As a result of the pandemic and the rise in the number of anti-Asian hate crimes in recent years, many of the small businesses that are owned and operated by members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community in Minnesota have suffered severe damage, and some have been forced to close their doors for good.
On May 14th this year, the first-ever AAPI Small Business Expo was hosted by the Minnesota Hmong Chamber of Commerce (MHCC) for the purpose of bringing together owners of small businesses so that they could learn from one another and offer resources to one another in the hopes of fostering economic prosperity in the AAPI community.
MHCC board chair John Yang as well as CEO and owner of Vizion SEO stated that he has attended many other expos that were comparable in the past, but he was unaware that there had never been one held in Minnesota just for the AAPI community.
With all the expanding businesses and Hmong businesses in Minnesota, according to Yang, it gave them the idea to organize such an event.
More than 70 exhibitors and keynote speakers were present at the expo, which was hosted at Metropolitan State University. Participants had the option to engage in professional networking, attend panel talks, speed coaching, business training seminars, and a job fair.
Other organizations that are involved in the community as partners of the expo include the Chinese American Chamber of Commerce, the Small Business Administration (SBA) of the federal government, and Asian Media Access.
Yao Yaj, the executive director of MHCC, and Yang both stated that during the pandemic they saw an increase in the number of small business owners in the AAPI community seeking assistance with financial matters and networking.
The organizers have said that one of the primary goals of the event was to acknowledge the resiliency of the community as well as showcase the contributions that AAPI small companies have made to the economy of the nation.
Poh Lin Khoo, the owner of Khoo Consulting, was one of the expo’s volunteers said “We add value. We’re not a nuisance. We matter. We make an important contribution to the prosperity of this nation.”