‘This place has chosen us’ – the 21-year-old Erna managing her family business in Tsalka
November 7, 2022

‘This place has chosen us’ – the 21-year-old Erna managing her family business in Tsalka

Erna Pepanyan, 21, manages a family business in Dashbashi village, Tsalka Municipality. Here, the ‘Panorama Dashbashi’ cottage stands on a small hill beyond her house, in the Khrami River Gorge. The views from the cottage are stunning, a magnet for the increasing number of tourists to the Tsalka Municipality, especially since the opening of a 240-metre glass bridge across the Dashbashi Canyon.

The cottage overlooks the glass bridge across the canyon. Apart from the view onto the canyon, there are many attractions nearby, including a small 10th century church and a path leading to a dramatic waterfall.

“The place has chosen us”

“We have not chosen this place; the place has chosen us. During the last years, it has been calling on us to do doing something special here,” says Erna.

A path in front of the house used to be the main road to the gorge until the new infrastructure was set up. The path brought Erna into contact with the tourists constantly. And each time they spoke, the family learned more of what the visitors were looking for.

“They would  ask where they could have meals, or where to stay. This triggered our idea for making the first steps.  

“We started in 2018 with a small shop. This was an especially hard period for me as I was working in the shop and simultaneously preparing for national examinations.

“The initiative turned out to be successful. Then we opened a café and realised that we had to open a hotel as well, not a typical hotel but something different, authentic for this nature and this place. It had to be a wooden cottage with a panoramic view,” says Erna.

Small steps towards big goals

The family has always supported Erna’s plans, from the idea to its implementation. Today, the whole family is involved in the day-to-day operations of the hotel.

“They kept telling me about all my ideas – well, let’s try, and so they really encouraged me. My mother’s support was particularly valuable, not only emotionally, but also because she always gave me proper and useful advice,” says Erna.

Erna says she managed to realise her ideas through “small steps”. One of these steps was searching for more information about the ‘EMBRACE Tsalka’ grant project implemented by the European Union.

She learned about the project from the Tsalka Local Action Group (LAG) that supports improvement of quality of life and social-economic conditions of population in Tsalka Municipality. One of the goals of the project is the empowerment of women.

“I remember how LAG representatives visited the villages and disseminated information. I approached them with my idea and was offered huge support – they showed me the important aspects of the project proposal and what to highlight in it.

“It was a big challenge. I had neither knowledge nor experience. At the same time, apart from the LAG support, I was searching for information on the Internet. Sometimes I trusted my intuition. My optimism helped me to cope with difficulties. Nevertheless, there were periods when I was scared that I’d fail, but no! You must rise up at times like these with self-confidence and hard work,” says Erna.

Despite the challenges, Erna managed to reach her goal. She submitted her idea to the grant contest of the EU-supported project ‘Local LEADERs Embrace Sustainable Development in Multi-Ethnic Tsalka Municipality (EMBRACE Tsalka)’ and was awarded 30 000 Gel.

This EU-funded project is a part of the European Neighbourhood Programme for Agriculture and Rural Development (ENPARD). The programme aims to generate diverse sources of income for the locals in Tsalka Municipality and to support public and business initiatives.

Panorama Dashbashi

Every family member has his or her role in the cottage management. Erna mostly handles communication with the guests and promotion of the hotel.

“I manage Booking, Airbnb, and Facebook pages. These are important platforms not only for attracting the visitors, but also for getting feedback. The feedback is positive. We are especially happy when the visitors write that they came to enjoy the view, but the culture of hospitality exceeded their expectations.

“Comfortable conditions are not enough by themselves. Hospitality is the key – meeting, genuine emotional connection and a warm welcome. The key is to make them feel at home,” says Erna.

The cottage is built of wood and can house four visitors. It is modern and cosy. Erna took care of the design and arrangement of the furniture. There are many foreigners among the visitors to the Panorama Dashbashi, including from Europe. Because of the affordable prices and the view, the cottage is also popular among locals.

Future goals

At this stage, Panorama Dashbashi doesn’t have many employees, but the family has hired two people for the cottage and the kitchen. They will employ more in the future as the family plans to develop the business.

“We are hoping for the future. We would like to boost the restaurant business and open several more cottages here,” says Erna.

Erna is a lawyer by profession. She plans her own professional development, but for now the hotel business is her primary goal.

“I would like to support the family and create something valuable that I could leave to them to manage,” says Erna. She wants to continue her education in Germany, and this will be her next goal after building the new cottages.

To those young women who think about starting some kind of activities and have no idea where to start, Erna gives this advice:

“I used to make mistakes and reprimand myself for this, but then I understood that this was the experience, I had to go through this.

“There is a saying: to do something well, you have to fail first. When you do something poorly, this is also doing, and better than not doing at all. Therefore, mistakes should not scare you. Believe in your potential. Make realistic goals; make small steps and you can achieve everything if you work hard.”

Author: Giorgi Giorgashvili

Article published in Georgian by On.ge


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