With Asian American and Pacific Islanders Heritage Month in the rear view mirror, we must remember to not lose focus on the entrepreneurs contributing $909 billion to the U.S. GDP and employing more than 4.6 million people across our country.
Focus on industries that make a difference
According to Hello Alice data, AAPI businesses are concentrated in specific industries, being more than twice as likely to operate in the Food and Beverage sector. Owners also cite hiring as a top barrier to growth — unsurprising for an industry that shouldered the burden of pandemic restrictions and was forced to jettison much of their existing workforce.
Focusing on these areas of critical need optimizes limited resources to lift up the entire community. The National Restaurant Association holds regular webinars to help business owners recruit and retain quality talent. My company works with DoorDash to power the Restaurant Disaster Relief Fund, which offers $10,000 grants to restaurants affected by floods, fires, storms, and other natural disasters. Welcome to Chinatown and ACE NextGen are other organizations created for and by AAPI entrepreneurs, making them great starting places for anyone looking to find crowd-sourced wisdom.
Factor culture into decision-making
We need to adapt the approach to the audience. Every small business owner needs capital, mentorship and other resources — but what are the most effective ways to deliver them?
Hawai’i FoundHer was founded during the pandemic as one of the first accelerators for women, Pacific Islanders and Native Hawaiians. The organization delivers many of the same services you’d expect, including one-on-one mentorship and non-dilutive grant funding. But Hawai’i FoundHer specifically accounts for its community’s unique values that emphasize the environment, family and indigenous culture. As an accelerator for women, they also provide childcare.
Let’s also not forget the impact of other aspects of culture, such as language barriers. One report found that as many as 75 percent of Asian-owned businesses failed to qualify for the first round of pandemic relief through a mainstream bank, or credit union, because of language barriers, lack of internet access and cultural stigma.
Enterprise leaders and support organizations must tailor their efforts to account for these unique circumstances surrounding race, culture, gender and other distinguishing factors. For the AAPI community, that means making a concerted effort to translate resources, offer application assistance and conduct intentional outreach with the people you’re trying to serve.
Prioritize capital access
Only 28 percent of AAPI owners reported that they are confident their businesses will stay afloat. That’s nearly 10 percentage points lower than the overall population. Unsurprisingly, the top two challenges cited were growth and finding capital.
No amount of education will make a difference if entrepreneurs can’t get the money to power their growth. Cash flow makes or breaks the bottom line.
There are lots of reasons small business owners might need capital, and different situations call for different solutions. I urge AAPI owners to consider all their options, including grants, loans, credit cards and venture capital. Check out SBA programs, connect with your local Small Business Development Center and don’t be afraid to network with your local business community.