We had the good fortune of connecting with Vanda Ayrapetyan and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Vanda, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
The catalyst behind my writing and publishing of children’s books was my inherent desire to unite the many different worlds within me, as it relates to creative and cultural expression through a love of storytelling. I’m a corporate banker by profession, and while I’ve sincerely enjoyed many aspects of my career, corporate banking and finance is not a field that lends itself to creative self-expression.

Having grown up with a genuine love and appreciation for the arts and books (thanks to the passionate upbringing I received from my mother), I’ve always had an innate desire to connect with others through writing, music, and artistic expression. I reached a certain point in my life about 3 years ago where I felt a strong pull to incorporate these diverse interests into my daily life. I made the rather simple yet profound realization that I was not wedded to a single career and did not have to give up life in the corporate sector in pursuit of other dreams. While at times a delicate and challenging balancing act, I knew I wanted to pursue children’s story writing as a means of not only connecting with others but also with my inner child. There’s an inherent freedom in the children’s books genre that resonates with me. As a children’s book author, you’re allowed to run wild with your imagination without feeling the trepidation of being nudged, ridiculed, or doubted by your younger audience, who on the contrary, will all the more enthusiastically and innocently join you on the adventure, instead of questioning and seeking the rationality in the storyline and characters.

My stories feature a mélange of characters from my own life coupled with my imagination, my childhood experiences and memories, Armenian cultural traditions and even my dreams! The main character of my first book, Audrina, was inspired by a series of reoccurring dreams I kept experiencing of a highly energetic, artistic little girl.

Having also been raised with immense pride and appreciation for my Armenian cultural heritage, I always wanted to work on a philanthropic project through which I could assist and enrich my homeland, which my parents left when I was barely two years of age. Due to my parent’s hard work and sacrifices along the way, I have been blessed with an incredible life here in the United States. Many children in my homeland won’t have the opportunities I was granted, so I wanted to help in whatever capacity I could. That’s when I decided that all of the proceeds from my first children’s book, “Audrina 1st Tooth Party, would be given to children’s non-profit organizations working in Armenia, most notably Children of Armenia Fund (COAF). Being an ardent believer and supporter of women’s financial independence, I also collaborated with a woman-owned business in Armenia for the production of all the character merchandise for my children’s book.

All this to say, I am not a traditional business woman in the sense that my end goal is never the bottom line or financial gain. My end goal is to create literary works that feed my soul and hopefully those of my readers (both young and old), while striving to leave a lasting positive social impact as a global citizen.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
In my capacity as a children’s book author and publisher, I am not a traditional business woman in the sense that my end goal is never the bottom line or financial gain. My intent is to create literary works that feed my soul and hopefully those of my readers (both young and old), while striving to leave a lasting positive social impact as a global citizen. I am extremely fortunate in the sense that my career as a banker has afforded me a certain level of financial freedom, whereby I am able to invest in my books and use the profit from the sales to contribute to causes or initiatives close to my heart.

It’s paramount to be honest with yourself and the genuine intent of whatever you’re seeking to accomplish at the start of a project or business in order to have an anchor to reference whenever the waters start to get choppy and the moments of self-doubt kick in. I knew that given my demanding full-time job and family obligations, publishing a children’s book was going to come with several sacrifices. I fully accepted the sacrifices of time, energy, and financial resources because I placed a higher value in the goal I was trying to attain.

One important lesson I learned is not to overburden myself with artificial deadlines. While it is important to chart out a timeline of key milestones, I knew that the added stress of self-imposed deadlines would only be counterproductive. If I felt burnt out from a tough week at work, I allowed myself to use the weekend to recharge so that I could continue with increased vitality. In line with level setting expectations, I’ve also learned not to put myself down when I don’t necessarily cross off everything on my to-do list. It’s easy to observe others on social media seemingly having everything in place, but I constantly remind myself that my path and circumstances are different. I wish I could dedicate more time to social media to increase visibility and reader engagement, but unfortunately, my daily work schedule outside of writing does not leave much room for social media. This is where you have to either be OK with the circumstances at hand or discern when to seek out additional assistance. As someone who insists doing everything on her own, I’ve had to learn to be comfortable with reaching out to others for assistance, guidance, and mentorship on a process that wasn’t familiar to me.

