Celebrating Asian-American Small Business Owners

March 10, 2022

On Wednesday, Feb. 23, The Korean Women’s Association (KWA) along with the Pierce County Economic Development Council and the Pierce County Chamber of Commerce celebrated cohort three of the Pierce County Small Business Accelerator program made up of 21 Asian American small business owners.

Bruce Dammeier, Pierce County Executive; Yeon Koo, Owner of Hair Line Styling Center; Michael Swenson, KWA Executive Director

In attendance at the graduation ceremony, held at the Steilacoom Town Hall, was Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier, who made opening remarks, KWA Executive Director, Michael Swenson, and KWA Board Treasurer, Chongsun Abbott, along with members of the Pierce County Chamber of Commerce and the Pierce County Economic Development.

“We recognize that small businesses are not only the backbone of Pierce County and Washington State but the growth engine for economic recovery during these challenging times,” said Michael Swenson, KWA Executive Director. “We at KWA are honored to assist you and help you find ways to thrive, even during the pandemic.”

Michael Choe, Choe’s Martial Arts School owner

Michael Choe, elected class speaker for the graduation ceremony and owner of Choe’s Martial Arts School, said “many Asian-American small businesses struggled during the pandemic… Three martial arts schools closed. It was hard but we stayed open. I thought about retiring, but KWA and Pierce County stood up… I appreciate what you did and I tried hard to meet your character expectations. I thank you all.”

“We at KWA love being able to partner with Pierce County Economic Development Services, Pierce County Chamber of Commerce, and all the Asian American community and faith-based organizations to continue to provide navigation assistance for small business owners,” says Suzanne Pak, Director of Community and Behavioral Health at KWA. “We learn from them how to be resilient and resourceful, and we are inspired by how committed they are to providing excellent service for their customers.”

KWA has a two-year contract with Pierce County Economic Development to facilitate the Business Accelerator program for small business owners in Korean, Vietnamese, Cambodian, and English. Cohort three members identified as Korean, Vietnamese, and Cambodian.

Cohort three represented the program’s first class of Asian-American small business owners in Pierce County. This BIPOC-focused program is unique in Washington State and provides a level of service and benefit that is not seen even in King County. Graduates of this training can receive $500 monthly assistance towards commercial rent payment and up to $10,000 in matching grants. 

BIPOC small business owners are encouraged to apply for the next cohort. Pierce County small business owners who have revenue less than $325K should apply before April 15, 2022, whether they are a new business or existing business) at www.pcba.biz/. If they need assistance completing the application, they can email cbh@kwacares.org or call Hans Kim at 253-318-0028 for assistance.

KWA’s Community and Behavioral Health Team with Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier