Reimagine Everything: Calling All AAPI Entrepreneurs!

March 24, 2017 • AARP, Columnists

By Ron Mori

Have you thought about turning what you love, what brings you joy and serves others into something that pays the bills? Probably many of us have thought about it but put it off for one reason or another. Perhaps when you were a kid, you sold lemonade, made homemade desserts or sold candy. You were probably nurturing your entrepreneurial spirit and passion then. We all agree that entrepreneurism takes time and work.

However, many small business owners will agree that when you’re passionate about what you do, it does not feel like work; you’re just doing what you’re supposed to.

On April 18 at 7 p.m. EST, AARP will host a webinar entitled “From Passion Into Profit” that will feature three inspiring small business owners who left the corporate world to pursue their passion.

Each of the panelists realized that by not pursuing their passion, they were not doing what they were placed here on earth to really do. To hear their stories, register now and learn what motivated them to take the leap of faith, as well as hear about the success and challenges of being your own boss. You will also be able to ask live questions.

Our panel of innovative and inspiring entrepreneurs is men’s clothing designer Alan Michael Humphrey, pet walkers and groomers Amy Reed and Leslie Barron of Woofies and nail salon co-founders Andrea Vieira and Claudia Diamante of NailSaloon. This panel will be moderated by Marcus Johnson, owner of FLO Wine, who was named Young Entrepreneur of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration in 2004.

The U.S. Small Business Administration will also be available to share information about financing, the importance of having a business plan and more information about its programs and resources. Also, be sure to check out www.aarp.org/startabusiness to get additional tools and resources to see if starting a business is right for you.

Sometimes, the motivation to start a business comes out of family caregiving. Kenneth Shinozuka is a Harvard student who started the company SafeWander, which was inspired by his grandfather, who suffered from Alzheimer’s.

When Kenneth was just 14, he came up with an idea to help his grandfather, who started getting out of bed and wandering — sometimes outside the home. So, Kenneth came up with a sensor attached to his grandfather’s foot that alerted his aunt, who was the caregiver, whenever he left the bed.

SafeWander has evolved into a sensor that can be embedded into pajamas and nightgowns. The product is now manufactured and sold individually and to institutions that have clients affected by Alzheimer’s. Kenneth has been featured in national news reports and received awards for his innovation, as well as been featured in AARP’s “Disrupt Aging” website (http://bit.ly/2hqF9Gc).

Kenneth Shinozuka isn’t alone as an AAPI entrepreneur. According to a 2011 White House blog, Asian American entrepreneurs’ contributions cut across all segments. They are innovators in technology start-ups in Silicon Valley; they operate restaurants and convenience stores in neighborhoods across the U.S.; they run medical clinics, often in underserved communities. Fundamental to this mosaic of entrepreneurial success stories is a set of core characteristics: a strong work ethic, a disciplined pursuit of education and an unshakeable faith and optimism about the country’s future.

The impact of Asian American entrepreneurship is clear and increasingly significant. Today, more than 1 million Asian American entrepreneurs generate $300 billion in sales, providing jobs for more than 2 million workers. As the U.S. faces difficult economic times, these contributions are a vital catalyst to economic recovery.

During the months of June, July and August, AARP State Offices and SBA Resource Partners will host Summer Encore Mentoring to jointly counsel, train and mentor encore entrepreneurs on small business creation. These events occur in a variety of formats such as in-person workshops and speed networking events. Visit www.sba.gov/encorementoring to find an event in your locale.

Join us on April 18 for tips from successful entrepreneurs, and start your journey to career fulfillment!

Got a question for the panelists and/or want to hear more about how each owner got started? Register now at http://bit.ly/2mZkxF2. Can’t make this webinar? Register and a link will be sent to you when the webinar is complete, also access recorded webinars through the Events tab and choose Recorded Webinars. Check out www.aarp.or/startabusiness and www.sba.gov to get additional tools and resources.

Ron Mori is co-president of the Washington, D.C., JACL chapter and manager of community, states and national affairs — multicultural leadership for AARP.

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