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Asian American businesses hit especially hard during pandemic the coronavirus pandemic

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“My god, the business dropped 98%. …It [was] minimal in the beginning. It did kind of scare us,” the Georgia business owner recalls. “How can we survive if it keeps continuing like this?”

And if that wasn’t devastating enough, the dim sum restaurant he’s owned for 26 years in Canton, a suburban area near Atlanta, was targeted by vandals.

“Our window was broken, with a hammer, without any reason whatsoever,” Vuong says. “At the time we really [thought] that’s racism because they have a bad feeling about Chinese and they do whatever they do to damage your store.”

As many small businesses across the country continue to feel the economic misery stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, Vuong is among the growing number of Asian Americans facing a one-two punch of historic unemployment and discrimination.

As Covid-19 has spread, so has the racism and xenophobia — some of it which has been fueled by misplaced blame for the coronavirus, according to the Stop AAPI Hate Reporting Center.

The national coalition of community-based organizations tracks hate incidents against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and has received more than 2,500 reports of violence and harassment between March and August.

In a recent report, United Nations experts expressed concern over the “alarming level” of racially motivated incidents against Asian Americans and “and the contribution of the President of the United States in seemingly legitimizing these violations.”
Traveling while Asian during the pandemic
The UN’s report cited public statements and social media posts that refer to the virus as the “‘Chinese virus,’ ‘Wuhan virus,’ or the ‘Kung Flu,’ including by President Donald Trump,” as allegedly being linked to the recent surge in racist attacks.

Vuong, 60, is concerned anti-Asian sentiment will further slow his restaurant’s sluggish recovery.

He says when he first reopened the restaurant he was concerned customers would stay away because they thought “you can get the virus from the restaurant. And I say that’s not true.”

It’s not true. But Marlene Kim, an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts, fears that misinformation could exacerbate the financial situation.

“Unfortunately, if people continue to believe these myths that Asians are more likely to have the virus, that they’re bringing the virus, certainly Asians will have a more difficult time, especially Asian businesses in Asian areas like Chinatowns I think will continue to suffer,” Kim says. “And we’ve seen a number of businesses already close in Asian areas of the country.”

Unemployment among Asian Americans skyrockets

The pandemic has taken a heavy economic toll on Asian Americans, who’ve experienced unemployment rates spike by more than 450%, from 2.5% in February to 13.8% in June, according to the U.S Department of Labor.

What's spreading faster than coronavirus in the US? Racist assaults and ignorant attacks against Asians

“It’s the worst I’ve seen in decades,” Kim says. “Asians typically have among the lowest unemployment rates, and it really shot up during Covid.”

Since reopening Canton House for indoor dining in May, Vuong has seen some of his customers gradually return. He was able to rehire most of his employees but business remains down by 50%.

The father of two says he’s breaking even but admits he’s still struggling. For dinner service recently, he recalls having only three tables the whole night.

Vuong, who came to the US as a refugee escaping communist Vietnam in 1979, says he’s saddened to see how the coronavirus has hurt Atlanta’s Chinatown, located about a mile away from his restaurant.

In Chamblee, Georgia, the Great Wall Gift Shop will be closing down at the end of October. Another Asian shop owner in the strip mall, who did not want to be identified, admitted that he is also struggling to survive.

Model minority myth overshadows struggles

Despite the hardships burdening Asian Americans, Kim says Asian stereotypes are preventing many from taking notice.

“I think it’s definitely been overlooked. I think it’s because Asians are the invisible minority. People don’t think about problems affecting Asians and that Asians are being disadvantaged. …Part of the reason is that Asians are seen as the model minority,” Kim says. “People think that Asians have made it. They have good jobs, good incomes. …And the reality is very different.”

Follow these 10 steps to file for — and keep — your unemployment benefits

Because some Asians have higher levels of education than the average worker, and have good incomes, people forget that there’s another segment of Asians that are less likely to go to college, Kim says.

