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    AGBU Impact_Life is Flamenco

Life is Flamenco

CEO Anahit Aveti and the dance form that defined her spirit 

I think she really wanted to keep dancing alive because it did so much good for her and held such a special place in her heart. And I think she was concerned that classical dance was dying out with the generations. So she wanted it to still be prevalent for the youth.

Carolina Gazal

Anahit Aveti (née Avetian) had one true bliss in life—an uncommon hobby for an Iranian-Armenian chemist and entrepreneur living in Los Angeles. In addition to her abiding love for family and friends, it was Flamenco that captured her heart.

The iconic Spanish dance embodies fierce passion, creativity, and vibrant artistic expression—at once forceful and fervent, graceful and feminine, spontaneous and disciplined. And, according to her beloved nephew Greg Safarian, his Aunt Abooboo, as she was often called, personified the same qualities as this fiery dance. Her brains, beauty, ambition, and confidence—and even the pain she experienced near the end of her life—mimic the dynamic push and pull of this haunting yet joyful dance form.

Her fierce passion was put on display early on in her life, before she was a powerhouse business owner and trailblazer for women in the cosmetic industry. The would be flamenco dancer came of age in the late 1970s Tehran, Iran—when the opportunities for educated women were limited. Not knowing a word of French, she decided to move to Brussels, Belgium where she graduated with a master's degree in chemistry from the Université Libre de Bruxelles with honors and distinction. In just a few years after graduation, she was ready to move beyond her European adventures, as Aveti always held onto the idea of the American Dream. She envisioned a future in which her natural ambition would not be stifled in the ways they were back home in Tehran.

Though this free spirit was a scientist by education and a successful business executive by profession, she possessed the soul of an artist, unafraid of breaking barriers in the workplace—all with a unique sense of warmth atypical in the male-dominated business realm. Safarian spoke of his aunt's profound influence on him, as his best friend and mentor, and the one confidante who would bring him out of his shell, and take him to her dance classes, as he tells it. “She’s literally my hero in life,” he added with a smile.

Her effervescent and outgoing personality seemed to have that same effect on many people with whom she crossed paths. Apparently, Aveti was most memorable for her “gift of gab,” as Safarian described it. Her easy ability to bond with people from different walks of life attracted both clients and friends into her orbit, where her genuine interest in their stories and her support and care for them during tough times were distinguishing traits.

Over a Zoom call from the Northridge, California headquarters of the Argan Company, which Aveti founded and ran until her untimely passing, Safarian affectionately retold the trajectory of her life from its humble roots to successful businesswoman. As a lawyer by trade, and now a full-time employee of Argan, he fondly recalls her inspirational life that influenced his own professional ambitions and engaging personality. Her zeal and energy have clearly been passed down to her loving nephew, who is doing his part in keeping the family business a leading force in the global cosmetic industry.

Upon arriving in the United States in 1981, Aveti, along with her sister and brother-in-law, lived in a one-bedroom apartment with very little in Van Nuys, California. Quickly putting her chemistry degree to use, she began working in the cosmetic industry, managing the sales for other companies and their clients.

Prompted by her fierce ambition yet again, Aveti decided to start her own company. “She switched gears, and her company became, over time, a distributor of cosmetic raw materials. She pioneered the company as the president and CEO,” Safarian explained. “It was very challenging, at that time in 1988, to start your own business—especially as a woman.” It wasn't until the mid to late 2000s that Argan began to gain traction, but Aveti put her heart and soul into keeping the business afloat through its ups and downs. Safarian noted that this journey was marked by legal battles, hard work, and intense dedication. His own decision to pursue a law degree and legal career was influenced by her wish to know more when dealing with the legalities of her own business. 

Through Argan, Aveti was responsible for sourcing raw materials across the globe for various cosmetic products, which are later sent to labs for formulation into final products—and eventually distributed to large-name brands like Johnson & Johnson, Neutrogena, and the like. The business also became family-owned and run, growing to new heights with the family’s support. In 2004, Argan opened a warehouse facility and in 2006, began partnering with international businesses to become a worldwide distributor.

Her creativity and dedication to the arts, however, always seeped into her life. Returning from a business trip to New Mexico where she had stumbled upon a live flamenco show, Aveti—a lover of dance, in particular ballet—was instantly hooked. She started taking classes in Van Nuys, keeping up this hobby for nearly twenty years. Safarian recalls Aveti bringing him and his siblings to ballet showings as children, determined to get younger generations excited about the arts.

“I think she really wanted to keep dancing alive because it did so much good for her and held such a special place in her heart. And I think she was concerned that classical dance was dying out with the generations. So she wanted it to still be prevalent for the youth.”

Therefore, in honor of Aveti's last wishes, before she succumbed to advanced cancer while still in the prime of her life, her close family members—sisters Armineh Safarian and Goharik Avetian, and her brother-in-law Nejdik Safarian decided that a contribution to AGBU’s Children’s Centers in Armenia would be fitting. This after-school enrichment program in Yerevan’s suburb of Malatya focuses on the arts, including ballet, acrobatics, and athletics, is now undergoing a massive renovation of its facilities under the AGBU Afterschool Reimagined campaign which will expand opportunities for Armenia’s youth and nurture innate talent in multiple disciplines.

“She was more into giving back in her own way, which is why I think her gift is unique and special,” Safarian shared, adding that his aunt always dreamed of opening her own children’s center in Armenia.

“To her, being Armenian meant being warm, loving, and a good person. So, that is what her understanding of our community and our culture was all about. And that’s what she emulated in her own life—on her own terms.”

This article was featured in the 2023 release of AGBU Impact Magazine. For more information on the AGBU Global Relief Fund, click here.

 

November 15, 2023