AAPI women-owned businesses are a critical part of the U.S. business fabric
One out of every 10 businesses in the United states—that is more than 55,200 businesses—is Asian-owned. Within that segment, Asian-American women-owned businesses grew by 37 percent in the five years leading up to the pandemic. 
It’s no secret that the pandemic plagued small business owners nationally and across all demographics with shutdowns, supply chain shortages and inflation. And while AAPI women entrepreneurs have grown significantly in the recent past, the negative impacts of the pandemic affected these women at a higher rate than their male-owned and non-minority-owned counterparts.
In addition to the pandemic, the AAPI community faced an alarming increase in racism and hate crimes, impacting their families and too often their storefronts.
The difficulty accessing capital has been detrimental for the AAPI community of small business owners: 58 percent of AAPI entrepreneurs had difficulty with federal, state and local relief programs targeted to support small businesses. Of the $800 billion in federal dollars provided as a lifeline to small business owners through the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a scant $7.7 million went to AAPI-owned businesses.
Acknowledging the need is step one, but we need actual, tangible support
During this past AAPI Heritage Month, I had the pleasure and opportunity to participate in a conversation hosted by Hello Alice to surface some of the unique challenges AAPI women business owners face and how corporate businesses can effectively support this growing group of entrepreneurs. I was joined by Darien Siguenza, Program Manager for Hawai’i FoundHer, and Elizabeth Gore, Co-Founder and President at Hello Alice.
Hawai’i FoundHer, the organization Darein manages, offers tailored solutions and support for Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, and/or Asian women and mothers starting businesses in five core markets of Hawaiʻi’s economy: Tech, Fashion, Health & Wellness, Food System/Restaurants, and Keiki/Education. They also meet the childcare needs of the women in their program, as well as provide mentorship and grant funds. Offering this kind of support allows women business owners to focus solely on growing and building their businesses from the ground up. While this effort is Hawaii-based, this is the kind of intentional support we need to see more nationally to continue to propel AAPI women entrepreneurs forward.
In our conversation, we concurred that there is no substitute for capital access. At Alibaba.com, we have an extreme focus on fueling the growing entrepreneur economy and while we realize that no two small businesses are the same, access to capital is a core constraint when it comes to growing a business. This was why we partnered with Hello Alice to launch the inaugural Alibaba.com Grants Program in 2021, which awarded 50 U.S-based entrepreneurs each with a $10,000 cash grant and provided resources on business topics to fully support Americans in building their businesses online.
Over 10 percent of our recipients are self-identified AAPI businesses. One is LA-based Ashley Xie, founder of Rooted Fare, which creates original, versatile and easy-to-use cultural sauces to help home cooks nail those flavors and satisfy cultural food cravings. More than a sauce company, Ashley and her co-founder are trying to create a meaningful impact on the immigrant chef community—which has been hard hit by the pandemic, as well as the larger food system. They partner and profit-share with immigrant chefs who’ve cooked their recipes for decades to deliver flavors unique to the mainstream market. I’ve tried their black sesame crunchy butter and it is divine!
As a member of the AAPI community and small business enthusiast, it is imperative that we all take a step back and ask what we can do to support our fellow women-preneurs year around, whether that's having meaningful conversations and exchanging knowledge, funding grants programs, backing women-focused accelerators, supporting their businesses directly as a consumer, or creating other supportive business initiatives.


Erica Chan