of Article 301, which makes it a crime to ‘insult Turkishness.’ By criminalizing the work of Turkish academics and writers who have broached the subject of the Genocide, even in works of fiction, Turkey has made itself the focus of world condemnation. The horrific murder of Hrant Dink further underscores for the world Turkey’s repressive posture. Such revelatory and long-overdue insights about Turkey, coupled with Turkey’s unwillingness to let U.S. troops cross its soil, its overtures to Iran, Syria and Hamas and its belligerence towards the Kurds of northern Iraq have created a new reality in official Washington. Aided by the Democratic leadership in Congress, this may finally be the year our nation acknowledges officially the genocidal scope of Turkey’s actions against our ancestors. I have never been more optimistic [about the genocide resolutuion]." Vahak Hovnanian owns the New Jersey-based V.S. Hovnanian Group, a real estate development company, which he founded in 1969. In recent years, he has been credited with constructing a housing development in Yerevan, called Vahakni, and in 2004, Hovnanian opened Hovbuildbrick in Gyumri. Among the numerous awards received throughout his life, Hovnanian is the recipient of the Ellis Island Award. The Armenian American Chamber of Commerce (AACC) is a nonprofit organization committed to serving the needs of the business community in the U.S. and abroad. Its membership consists of businesspeople, professionals, and scholars. The Chamber and its members share a common cause of equality and accessibility to corporate America and Armenian-American commerce. The AACC extends a helping hand and shares its collective resources, wisdom, and expertise with businesspeople who are asking for nothing more than a chance to exercise their right to succeed and prosper through hard work and equal opportunities–virtues that are intrinsic to both the Armenian and American cultures. This elegant evening will begin with cocktails at 7 p.m. with dinner and an awards presentation at 8 p.m. Proceeds from the gala will fund AACC’s charitable programs, including the Village Project, which seeks to reduce poverty by supporting economic growth in the Republic of Armenia. To purchase tickets to the March 9 Awards Gala or for more information, please call (818) 247-0196, e-mail aacc@armeniannchamber.com, or visit www.armenianchamber.com.

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