The Arkansas Association of Asian Businesses (AAAB) is on a mission to serve the Arkansan-Asian business community in professional growth, networking and increased access to opportunities and resources. They are advocates for entrepreneurship that is related to Arkansas and Asia.
When Yang Luo-Branch, PhD, founder and president of the AAAB, got her start in the Arkansas business industry as an analyst, she recognized a need to inform and support others that shared her background.
“I’m a Chinese immigrant. After work, I was meeting people with similar backgrounds as myself, who have some kind of international background,” said Luo-Branch. “They have a lot of things they bring from their background into Arkansas, and this makes our culture that much more flavorful.”
Her work as an analyst with the Arkansas Economic Development Commission at the time granted her an inside view into how people and things come together. She learned how the commission marketed the resources of Arkansas to people throughout the country and to foreign markets to attract foreign investments.
“That’s when I had a visibility of learning about economic development and community development in a global context.”
In her daily experiences and interactions with others in the local international community, she noticed the conversations rarely ventured into this space although there were ample opportunities for professional and business development.
“I see that a lot of the communications were about finding food, cooking recipes – food is a big thing about the culture – but nothing about the economic side or the business side or professional development side in these conversations, ” she said.
The more she noticed the conversations revolving around everything else including childcare, food, politics, and other day-to-day topics, the more she realized the need for discussions on business and development on these platforms in international communities to leverage for their advantage.
And Luo-Branch resolved to do something about it.
AAAB Member at whiteboard discussing business concepts.
In 2017, Luo-Branch launched the AAAB with a mission to serve the Arkansan-Asian business community.
“I could sit back and wonder if someone would take the lead and create a platform or I could just do it myself,” she said. “People like myself coming from another culture into Arkansas, there is nobody championing us for personal and professional development. I had to figure out my way to adapt to the mainstream American workplace.
“I see Arkansas as different than other places like California or New York. So what if Arkansas entrepreneurs and business people want to get to know the other side of the globe? Where do they learn about that kind of information?”
AAAB Members in a museum featuring prominent figures of Asian descent.
Luo-Branch soon got to work connecting with other businesspersons of Asian descent in the region. Because of her work with the commission at the time, she had seen a lot of public information and data coming across her desk as an analyst.
Her initial goal was to make this info more readily available to people in the international community. Today, the AAAB upholds this objective and more — boasting a growing membership base with four levels of membership including student, individual, small enterprise and large corporation.
“For our short-term goal, we want to continue to ask why the AAAB exists. We want to be able to deliver what’s truly meaningful. We want to do things because there’s a need for us to exist,” she said.
Presenting an "Arkansas Asian Briefing"
Pre-Covid, the AAAB held quarterly workshops for educational purposes and networking events. They continue to do this virtually and even hosted a celebration for the Lunar New Year this past February.
On March 25, the organization plans to host a new program called The Arkansas Asian Briefing to engage movers and shakers in the Arkansas Asian Business community with the intent to share projects and get to know what each other are pursuing and doing.
AAAB wants members to get to know others in their network, learn about each others’ initiatives, support progress and present opportunities to get involved. In that regard, the organization hasn’t felt hindered or limited in the virtual space during the pandemic.
They see it as an opportunity for anyone to connect: someone can dial in from Asia, from other parts of the U.S. “but with Arkansas as the pivot point,” said Luo-Branch.
“We’re just facilitators of conversations, of networking opportunities, ” she said. “We know people are doing things and we know people are seeking out for things — we bring them together.”
Time/Date: 8 am CT, Thur March 25 (Early morning meeting to accommodate Asia time zone)
Registration here (free but required for everyone)
– Startup Junkie Taylor Hasley on Arkansas Korea Alliance (live interview)
– Bentonville City Council Women Gayatri Agnew on being the first Asian-American woman on a city council in Arkansas (live interview)
– Arkansas Economic Development Commission Clark Cogbill on Pitching Arkansas to Asia
About the program: The “Arkansas-Asia Briefing” is a quarterly 1-hr online event, hosted by the Arkansas Association of Asian Businesses (AAAB, www.ArkAsianBiz.com). The aim is to bring together the movers and shakers to share first-hand about their recent impactful activities in the Arkansas-Asia business community.