MOBI Partner MBDA/ASIAN, Inc. Provides Entrepreneurship Program to Help Minority Business Owners Pursue California Dream Fund Grants
The Minority Business Development Agency’s San José MBDA Business Center, operated by ASIAN, Inc. is leveraging its partnership with the My Own Business Institute (MOBI) at Santa Clara University to help minority business owners pursue funding opportunities through the State of California’s Dream Fund Program . As part of this effort, San José MBDA/ASIAN, Inc. translated the MOBI curriculum into Chinese to provide greater accessibility to participants.
“Collaborating with MBDA/ASIAN, Inc. has been an incredible opportunity for MOBI,” said MOBI Executive Director and Leavey School of Business Professor of Information Systems and Analytics Drew Starbird, Ph.D. “It’s inspiring to see this organization provide access to the California Dream Fund using MOBI’s entrepreneurship curriculum, and creating the translation increases MOBI’s accessibility to a huge part of our community. Accessibility is one of the cornerstones of MOBI’s mission and we are honored by this partnership.”
San José MBDA, operated by ASIAN, Inc., is one of the participating centers selected by the State of California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) Technical Assistance Expansion Program (TAEP). Through TAEP, San José MBDA provides new entrepreneurs and small business owners with key training so they can qualify for California Dream Fund Program grant funding. The California Dream Fund is a one-time $35 million grant program to seed entrepreneurship and small business creation statewide. Following successful completion of the training and consulting program, new businesses will be eligible to apply for a grant of up to $10,000.
“MBDA/ASIAN, Inc. has been providing technical assistance for many years, and San José MBDA already has a strong relationship and reputation within the community. When the California Dream Fund was first announced, we wanted to apply because it addresses a key gap in entrepreneurship support missed by other grant programs,” said Porter Wong, Senior Business Consultant with San José MBDA. “While we were drafting the application to partner with the Dream Fund, we thought of MOBI as a natural fit. MOBI has the core curriculum, technology, and logistics established, as well as strong foundational business content.”
The California Dream Fund stipulates that applicant businesses need to have been formed after July 1, 2019. According to San José MBDA/ASIAN, Inc. prior government funding programs had provided assistance for revenue-generating businesses already in existence before 2019. Therefore, businesses formed after 2019, many of which may not yet be generating appreciable revenue, have been left without many funding opportunities. Grant funds from the Dream Fund can be used to maintain operations and grow the business, by, for example, supporting employee expenses, working capital, marketing, and lease and permit renewal.
As part of the training program offered by San José MBDA/ASIAN, Inc. participants are required to complete a ten-unit custom course featuring MOBI’s entrepreneurship curriculum, complete a business plan, and meet with an advisor. The organization continues its relationship with each participant for two years following the completion of this program to help provide support and sustainability.
“We want our participants to succeed,” said Wong. “Even after they receive funding, we check in with them, provide assistance or guidance where needed, and we want to see them making progress.”
While all participants are required to complete the course, quizzes, and final exam in English, San José MBDA/ASIAN, Inc. felt it was really important to provide the content in Chinese as a reference as well. This allows participants to take the course in English, with the option to refer to the material in a more familiar language to ensure they are understanding the concepts. Providing both languages helps the participants to be more comfortable with the English terminology while at the same time learning business fundamentals.
“Our students are very excited about the opportunity provided by the MOBI curriculum regardless of their educational background,” said Wong. “Many immigrants don’t have much formal education from their home country, so when they have a chance to learn something in a professional context, they are super excited. MOBI’s curriculum is practical, not business theory, so the participants feel they can apply what they learn.”
Manna Zheng, San José MBDA/ASIAN, Inc. Business Consultant, continued, “Others who have more education are also very excited because they find the material a useful refresher course.”
Wong went on to mention that despite the large Chinese population in the state, there is not a lot of nonprofit support. San José MBDA/ASIAN, Inc. Program Development Officer Yi-Hui Chen added, “Very few resources have Chinese-language support. Newcomers to the US want to achieve their American Dream, so we provide access with the Chinese-language reference, yet we still ask them to complete the course in English. The quizzes and tests are in English only.” San José MBDA/ASIAN, Inc. would like to provide additional language support to foster entrepreneurship in other regions as well, such as the Central Valley and southern California.
San José MBDA/ASIAN, Inc. is one of nearly 20 technical assistance centers in the state providing the programming required to apply for California Dream Fund grants. So far, about 40 participants have begun the San José MBDA/ASIAN, Inc. program, and several have been awarded grants.
In fact, the very first student who completed the course was awarded $10,000. The client started her Sacramento massage therapy business in 2020. She wanted to grow her business but lacked confidence due to limited English language abilities and a perceived discrimination due to the nature of her business. San José MBDA/ASIAN, Inc. business consultants assured her that her business was like any other, and with the right licenses and permits in place she had an equal opportunity as anyone else to pursue funding. She felt inspired to give it a try, and enlisted her husband to take the course with her. While his English language abilities are not much more advanced than hers, they felt stronger together. Wong felt proud of their effort and shared, “Our client was really motivated; she had never had a chance to take any English classes. She worked on it together with her husband every day after she closed the shop. She was so excited when she received the grant funding.”
Another student is WHIRED Wine Window owner John Marco, who operates a unique wine bar experience in midtown Sacramento (pictured above). The WHIRED Wine Window has an Italian theme and the concept pays homage to the wine merchants of Italy who would conduct business through wine windows to avoid getting sick during the Black Death pandemic of the 14th century. Marco completed the San José MBDA/ASIAN, Inc. program, applied for the California Dream Fund, and was awarded a grant. He is excited about the opportunity to invest in and grow his business.
San José MBDA/ASIAN, Inc. is thrilled about the progress so far and the opportunities that lie ahead for their small business and entrepreneur participants. In the future they hope to offer other programs provided by the state similar to the California Dream Fund. Chen said, “The entities we work with are very diverse. We want to be the one-stop shop for all those business owners, for any type of assistance. Whether you want to start your own business, improve your operations and management, or grow your business by pursuing contracts with other businesses or the government, we provide services that can help. We are very excited to continue our relationship with MOBI, we believe that MOBI will allow us to help more people.”
The Minority Business Development Agency is the only federal agency tasked with promoting the growth and competitiveness of minority-owned businesses. For two decades, ASIAN, Inc. has operated MBDA Business Centers serving minorities of all racial backgrounds throughout the Greater San Francisco Bay Area, Central Valley and beyond. For more information, please contact San José MBDA/ASIAN, Inc. at email@example.com or call (408) 998-8058.
Sacramento's WHIRED Wine Window, grant recipient. Photos from website and social media post.