“They’re more likely to work in very low paid jobs that are very precarious, like in nail salons or as taxi drivers or in retail.”

Vuong is concerned about a second wave of Covid-19 hurting business. He’s also worried that the outcome of the presidential election could inflame racial tensions.

“I really don’t want it to destroy my property or business. That is my [biggest] concern,” he says.

Despite the onslaught of challenges he faces, Vuong is emphatically grateful that he has been living his American dream for four decades.

Since moving to the US, Vuong graduated from Georgia State University with a degree in mathematics, became a US citizen in 1985, bought a house 1986, sent two children to college, and built up a popular Chinese restaurant.

“As a first generation coming to America, we have a dream to get a business, to have a house, to have a stable life. Have a family and then raise up kids. But hopefully our dream is not broken because of this Covid-19.”

CNN’s Maria Cartaya contributed to this report.

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Holiday shopping and giving tips: How to best support Chattanooga businesses and give responsibly

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Q. What advice may BBB offer on the other major holiday shopping events; Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday?

A. 2020 has been a most difficult year on small business. For many, the holiday season sales will be critical for survival. After the big Black Friday sales, check out the small, local and independent businesses participating in Small Business Saturday, a day to celebrate small businesses and all they do for their communities.

Created in 2010 by American Express, Small Business Saturday – the day after Black Friday – is a perfect time to stop in and support your local independent business retailers. Better Business Bureau is pleased to support Small Business Saturday and urges people to support small businesses in their communities.

BBB offers the following tips to “Shop Small” on Small Business Saturday:

Get involved. Many communities are hosting special events to celebrate and support the businesses that make your hometown unique. Find out what local events are happening in your area on the Small Business Saturday www.americanexpress.com website.

Sign-up for email alerts. Save a few dollars on your holiday budget by signing up for Small Business Saturday email specials offered by the merchants in your area. Keep in mind; you’ll probably get additional deals throughout the year, not just during the holidays.

Research the shops nearest to you. Find out what past customers have to say by reading reviews online, such as those on BBB.org, and learn what shops are participating by going to ShopSmall.org.

Connect with businesses on social media. Many small businesses will advertise their sales via social media. Use #ShopSmall to search for information and share activities.

Invite your friends and family. Turn this shopping event into a “friends and family” extravaganza! Visit favorite local stores or explore a new one. Take time to get to know the business owners and local community officials, and get a head start on the holidays while enjoying time with loved ones.

Don’t just shop small, eat small! Many people think that shopping at local retail stores is the only way to participate. However, small independently owned restaurants, bakeries, and coffee shops would love to invite in new customers while they’re out and about.

Share your experience. Take a selfie at your favorite small business. Share it on social media with the hashtags #BBB and #ShopSmall to tell the world you’re a big fan of small businesses. Leave a review on BBB.org. Remember, these shops are open all year as well!

The Monday following Black Friday, known as Cyber Monday, has become one of the top shopping days of the year. But like so much else in 2020, it’s likely to look different this year. Holiday online sales started in October with Amazon Prime Day, and many Black Friday deals have moved online in hopes of reducing in-store crowds. In fact, according to Accenture survey, 75% of consumers say they’ll do at least some of their holiday shopping online this year. That’s up from 65% last year.

But online shopping – even on Cyber Monday – has risks. Be wary of misleading advertisements, lookalike websites, and untrustworthy sellers. The following tips will help you shop online this holiday season, so you can achieve maximum savings while keeping your personal information and hard-earned money secure.

Beware of false advertising and phony websites. If a company is selling the hottest item of the year at a price that seems too good to be true, it probably is. Watch out for false advertising and keep a close eye on the web address in your browser. Scammers love to create lookalike websites that, at first glance, appear to belong to a trusted retailer. Make sure websites use the correct spelling of a business name and have legitimate contact information and customer service numbers.

Shop with trustworthy sellers on secure sites only. Be wary of businesses you aren’t familiar with. Check their BBB Business Profile on BBB.org, look at the rating, and read customer reviews. In addition, be sure any web page you purchase from is secure. Secure web addresses begin with HTTPS:// and not just HTTP://. Never put personal or credit card information in forms on non-secure web pages.

Keep your antivirus software up to date. Make sure you have antivirus software installed on your computer or mobile device, and that it is up to date. This will help you to avoid non-secure websites and pop-up phishing scams, and help keep your personal information safe.

Price checks before you buy. Dozens of online retailers will claim they have the best price on an item, but their offers can be misleading. Do your homework by comparing prices. Remember that the best deal may not be the real deal.

Take advantage of rewards and loyalty programs. Check your credit card rewards program for special point offers that could add up on Cyber Monday and throughout the holidays. Make purchases using loyalty programs; many major retailers have them.

Use your credit card. It’s always best to make online purchases with your credit card. If any shady charges turn up later, you will be able to contest them through your credit card company. Debit cards don’t offer this same protection. Never make purchases with online sellers by giving them prepaid debit cards or wiring them money.

Understand return policies. Online store policies may change for Cyber Monday offers. Read the fine print before you buy. Understand the return or exchange policy for the specific item you would like to purchase. Be aware that stores may not allow returns for “final sale” or “closeout” items. Make sure to get gift receipts, so the recipient can return or exchange the item if necessary.

Watch out for phishing scams. Busy schedules and increased purchases make it easier to miss – and fall victim to – a phishing scam. Look out for unsolicited emails, texts, calls, or letters. These messages may claim you have a free gift waiting for you or that there is a problem with a delivery – all you need to do is click on a link or give up your personal information. Avoid phishing scams by ignoring suspicious correspondence and calls from unfamiliar phone numbers.

The week following Thanksgiving isn’t just about shopping. Thanks to Giving Tuesday, it’s now a major time to support charity. BBB encourages you to remember individuals and charities impacted by the pandemic. Be benevolent and support others during this challenging time.

Taking place on the Tuesday after Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the Giving Tuesday, www.givingtuesday.org movement has helped raise more than $1 billion for online charitable giving worldwide since its creation in 2012. BBB’s Give.org urges potential donors to research charities before giving to ensure their generous contributions are going to trustworthy organizations.

Wise Giving Alliance, www.give.org evaluations provide donors insight into charity trustworthiness, helping them make wiser giving decisions. Holiday donations can make a real impact. Therefore, it’s critical that donors’ hard-earned dollars go to charities that operate ethically.

Visit www.bbb.org/holidaytips for additional information.

Jim Winsett is president of the Better Business Bureau in Chattanooga

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BUSINESS UPDATES | Kravitz to deliver boxed lunches to St. Elizabeth workers

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Among today’s business updates: BRITE Energy Innovators; Burgan Real Estate; Farmers National Banc Corp.; Akron Children’s Hospital Pediatrics and Locust Pediatric Care Group; AAA East Central’s Gas Price Report.

YOUNGSTOWN — With COVID-19 cases spiking in the region, Kravitz Deli, 3135 Belmont Ave., is turning its attention back to hospital workers, and its Inspired Catering staff will deliver 125 boxed lunches to workers at Mercy Health — St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital today.

“We have always offered box lunches because they are a convenient way to feed a group. Now we know it is the safest way,” Jack Kravitz, president of Kravitz Delicatessen Inc., said in a news release. “Unlike a buffet or a deli tray where people share at least serving utensils, the box option offers an individual item without any group handling.”

Since March, Kravitz Deli has delivered more than 1,000 boxed meals to the hospital with the help of customers and donors. Each box delivered to a worker contains a note identifying the sponsor. Sponsorships are available through the end of the year for the Youngstown hospital or other hospitals throughout the region. For more information, call Patty at 330-881-8081.

