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Meet ViKi Keshishian of Universal Etiquette

Today we’d like to introduce you to ViKi Keshishian.

ViKi, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I was raised in the intercultural environment. Both my parents, who are an Armenian and Ukrainian, come from large traditional close families. Thus, from my early childhood, playing with my cousins and communicating with my grandparents, aunts and uncles. I used different languages and became aware of the different sets of etiquette, cultural traits, and different ways of communication between people.

I received my academic degrees in Education and Linguistics. And, I can confess, I have mentality of a teacher — I love sharing my knowledge.

I have always believed in value of good manners. It was a norm for my family to dine with the full set of utensils. I was proud that at the ‘tender’ age of five my son already had good dining manners. However, when he became a student, something ‘happened’ to those skills. I realized, and it was a sad discovery, that it came from school. I noticed in his elementary school during lunch breaks how extremely casual children’s dining manners were. Honestly, I was shocked. I started to think that those children if they were not taught Etiquette as children, would face disadvantages in their social and professional lives as adults. I wanted to change that.

All those thoughts and ideas brought me to an aspiration to become an Etiquette teacher. I would say, in some ways, becoming a Certified Etiquette and Intercultural consultant was not only a business decision but also a teacher’s instinct. My husband supported me in my endeavors.

I decided, I have to polish myself first. I attended The Protocol School of Washington in 2007 and obtained A Corporate Etiquette and International Protocol Consultant certification. I founded Universal Etiquette in 2008, just before attending my second Etiquette school — The Etiquette and Leadership Institute in Athens, Georgia, which certified me as a Children’s Etiquette Consultant.

Universal Etiquette provides expert service in areas of Business, Dining and Children’s Etiquette and Intercultural consultations for clients of ages from 8 to 99.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Etiquette ‘smooths’ the road. That is correct. However, as for any business, especially small ones, challenges come all the time.

The problem is for some Etiquette is not necessity; it is not food, apparel or entertainment. Etiquette skills do not give immediate satisfaction. It is a long term small investment in ourselves that return intangible dividends. Thus not everyone is ready to do that.

It is ironic that very often those who really need Etiquette intelligence are those who are unaware of that need. The challenge is to make them understand that without hurting their dignity.

Etiquette is a sensitive topic to sell. It is a joy to work with younger children — they are so responsive. However, teenagers are not always cooperative — they easily become confrontative, especially if they have some issues with their parents who usually are initiators of the class.

Adults proudly admit if they took etiquette classes during their childhood — it shows they are classy, but sometimes are embarrassed to admit they lack the knowledge and need it now. For them, it means they were not raised properly. For some, the topic might bring pain if they were the object of ridicule because of the lack of the Etiquette knowledge in past.

Please tell us about Universal Etiquette.
Universal Etiquette is a small home-based business. We give consultations and classes on topics of the Etiquette and Intercultural Intelligence, we teach adults and children Dining Skills, Social and Business Etiquette, and Intercultural Skills.

We raise awareness about emotional Intelligence, about the ways to show respect to ourselves and others around us — our family, neighbors, coworkers, we give knowledge that help understand and be tolerant to other people and other cultures.

This business is a gratifying one. People will always remember their first teacher. It is the same for the Etiquette teacher. We bring harmony in people’s lives. Knowing that make us humble and proud at the same time.

Different businesses satisfy our needs in different ways, However, what sets us apart from others is we assist everybody in achieving their goals in life — be that becoming a successful business leader, understanding the coworker from another culture, impressing the future-in-laws with impeccable manners and dining skills, or raising a confident child.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
I cannot recall something specific.

I was raised in a healthy family with Mom and Dad and a brother. My father was a mid-level professional, and my mother was an accountant. My parents did their best for me. My father was like a handyman at home — he could fix almost everything, and my mother cooked and baked very good. She sewed beautiful items for me. We always entertained. We went on vacations and short trips together as a family. The candies and cakes of my childhood were sweet. School was interesting.

The home was a safe castle. I felt secure. I received a lot of love from my aunts and uncles. I had a happy childhood.

And only when I became an adult, I realized that I was really a fortunate one. Not a single member of my family was prosecuted or sent to Siberia.

My home was in the Soviet Union.

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