From the Desk of:
Executive Vice President,
Neighborhood and Strategic Initiatives
World Business Chicago
As we all continue to navigate unfamiliar territory due to COVID-19, we hope this newsletter will be informative and provide you with valuable information and counsel.
May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, celebrating the achievements and contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States. To celebrate, ChiBizHub is proud to highlight Lakhi Siap, a partner at the Chicago Asian Network (CAN), a full-service multi-cultural marketing agency serving the fast-growing Asian American community in Chicago.
Founded in 2010, CAN provides a community platform for content creation that serves to consolidate and represent the multi-generational and diverse Asian American community through internet resources, media, stories and events.
If you haven't done so already, please take a moment to visit our recently launched COVID-19 Resource Page. It provides up-to-date information about resources and support available to you and your employees. You will also find a series of webinars on topics like preparing for e-commerce, positioning your business for financing, and more.
Finally, be sure to follow us on all social media channels to stay up to date on the latest webinars offering small business support!
Lakhi Siap, The Chicago Asian Network
Lakhi Siap is founder of the Chicago Asian Network, a full-service multicultural marketing agency serving the Asian American community. He has more than 12 years of experience in business development, multicultural marketing, public relations and strategic community outreach. He has consulted with high profile companies and organizations such as McDonald's, AT&T, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the U.S. State Department. His current projects involve providing COVID-19 resources and online events for the Asian American community as well as U.S.-Asia business and government relations in the fields of communications, start-ups, software development, call center and business process outsourcing set up.
Q. What is the Chicago Asian Network? What inspired you to start your firm?
A. Chicago Asian Network (CAN) is a full-service multi-cultural marketing & creative agency serving the fast-growing Asian American community in Chicago and in the United States.
I didn’t intend to start a marketing agency. I actually completed a degree in nursing, and back in 2009 while I was still in school, I spent a lot of my free time volunteering for various Asian American nonprofit and community organizations and that became something I enjoyed and something I was very passionate about. After getting to know the Asian American community I realized that there was a lack of representation for my community. There wasn’t enough media coverage or stories or websites that highlighted the positive impacts brought about by Asian Americans. I also noticed a disconnect within the community. This would be evident when most of the Asian American organizations would have events and fundraisers on overlapping schedules due to lack of awareness, promotion and communication.
To solve this, I first created an online platform where all the community organizations could submit their community events and it would be uploaded to an online community calendar. Afterwards I started a regular newsletter promoting them. I then would go around the community with my camera take photos and feature the various highlights of our community. It took many years of mistakes, trials and errors, the wrong choice of business decisions and of business partners but eventually, it took a life of its own and transformed into the full-service marketing agency that it is today.
Q. What services/resources do you provide Asian and Pacific Islander (AAPI) businesses?
A. Our services include ethnic media outreach, advertising, media buying, public relations, research and consulting, event production, talent management, brand strategy, creative direction, translation, interpretation, web design and business development.
We also serve as a liaison to corporations and businesses that wish to effectively engage with Asian American leaders, organizations and the community. Most importantly, we provide our community a platform that serves to consolidate and represent the multi-generational and diverse Asian American community through resources, media, stories, and events.
Q. Has your firm changed with COVID-19?
A. May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and is usually the busiest time of year for us where we produce a community calendar to feature and partner with over 75 community events.
Due to the public health crisis we had to cease majority of our community event projects. Currently we are pivoting to turn in-person community events to remote and online engagements. We are also making an effort to compile a list of resources and webinars for the community during this time, and are currently in the process of putting together a list of local Asian American businesses to support.
Q. What are the immediate challenges for the entrepreneurs and small business owners you serve?
A. Asian American business owners have been significantly impacted by COVID-19. Our community experienced this during the early days of this pandemic where the public would be afraid to visit Chinatown and other Asian-owned businesses.
There is a lack of in-language resources to entrepreneurs who may not read or speak English as their primary language. We have also seen loan programs that reach out to big corporations instead of small to medium enterprises. Hence, we have been promoting webinars on business relief programs in Asian Languages.
This pandemic is also affecting Asian Americans in a particularly brutal manner with bigotry, xenophobia, and anti-immigrant sentiments that have led to an increase in attacks and hate crimes towards Asians. I recently read an op-ed by one of the community's most prominent business leaders Andrew Yang, in which he argued that in order to combat the Anti-Asian racism, Asian Americans should “prove” their "Americanness" by “helping our neighbors, donating gear, voting, volunteering, funding aid organizations” etc. However, history has taught us time and again that showing off our good deeds, good grades, and “respectability” has not completely worked. If we are to effectively fight racism, the way forward is not just through assimilation or a checklist of good acts, but through solidarity and sustained political action. For Asian Americans like me, this will require advocating and supporting minority-owned businesses, not just the Asian American community, but for other communities who, through their own organizing and advocacy have fought for and won many of the rights all people of color enjoy today.
Q. What advice do you have for businesses navigating COVID 19?
A. For small businesses like mine, I am sure you have heard of these common recommendations such as calling your bank and creditors and negotiating for deferred payment, negotiating with your landlord for a hold on the rent, assessing your financials and limiting your outgoing expenses, keeping your cash flow positive as much as possible and keeping in-touch with clients to look at creative ways to still do business. Out of all these, the one thing that has helped me is having a regular support group of fellow entrepreneurs. I am part of a group called ACE NextGen. It is a premier organization for elevating the success of Asian American entrepreneurs. It is the millennial branch of the Asian/Pacific Islander American Chamber of Commerce & Entrepreneurship (National ACE). We regularly meet online, (sometimes up to 3 times a week) to check in on one another, share stories of our successes and failures, and give advice on how to keep our businesses afloat. We also find ways to support each other’s businesses; from hiring each other for services, buying gift cards from each other's establishments, connecting with potential clients and more. Having that regular support group of fellow entrepreneurs that you trust is something that has helped me stay positive and moved my business forward.
In the Community
COVID-19 Relief Fund for Street Vendors in Chicago
Donate to the Street Vendor Relief Fund
Apply for the Street Vendor Relief Fund
Shop Local & Support Small, Chicago
Add your business to 37 Oaks' Master Small Business List
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