Akron Community Foundation

awards $1K to BRITE Energy

WARREN — The Akron Community Foundation has awarded BRITE Energy Innovators $1,000 to facilitate its work with eight Akron-metro startups. 

BRITE is the state’s only energy incubator and has assisted nearly 300 new energy startups statewide.

“Akron and Warren have a long history of working together — from Simon Perkins to the eBay program. We have a lot of places to grow together,” Rick Stockburger, BRITE CEO, said in a news release. “The commitment from the Akron Community Foundation continues to build on the relationship in our goal to support cleantech startups in the region.”

The collaboration will open avenues for economic development in the Akron and Summit County area by assisting with fundraising, capacity building and transformation of the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

To satisfy the goals of the funding, BRITE will review pertinent information provided by partners and then assist in areas specific to BRITE’s expertise through a management workflow system.

The Akron Community Foundation Civic Affairs committee annually awards grants to programs that address the workforce skills gap, support economic empowerment initiatives and boost neighborhood revitalization programs, among other civic initiatives, the release states.

Karl Reph begins career

with Burgan Real Estate

CANFIELD — Karl Reph, a native of Berlin Center, is the latest addition to Burgan Real Estate’s group of agents.

“As I start my professional career, I was searching for an opportunity that would not only

challenge me but allow me to be in control of my path to success,” Reph said in a news release. “Meeting Patrick Burgan and seeing both the joys and successes he and Sue [Filipovich] have both had early on in their careers in real estate is something I know I can achieve by being with a company that is as supportive and trusted as Burgan Real Estate.”

Patrick Burgan, broker and co-owner of Burgan Real Estate, said Reph reminds him of himself at the start of his career.

“Meeting Karl reminded me of how I was in my early days as a Realtor and seeing the type of person he is and who he hoped to become, it was very clear that this was someone who would embrace our culture as he grows as an agent and a person in his professional journey with Burgan Real Estate,” Burgan said in the release.

Farmers National Banc Corp.

declares quarterly cash dividend

CANFIELD — The board of directors of Farmers National Banc Corp. on Tuesday declared a quarterly cash dividend of 11 cents per share. The common stock cash dividend will have a record date of Dec. 11 and is payable to shareholders on Dec. 31.

Akron Children’s practices launch

telehealth option for pediatrician interviews

AKRON — Akron Children’s Hospital Pediatrics and the Locust Pediatric Care Group now offer free provider interviews via telehealth.

“We’ve always offered in-person interviews for expectant parents who are choosing a provider for their babies — or parents who want to change their child’s primary care provider,” Ben Teske, director of primary care operations at Akron Children’s Hospital, said in a news release. “Offering these interviews by telehealth/video provides a convenient and safe option as we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Every Akron Children’s primary care provider who is accepting new patients offers telehealth interviews. To schedule a telehealth interview, parents should call the Akron Children’s Hospital Pediatrics office of their choice or Locust Pediatric Care Group. Parents will receive an email the day before the appointment that includes the video link for the telehealth visit.

During the interview, parents can ask about the provider’s education and years of experience; philosophy on everything from vaccines to potty-training; and learn about office hours, appointment availability and after-hours coverage. If parents don’t make a connection with the provider during the telehealth interview, they can schedule an interview with a different provider.

Northeast Ohio gas prices

steady ahead of Thanksgiving

YOUNGSTOWN — The average price for gasoline across Northeast Ohio is the same this week at $1.96 per gallon, according to AAA East Central’s Gas Price Report.

The average price for unleaded self-service gasoline in the Youngstown area is $1.93 per gallon.

— Do you have a business announcement you’d like to share? Email news@mahoningmatters.com.



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Guest Column: How to set up your new business location – Albert Lea Tribune

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Guest Column, By Dean Swanson

Opening a brick-and-mortar location will be one of your biggest ongoing costs, as well as a legal commitment, so it’s important to weigh all your options before you sign on the dotted line of your lease.  In this column I will discuss some important considerations regarding how to stake your claim on a location for your business.

