‘It’s very stressful’: Asian companies fight pandemic

GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan (WOOD) – After a year of closures and restrictions, many small Asian businesses in West Michigan are struggling to survive.

“We are still slow because COVID-19 is pushing people away,” said Le Nails owner in Portage, Phong Pham.

A United States Chamber of Commerce Study shows that minority-owned businesses have been disproportionately affected during the pandemic, especially when it comes to obtaining loans or other relief benefits from COVID-19.

“It’s like you’ve fallen into a forest without a map and you’re just trying to get out of it,” lawyer Crystal Bui said. “That’s the analogy I would give (and) I’m not trying to be dramatic there, but it’s really a lot harder for a minority business owner.”

As an active member of the West Michigan Asian community and founder of Awareness of the Asian community, a local non-profit organization, Bui has become a trusted resource for minority business owners. She mainly works with nail salons owned by Asian companies and other companies in the personal care service industry.

“I work with minority business owners because we have this cultural connection and because I speak the language,” Bui said.

Bui said she helps business owners by helping them overcome challenges such as the language barrier and the cultural divide.

“I was sort of the go-between to fill out their paperwork application and get some sort of temporary (financial) relief,” she said.

Its services range from obtaining loans to managing contracts and disputes with landlords.

“I am the person who negotiates with the owner and I try to tell his story,” said Bui. “I’m the person following the (COVID-19 restriction) updates saying, ‘You can’t do this, you have to do it’, ‘

Through his work, Bui has helped a handful of salons find relief in these troubled times.

The Nails and Millenium Nails in Portage are two of the salons it represents. The owners are both grateful for Bui’s expertise and guidance.

Even with Bui by their side, salon owners are concerned about their ability to recover from the financial blow of the pandemic.

“It’s very stressful, we think about it every day,” said Pham. “We are working seven days a week to hope the business stays alive and the pandemic is gone soon.”

Bui said there was always a great need for more people and resources to help Asian businesses affected by the pandemic.

“I get calls all the time from nail salon tenants in Battle Creek, Muskegon, and Lansing saying, ‘I have this situation,’” Bui said. “But unfortunately there are only a limited number of clients you can help because every situation is so complex.”

Wishing he could help more businesses, Bui had no choice but to turn these people away.

“That’s why I want to bring this story to light and make the community aware that a little help, compassion and understanding in business relationships and from community on all sides would really be. useful, ”she said.

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About Christopher Easley

Christopher Easley

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