When the pandemic took root, many small-business owners had to dig deep, adapting how they serve clientele, finding new ways to bolster finances and keeping employees, customers and themselves safe. In many cases, their struggles aren’t over. The last few years have been especially hard on minority entrepreneurs, including many in the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, who in some cases have encountered heightened prejudice and hostility on top of the economic tumult COVID created.
Bank of America research found that more than 90% of AAPI small-business owners faced difficulties keeping their businesses open during the worst of the pandemic, far more than the 55% of all small-business owners who reported the same.footnote1 With a traditionally strong emphasis on family and community, it’s no surprise that 68% of AAPI small-business owners turned to family and friends for financial support or other assistance — far higher than the 43% of all small-business owners that did so.footnote2
“While almost all AAPI entrepreneurs reported additional stress around running their businesses, they remain determined and resilient,” says Carol Lee Mitchell, head of small business strategy at Bank of America. “Even as they faced immense obstacles, AAPI business owners took steps to move their businesses and communities forward.”
As the following profiles illustrate, AAPI small-business owners are using the experiences of the past several years to emerge stronger. To help, Bank of America is increasing support to AAPI business owners, providing funding through its second $2 billion equality progress sustainability bond and investing in the community through the $1.25 billion commitment to racial equality and economic mobility.
Friends, family, customers and employees made sure Hereafter is here to stay
Working in corporate finance in 2012, Yvonne Leung had a difficult time finding joy and meaning in her job. Seeking work she cared deeply about and inspired by wooden postcards she saw on a trip to Hong Kong, Leung started making laser-cut wooden greeting cards and selling them at craft fairs. Ten years later, her Los Angeles-based company Hereafter manufactures an array of personalized wooden gifts, ranging from keepsake boxes to decorative plant picks. Hereafter employs a diverse team of seven women, and the handmade products are shipped to retailers nationwide.