Dean Swanson

This is the 10th in a series of columns that provide several helpful business topics for the new small business. It is based on one of SCORE’s recent projects that was developed with the help of and in partnership with FedEx. This project is called Startup Roadmap and outlines every step in starting a business. A SCORE mentor may use this program to help you reach your goal smoothly.

Choosing your company’s physical location is a crucial decision — one that can make the difference between customers finding your business or passing you by. The right business location will help you connect with your target customers, establish credibility as a business and demonstrate immediately what you sell. I will discuss three vital tasks for consideration.

Task No. 1: Research
possible locations.

As I have stated, opening a brick-and-mortar location will be one of your biggest ongoing expenses, so it’s important to weigh all your options before you sign on the dotted line. Start by determining your location requirements based on your business plan. Here are some questions to ask when looking at locations:

• Are there customers nearby? If your business relies on customers actually walking in your door, you’ll need to choose a location near lots of people in your target market.

• Does the space need modification, or is it move-in ready? If structural updates such as rewiring or knocking down walls are needed to make the space suitable for your business, get a local contractor’s estimate on how much this will cost and how long it will take.

• Is the area zoned for your type of business? Zoning laws may restrict the type of signs you can put outside your business, the hours you can operate or the type of business you can run from that location.

• What businesses are nearby? You don’t want to be too close to businesses that directly compete with yours.

• What is the cost? Rent is only part of your total cost for a commercial space. Other costs can include utilities, janitorial services, security services, real estate taxes and maintenance of common areas.

When choosing your location, there are also other considerations specific to various industries (watch for further suggestions on these in future columns).

You should also consider whether you need dedicated office space or if you could use a co-working space instead.

Choosing your physical location is a complex decision that has lasting legal and financial implications. Take advantage of your SCORE mentor’s experience and knowledge of the local business environment to help you make the right choice. Your mentor can review your ideas and remind you of the factors you may not have considered.

Task No. 2: Negotiate a commercial lease.

If you are not purchasing a location, it’s a good idea to have more than one location under consideration as you start negotiating. This way, you can compare what different landlords are willing to offer and bargain with them to get the best deal.

Here are several items to consider when you look over a commercial lease:

• What is included in your cost?

• Find out if your space has its own utility meters or costs are split among tenants based on square footage.

• For services that aren’t included in the rent, estimate your monthly costs and build them into your overall cost so you can make an apples-to-apples comparison between different locations.

• Is a security deposit required? If so, how much?

• How will fit-up or build-out costs be handled?

• If you want to make additional changes to the space in the future, can you do so?

• Can you sublet all or part of the space to another tenant?

• Can you get protection against competition?

• Can you get a co-tenancy clause?

• How will disagreements between tenant and landlord be handled (mediation, arbitration, etc.)?

• What are the lease terms?

• What happens if you need to terminate the lease early?

• Can you get any additional perks thrown in?

Keep in mind that negotiation is accepted and even expected when discussing a commercial real estate lease. If you know what features of a lease are essential for your business and which are just nice to have, you’ll be in a better position to negotiate.

Task No. 3: Buy or lease equipment for your location. 

Figuring out what equipment you need for your business, and where you should cut back or splurge, will help you avoid making poor choices. Once you know what’s essential and what’s just “nice to have,” you can make the most of your startup budget and ensure that you’re properly equipped for success.

You may need some or all of the following:

• Computers

• Mobile devices

• Printer, copier, scanner

• Phone system

• IT assistance

• Packing and mailing equipment

• Furnishings

• Industry-specific equipment and furnishings

• Vehicles

Dean Swanson is a volunteer certified SCORE mentor and former SCORE chapter chairman, district director and regional vice president for the northwest region. The local SCORE chapter can be found online at www.scmnscore.org.

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