Northwest Asian Weekly
Lisa Zhao knows how to talk business. Her students listen.
She is Professor, Management, and Lawrence K. Johnson Endowed Chair of Entrepreneurship at Seattle University’s Albers School of Business and Economics. She has an extensive background in teaching business at the academic level. A sample of her teaching areas includes entrepreneurship essentials and business plan development.
She discussed business issues regarding the Asian American community with the Northwest Asian Weekly.
Trends regarding business and the Asian American community
According to Zhao, the 2010 U.S. Census found that Asian Americans are the fastest growing racial group to live in an integrated neighborhood and have an inter-racial marriage. Many Asian Americans have attained a high level of success in their education and career. She notes that entrepreneurs of Asian descent are making significant contributions to all segments of the U.S. economy. For example, notable entrepreneurs from different spectrums of industry include Yahoo founder Jerry Young and clothing retailer Forever 21 founder Do Won Chang.
Diversity and business
Zhao considers diversity as an opportunity. Asian Americans are a very diversified group. While many are high achievers, many others are first-generation immigrants who struggle to overcome language barriers and cultural gaps. They see business ownership as the important path to achieve economic and social integration. She stresses it is important that first-generation immigrants apply their international knowledge to the United States, adding to broader engagement.
She notes data showing that self-employed Asian Americans are disproportionally high in low-skill and labor-intensive businesses such as food and personal services – what she referred to as “lifestyle” businesses (restaurants, grocery stores, beauty services, etc.).
Zhao encourages her students to respond to opportunities through innovative business solutions.
Students are immersed in the community by providing assistance to local entrepreneurs and playing leadership roles in community projects, such as the Yesler Terrace Food Cart Pod (a food cart pod that will provide grant opportunities for people in need to reach their entrepreneurial and culinary goals).
“We also expose students to a broader international community through collaborations with universities in other countries,” she noted.
When asked what advice she would offer those who want to start out on their own, she offers: “First, follow your passion. Second, leverage what you have and who you know. Last but not the least, seek help from the local community.”
She emphasizes this last point – the importance of getting support and developing associations with your community. (end)
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