By Deepak Chitnis
Special to the NNPA from New America Media
NEW YORK—Wells Fargo has officially launched its newest initiative geared specifically at budding entrepreneurs looking to help their small businesses grow, entitled Wells Fargo Works for Small Business.
The initiative was unveiled at the first-ever South Asian Young Women Entrepreneurs (SAY WE) conference that took place at the Condé Nast building in Times Square on May 17. Wells Fargo was a key sponsor of the SAY WE conference, helping to foster entrepreneurial spirit in the South Asian community.
“We know that the Asian small business community is the first one to achieve entrepreneurial parity,” said Nancy Wong, senior vice-president of Wells Fargo’s Asian Segment Manager. “We have seen the momentum grow in very specific regions, specifically the tri-state area [New York, New Jersey, Connecticut] and California.”
Wells Fargo, which has been the largest small business lender for the past 11 years, also announced their goal of lending $100 billion to small business by 2018.
Wong said that this is an aggregate goal for all businesses, South Asian and otherwise, but that Wells Fargo has resources meant specifically for Asian business owners.
“We host several financial seminars and workshops, across the Wells Fargo footprint, that partner specifically with Asian chamber associations and trade associations,” said Wong. “These solidify our commitment to providing resources and guidance to the Asian small business community.”
Featuring a congregation of some of the best and brightest minds in the tri-state area’s South Asian entrepreneurial scene, the SAY WE conference is intended to be the first leg of a three-part series of conferences that will continue in Houston and San Francisco later this year.
The series is entitled “Raise, Rise, Rule!” and strives to help budding South Asian entrepreneurs, particularly women, by giving them the advice and resources they need to help establish and grow their small businesses.
Saturday’s event was organized by SAY WE founder Reema Rasool, who described the experience of being at the organization’s inaugural conference as “surreal.”
Rasool explained that she founded SAY WE as a way of providing young South Asian women with the advice and resources they needed, but often never have access to, in order to launch their entrepreneurial ventures. An entrepreneur herself, Rasool said that she wished these resources were available to her when she was getting started, and now wants to make sure that she can help those who are now starting to come up after her.
Two panel discussions were held, one in the morning and one during the afternoon session. The first featured South Asian American entrepreneurs Pialy Aditya (co-founder of fashion site Mintbox), Sindhya V. Kalghatgi (founder of men’s grooming label Helix), Abbas Hashmi (founder of Green Card Capital), and Wong, and centered on what one has to do to take their business idea from an intangible wish to a profitable operation.
The second panel discussion featured local New York City news anchor Joya Dass, Bibi Magazine founder Ayesha Hakki, The Cake Designer founder Parul Patel, and social media guru Adam Khan. They talked about the advantages and disadvantages of using social media to promote small businesses, and how to avoid the common pitfalls associated with the still-young but incredibly powerful online marketing tool.
Keynote addresses were given by Aroon Shivdasani and Faisal Hoque. Shivdasani is the founder of the Indo-American Arts Council and the key organizers of the annual New York Indian Film Festival, while Hoque is a writer and entrepreneur who also gave out and signed copies of his latest book, “Everything Connects.”
Hoque spoke at length about his personal story, coming to the US from Bangladesh at age 17 and, eventually, dropping out of college in Minneapolis to start his career with Pitney Bowes in Connecticut. Today, he is the founder of Shadoka Ventures, and a number of other companies. Shadoka’s portfolio of companies – which specialize in R&D driven products, services, and thought leadership – accelerates individual and organizational sustainable growth.
Hoque warned prospective business owners that people should keep in mind the lows as much as the highs, citing his own ups and downs, and the successes and failures he experienced during his career.
“There is absolutely no substitute for passion and authenticity,” Hoque said in summation of his remarks, telling future and current small business owners that being true to themselves and passionate about their ideas are ultimately what will lead them to success in the long run.
Wells Fargo’s sponsorship of SAY WE allowed for the conference to be free for attendees. Wells Fargo will continue to be a partner of SAY WE, as a sign of its increasing commitment to helping the Asian and South Asian American communities across the US.
The SAY WE conference series will continue in Houston on June 14, and will conclude in San Francisco on August 9.
Editor’s note: This story was produced for American Bazaar and for New America Media as part of a Wells Fargo sponsored project to report on the state of Asian Pacific American small business.