Venture Center reaching for Asian American, Pacific Islander businesses

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 433 views 

The Venture Center has launched AAPI Achieve, a new professional mentorship program designed to empower members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community in Arkansas. Applications for the AAPI Achieve program are now open through March 10.

AAPI Achieve will provide tailored support and guidance to AAPI entrepreneurs and industry leaders.

AAPI Achieve centers on mentorship, underscoring its critical importance in promoting the development and success of small businesses in Arkansas. With a structure similar to other successful Venture Center programs, AAPI Achieve connects aspiring AAPI entrepreneurs with experienced executives and business leaders with similar cultural backgrounds.

Over a 12-month period, mentors will deliver personalized coaching and strategic business advice. Additionally, they will provide cultural understanding and empathy, essential for addressing the distinct challenges and biases that AAPI individuals encounter in the business sector.

“The success of The Venture Center’s Woman Achieve program is due in part to our belief that empowering and mentoring women entrepreneurs is not just a social responsibility, but a necessary step towards creating a more inclusive and equitable playing field,” said Mimi San Pedro, chief strategy officer for The Venture Center, and Co-Founder of AAPI Achieve and Founder of Woman Achieve. “We believe that other groups, like our AAPI entrepreneurs, can benefit from a customized program specifically for their needs.”

American Community Survey data indicates Arkansas witnessed substantial growth in its Asian population, particularly in Northwest Arkansas, since 2010. The AAPI population, including members of Japanese, Korean, Indonesian, Laotian, Filipino, Taiwanese, Vietnamese, Indian, Pakistani, and Marshallese communities, among others, contributes significantly to Arkansas’ economic and cultural landscape.

Foreign-owned companies in Arkansas, particularly those with ties to Asia, play a vital role in the state’s economy. Japan, for instance, boasts the highest number of foreign-owned companies in Arkansas, employing more than 6,000 individuals.

Additionally, the establishment of the Arkansas Association of Asian Businesses (AAAB), the first Arkansas-Asian Chamber of Commerce in the state, underscores the growing economic and cultural ties between Arkansas and the AAPI community.

“I grew up in Little Rock in the 90s. I rarely saw people on TV, in my neighborhood, or early in my career that looked like me outside of our small Vietnamese community,” said Josh Nguyen, Marketing Director at The Venture Center and AAPI Achieve Co-Founder. “When I joined The Venture Center and experienced firsthand how much we can impact entrepreneurs locally and globally, I decided it was finally time. Instead of waiting for someone I could look up to and understand my cultural background, I became it. This is the reason for AAPI Achieve, to provide an opportunity to uplift, educate, and collaborate with AAPI entrepreneurs and inspire future leaders of Arkansas.”

Interested AAPI residents from all industries can apply as mentors or mentees for AAPI Achieve by visiting and submitting their applications before March 10, 2024. Selected participants will be notified by the end of March.