Women Immigrants in Business
By Peter Micek
Jose: She knew the pottery trade from her days in
her native Vietnam, recent immigrant An Pham says.
When Pham tried to start her own business selling
pottery, however, banks denied her loans due to
her status as a divorcee. Reading a Vietnamese newspaper
one day, she saw an advertisement for Anew America,
offering courses and business training and support
to immigrants and their families. She called the
number and interviewed.
“I studied about small business management,”
she says. “First, I only think, ‘I’ll
learn to get a job,’ but the more I learn
the more I think I’d like to do my own business.”
Like the Women’s Initiative, a bilingual entrepreneur-education
program begun in 1988, Anew America serves a largely
female group of entrepreneurs. Both organizations
offer classes in English and Spanish and provide
matching funds for what the entrepreneurs save.
Creating more than 130 new jobs since its inception
in 1999, according to Sylvia Rosales-Fike, president
and CEO, Anew America targets low-income immigrants,
largely Latino and Asian, in the Bay Area. More
than 850 women have participated and more than 88
businesses have received assistance and 19 clients
have bought 32 homes. Clients’ net assets
enjoy an average growth of 35 percent. Its Women’s
Business Center serves 1,000 families per year.
“It’s important that mainstream Americans
know what new Americans are about,” Rosales-Fike
says. “As far back as the 1920s, in times
of economic crisis, every new group is always seen
as the cause of our problems. It is important to
realize that immigrants have contributed to American
life since the beginning.” Her group, she
says, “brings underserved people like Anew
-- raising two children -- into the system.”
Anew America focuses on long-term economic empowerment,
believing economic stability is the first step toward
incorporating immigrants into mainstream culture.
Those enrolled in business classes receive coaching
to maintain or start small businesses and build
wealth for their families. Seventy percent of participants
are women, and graduates earn certificates in business
planning from a local university.
Lacking plans, many ethnic businesses fail within
a year, says program officer Mimi Nguyen.
With the help of board member Alice Waters, organic
food maven and owner of a restaurant in Berkeley,
where Anew America is based, the group matches savings
of up to $3,000 over a six to 24-month period, through
accounts funded by the Department of Health and
Human Services Assets for Independence Act (AFIA).
To qualify, says program officer Nguyen, immigrants
need a solid idea for a business, and proof they
will remain in the United States.
Pham completed Anew America’s business incubator
program, a 25-week program with one course weekly.
“I feel confident to do business in a new
country, for I understand about American laws, how
to run, learn, and gain business skills, and knowledge
of marketing and sales,” she says. “So,
I decided to set up my own pottery business, for
I can show and share Vietnamese culture and pottery
created from different regions of Vietnam.”
At the grand opening ceremony of HP Pottery, her
new San Jose store, An Pham mused, “It’s
been five years already.”
“I came to America as a new immigrant,”
she said. “It is not easy.”
She gives to charity, Pham said, donating wheelchairs
to the Long Buu Charity Medical Clinic in Vietnam.
Her crafts, she says, bring Vietnamese and Americans
together to understand each other better.
“I will succeed,” she repeated. –
New America Media