I’ve always strongly believed that when you pursue something with conviction and intention, the financial success will follow on its own. I want to continue writing stories that come from the heart and are authentic to the range of emotions I feel when developing my storylines and characters. I hope that in reading my books, parents and children bond over a few minutes of shared joy, laughter, and even tears. I want them to feel and experience the full spectrum of emotions because ultimately that is the truest reflection of our human experience.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
My favorite place in all of LA is a little hidden gem in Pacific Palisades called “Lake Shrine,” a heavenly meditation park dedicated to world peace. It was founded by Paramahansa Yogananda, a protégé of Gandhi’s. In fact, a portion of Gandhi’s ashes are consecrated on the grounds. When I have writer’s block or just need serenity and connection to nature, I head to Lake Shrine to ground myself again. I often take family and friends visiting from out of town there. We’ll then head out to the majestic Getty Villa nearby for the incredible art exhibits, along with sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean. For lunch or dinner in the area, I highly recommend Geoffrey’s; they have amazing food and views of the ocean (their baked brie in puff pastry appetizer as well as any seafood dish is a MUST). I also highly recommend Malibu Farm restaurant in the area.

Another outing I really enjoy in the city is WisdomeLA, the first and largest immersive art and music dome park that will truly transform you to another world. While in the downtown area, head to Little Tokyo for hole in the wall delicious sushi restaurants, DAMA for amazing drinks and Latin American cuisine, and Bestia for a night of culinary magic.

As a self-proclaimed coffee snob and aficionado, I would be remiss not to mention my favorite coffee shops in the Valley, where I live: Red Window (Studio City), Philz, Coffee Fix (they also have fantastic paninis), the Coffee Roaster (Sherman Oaks), and M Street Coffee (Sherman Oaks).

I also recommend Muddy Paw Coffee and Dog Park in Eagle Rock if you want a fun coffee date with your furry friends while they enjoy some play time with the other dogs!

I often get asked what’s my favorite Armenian restaurant in LA, and while there are many excellent choices, my go to is always Carousel in Glendale or Hollywood. You can’t go wrong with any of their menu items.

You can curate so many fun experiences in LA’s vast and diverse neighborhoods. The City of Angels has a lot to offer—just takes some exploring!

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
The greatest credit and my utmost gratitude go to my parents, who left our homeland of Armenia when I was barely 2 year of age and endured many years of hardship to provide us with a better life here in the States. More importantly, my parents gave me the freedom of choice to pursue whatever I wanted from a young age. I remember growing up, it wasn’t as common for girls in my community to venture far away from home to pursue higher education as this was discouraged by their parents who wanted them to attend a local college or university. My parents never clipped my wings and always encouraged me to follow my intuition. The years I spent studying, living and working on the East Coast (first in DC and then in NYC) in my twenties were instrumental to my growth, as well as the evolution of my world view.

My creative/artistic side was definitely inherited from my mother, who introduced me to the world of books, art and music from an early age. She still continues to infuse that enthusiasm and passion in me until this day.

The children’s book that left an imprint on my soul was one that my 4th grade teacher read to us titled, “Linnea in Monet’s Garden,” by Swedish writer Christina Bjork and illustrator Lena Anderson. The book is about a little girl who visits the home and garden of Claude Monet in Giverny, France and learns about the artist’s paintings and his life. The story captured my heart and gave birth to my interest in art, particularly French Impressionism, and travel. The story makes you feel as if you’re right there in France on the journey with Linnea and her companion, Mr. Bloom, through the use of actual photographs of Monet’s family, garden and famous masterpieces. That was the first time I truly realized the transformative power of books to transport you to other worlds.

I want to thank “Bear With Us” production for their incredible partnership; they produce high-quality children’s books and do it with so much love, dedication, and enthusiasm. They were extremely patient and responsive throughout the entire production and publication process of “Audrina’s 1st Tooth Party” and worked tirelessly to bring my vision to life.

The children’s book publishing industry was entirely new to me, and I would like to sincerely express my gratitude to my good friend Grigor Diran Avagyan of “Hye Legacy” children’s book publishing for his countless hours of guidance and mentorship in helping me navigate unchartered waters.

Last but not least, I want to thank my entire family and community of friends, neighbors, co-workers, and all who have supported my book and its mission!

Instagram: vanda.ayrapetyan

Image Credits
Willy Sanjuan Photography for my book launch event photos

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