By Jenny Chen
Washington, DC – On November 14, the DC Office of Asian Pacific Islander Affairs (OAPIA) launched a new initiative called “Connect, Build, Engage”. This initiative connects Asian American businesses with government resources such as Project BUILD, the Department of Small and Local Business Development, and the Department of Housing and Community Development.
Joining the Julie Koo, the Executive Director OAPIA was Mayor Vincent Gray, and various Asian American community members. Refreshments were provided by Gary Zhu, owner of AYT group and Full Kee restaurant.
Project BUILD is a program that connects existing small retail businesses in the District to MBA graduate students. The pairs work together for five weeks to develop business plans, apply for funding opportunities, and improve marketing and promotional strategies.
Qualified businesses and/commercial property owners can receive matching grants for general repairs/maintenance and for the installation of doors, windows, signs, storefront systems, awnings, and lighting through their community-based nonprofit organizations.
Gary Zhu, owner of AYT group, was one of the pilot participants in the Project BUILD program for FY 13. He said that the four Georgetown University MBA students who worked with him helped him do market research and created a marketing strategy for him.
“We had a marketing strategy before but it wasn’t that thoroughly researched,” Zhu said. “[Before] we would do Yellow Pages, newspapers…we didn’t think about online or social media.”
OAPIA also encourages successful AAPI businesses to give back through “Adopt-a-Block”. “Adopt-a-Block” program allows businesses or groups to adopt a minimum of two square blocks of an area and maintain the area for cleanliness for two years.
In addition, for-profit businesses facing 12th Street NE between Rhode Island and Michigan Avenues, NE are eligible for a grant from the Department of Housing and Community Development.
“Our goal is to make sure that everyone can experience the same opportunity as everyone else,” said Mayor Vincent Gray in his address to the group.
For more information on the services provided by the district to Asian American businesses visit www.apia.dc.gov