Asian American Chamber of Commerce builds bridges, strengthens partnerships

Cindy Shao is president of the Asian American Chamber of Commerce (AACC). Below, she reflects on the goals of the chamber, and the uniqueness of the central Maryland region. 

Cindy Shao

What are you most excited about as we start 2023?

Shao: We are proud to have served the Asian community for over 14 years and counting! We celebrated our anniversary this month, and we attribute our success to deep roots, a strong foundation, and unwavering support from our dedicated board, member businesses and generous sponsors and partners in this region. Our partnerships with various organizations are instrumental to our success, including corporate sponsors and economic development agencies at different levels of government. We are prepared to empower the AAPI business community and serve more businesses as more partners take part in our work, events, and programs. We are so looking forward to working closely with various organizations to bring resources and share business opportunities with the businesses we serve in the coming year. We host diverse events, and we see them expanding. For instance, we started a GovCon monthly webinar series during the COVID-19 pandemic which served over 2,800 participants from across different states in about two years. We are excited to continue our MOU partnership with U.S Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration (ITA) in 2023 to promote the competitiveness of U.S. industry, improve the global business environment, and provide opportunities and resources for the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI)-owned business community. This partnership will continue to enable a stronger platform for us to support Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) business community in the areas of U.S. trade and foreign investment.”

What do you see as the greatest needs among the businesses you serve?

Shao: The majority of businesses that come to the chamber are in different stages of their development, and have varying marketing, branding, and networking needs. Startups need opportunities to network so they can market their businesses and connect with potential customers or business partners. On the other hand, bigger companies usually want to support the community through sponsorships and demonstrate their commitment to build a vibrant community. Government contractors look for teaming opportunities, learn best practices from each other and have access to additional resources. Some businesses want to learn about latest policies or upcoming trends so they can be better informed.

What’s unique about your members in Howard and Anne Arundel counties? 

Shao: Small businesses in central Maryland require help understanding the local regulations and policies and having access to the resources so they can run their business smoothly. We collaborate with State, County and City government and economic development agencies in the region to offer support. I observed this first-hand during the COVID-19 pandemic when many businesses were requesting EIDL loans and PPP loans. We help businesses in central Maryland connect with resources and navigate the complexities of government regulation. From Asian restaurant, liquor store to alternative medicine such as acupuncture business, we raise their concerns and challenges to the policy makers.

Many small businesses in Anne Arundel and Howard counties find it difficult to open due to a number of factors. They may have trouble dealing with the permitting, zoning and land use regulations, accessing the capital, hiring and retaining workforce which is an issue many businesses are facing.

I want to wish you a Happy Lunar New Year! What will the Asian American Chamber of Commerce do to celebrate? 

Shao: AACC has always been busy during the Lunar New Year season! We organize many celebrations in the region and invite local Asian performing groups to showcase their talents. We worked with Simon Malls in the DMV area and Tysons Corner Center to organize the Lunar New Year Celebration Program.  It’s a great way to share the culture heritage with the community and bring the festivities to everyone. You’ll see employers, schools, and different organizations celebrating in all sorts of fun ways!