The first week of May marks National Small Business Week. To celebrate the small businesses in our communities, learn how some of the local community-based organizations in our Small Business Development Program are supporting these entrepreneurs.
This work has been generously supported by Kaiser Permanente.
Hue Nguyen is a Vietnamese American single mother of three. She met with Boat People SOS Virginia through the Affordable Health Insurance program. She was referred to their small business program because she worked as a nail technician and was interested in purchasing her own nail salon to better provide for her family.
The Small Business team helped her learn about the legal process of purchasing a nail salon and estimate revenue and maintenance costs. They were available to her across multiple channels throughout the working day so she did not have to come into the office. In June, Hue purchased her nail salon, Aura Day Spa, along with a co-owner.
Hue is extremely grateful to BPSOS for helping her achieve a dream that she has had since coming to America to improve her family’s quality of life.
Arman and Janice Gopez always dreamed of owning their own Jiu Jitsu school and gym. Growing up as Filipino Americans in Los Angeles, they were told to find a job at a good company and work hard to provide for their family, which meant their dream was sidelined. When the pandemic hit, Janice’s company laid off 80% of their staff and cut her salary dramatically. This was the push Arman and Janice needed to re-visit their dream of owning a Jiu Jitsu school.
Janice started business counseling with staff at Search to Involve Pilipino Americans (SIPA). After a few sessions, Janice was able to find a small studio in North Hollywood and start the process of opening up their school, A-Side Jiu Jitsu and Fitness. Since opening in April 2022, they already staff four coaches and teach over 40 students how to better their physical and mental health through Jiu Jitsu.
“I’m so grateful for the SIPA Entrepreneur program as it kept me on track. I learned so much in that program. They’re a big part of helping me launch our business. I don’t think we would have been able to open our doors in three months without their support and guidance.”
Ahu Hettema’s restaurant, Istanbul Restaurant, serving Mediterranean cuisine on Oahu, helps her feel closer to her country of origin, Turkey. She delights in sharing her food and culture with others, which is her motivation to keep the business running despite the challenges she has faced.
Ahu worked with Pacific Gateway Center (PGC) to get her business running. PGC assisted with the legal compliance of starting a business and their commercial incubator kitchen allowed Ahu to learn how to cook and operate in a commercial kitchen. For a few years, Ahu maintained a family-based food truck business using PGC as her home base. She was ready to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant in 2020, but faced the challenges of the pandemic. Despite setbacks, she borrowed capital from the Feed the Hunger Foundation, a local CDFI and partner of PGC, as well as local banks to open her restaurant. With her hard work and perseverance, Istanbul Restaurant opened in July 2020 and currently employs 70 full and part-time staff. Ahu’s dedication was recognized in 2022 by the Small Business Administration, and her restraurant was awarded Hawaii’s 2022 Women-Owned Business of the Year.