THRIVE is an AIWA-SF April project dedicated to highlighting Armenians who are doing amazing things in their personal and professional lives to better themselves and those around them. These individuals are inspiring, dynamic, innovative and interesting. Today we feature Marina Barkev Kurian.
Name: Marina Barkev Kurian, Founder and CEO, Toot Hoot.
Marina is a first generation Armenian American born in Los Angeles, CA. For the entirety of her primary and secondary education, she attended Armenian schools: Merdinian Evangelical Armenian School and Ferrahian High School. As a result, she always felt a connection to her Armenian heritage. This connection to her culture and identity is what brought forth her desire to create unique, high quality, educational Armenian toys.
While a Business Marketing major at California State University, Northridge, Marina was also employed in her family business of jewelry manufacturing. During her 13-years there, she brought theory to practice and helped the business continue to thrive by developing a marketing strategy, which later resulted in the creation of a marketing department—something the business did not have before. This helped to change the focus of the company to a consumer based one, in addition to shifting focus from solely being a manufacturing business to one that included a designer brand: Barkev’s.
Along the way, Marina married Aret Kurian, and gave birth to their daughter, Ella. When it came time to start playing with Ella, Marina realized that the types of Armenian toys she was hoping to find did not exist. This is when she started mulling over the idea of developing educational Armenian toys. Marina was keen on developing an Armenian product that wasn’t just a toy, but was first and foremost an educational tool that would bond children to their heritage. After two years of researching, thinking, developing and perfecting, the final products were ready to be rolled out with a newly minted brand to back it up: Toot Hoot, www.toothoot.com.
As a parent, Marina wants her daughter to develop a strong sense of Armenian identity. And what better way to establish that then through recognition and tie to culture? Feeling connected to ones heritage and history provides a sense of belonging. That bond found in playing with toys are a fun and exciting way of reinforcing that connection every day in our own homes.
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