How these businesses overcame the pandemic and the rise in Anti-Asian hate to find success
Small businesses have been devastated by the pandemic, and women-and-diverse-owned businesses have been even harder hit. In fact, A recent study shows Asian-owned businesses in the US have been the most negatively impacted of all demographic groups, with a 20% decrease of working business owners from February to December last year. Separately, many Asian-owned businesses have faced an increase in hate crimes over the last few months, causing a twofold crisis when keeping their storefronts afloat. Despite this adversity, many Asian-owned businesses found a way to pivot their businesses online after their doors have shut to stay competitive during the pandemic and continue to overcome these hardships.
Here are three pieces of advice from successful Asian-owned businesses that have pivoted their businesses online to continue to serve their community.
Don’t Pause for Perfect
STEM Center USA is a STEM tutoring and learning center founded in 2011 by two sisters, Melissa and Lavanya Jawarharlal. They’ve been featured on ‘Shark Tank’ for their innovations in the past and are now focused on changing children’s attitudes towards science and math. When the pandemic hit, Melissa and Lavanya had to close their two learning centers. A month later, one of their centers was burglarized and a majority of the technology stolen. Although they were faced with constant roadblocks, Melissa and Lavanya kept their spirits high and focused on what they knew best: brainstorming, creating and testing virtual versions of their school. Thanks to their perseverance by Summer 2020, Stem Center USA was able to reach over 1,800 students – all online. Last month, Melissa and Lavanya participated in Facebook’s Amplify API: Small Business support program where they shared their experience with other business owners. Their advice: “Don’t wait for things to be perfect to launch something new, especially when you need to pivot quickly. Not every program of ours worked out but just enough that we are continuing to offer virtual course offerings for our students in addition to in-person.”
Lean on Family Wisdom
KESTAN is a sustainable fashion brand co-founded by siblings Stephanie and Kevin Lin. The duo grew up watching their parents build a paper business, which inspired them to make something of their own. In growing KESTAN, they used their parents’ example to lean on one another for support and persevere in the face of challenges. When the pandemic hit, KESTAN’s shop – just a year old – had to shutter. But through the advice of their parents, they learned to overcome the toll of the pandemic and pivot their business fully online. Today, KESTAN offers virtual dressing appointments and opening an all online eCommerce shop directly on Facebook and Instagram, where their growing following could easily find them. Now they have more than 40k followers on Instagram and Facebook, reaching customers beyond California. Stephanie recalls the small ring her mother gave her when she turned 21-years-old that served as a reminder that she could achieve anything she wanted – and she continued to think of the ring through the pandemic when times became difficult. “If my mother could balance a family and be a business owner, I knew I had it in my genes to get through my own obstacles,” says Stephanie.
Tap into Virtual Communication
Divya Raghavan (featured photo) is the founder of Right Stack Physical Therapy, a private outpatient physical therapy that provides one-on-one pain and injury care for corporate employees who work at their desks and is expanding to help the eastern dance community in the Bay Area. Since Covid, she has pivoted to offer telehealth services and virtual injury prevention videos. Divya heavily leans on Messenger for Facebook to communicate with her current and prospective patients to talk to her about their posture and joint pains before booking and attending an appointment. “Because my job is so-hands on, pivoting online was a challenge. But I knew that my clientele still needed my services as they worked remotely the past year. Using social media, especially Messenger, to connect virtually with my patients has helped me to continue to focus on their needs. In turn, this has allowed me to hone in on my shared content and grow organic engagement.”
Melissa & Lavanya Jawaharlal, Stephanie and Kevin Lin, and Divya Raghavan are all Asian-owned small business owners.
Feature photo courtesy Right Stack Physical Therapy