“Together We Are Stronger”: How a Central Florida Group is Growing AAPI Businesses


ORLANDO, Florida. – Vi Ma didn’t always grow and build AANHPI businesses as the president of the Asian American Chamber of Commerce in Central Florida.

Before that, she was a young girl no older than 10, selling street food in Vietnam to help her mother, father and four brothers survive after the fall of Saigon in 1975.

[Become a News 6 Insider (it’s free!)]

His father fled to Orlando alone just after North Vietnam took over to help support his family. Ma, his mother and his brothers found him in central Florida almost seven years later, beyond the control of the communist regime.

A d

“We came here for freedom, for education and also this is a future for our own children… My parents, you know, my dad worked so hard his whole life, ran away and came here, and of course he worked two or three jobs to help us survive in Vietnam,” said Ma, who entered the small business world herself after her father fell ill.

He was born out of the need to create a more flexible schedule to care for his father and became the backbone of AACC, a grassroots organization that helps champion, empower and develop current and future business leaders. of AANHPI in the region.

Ma said her mission is “to encourage and support the economic growth and sustainability of the Central Florida community by building bridges and serving as a resource for the Asian American business community in the Pacific Islands. “, something his father had to forge and find on his own.

That’s exactly what she and her chamber, which was established in 1986, through networking mixers, business development workshops, awards galas and youth mentorship programs, among a host of other events and activities.

A d

And Ma knows what it’s like to enter the business world as an immigrant in Central Florida. She started at a McDonald’s drive-thru, flipping burgers, and working the cash register part-time in high school.

“You know, the hardest part for us was the language,” Ma said. age I wish I was born here.

She then worked a series of odd jobs, including restaurant waiter, pool bartender and EPCOT front door attendant.

But during her tenure as chamber president, not only did she see her own career growth, but she also saw the AAPI community grow around her, even after a global pandemic.

“After COVID… I think we’re doing pretty well. I see all the friends and family business owners,” Ma said. “I see them getting back on their feet, although some are fast, some are slower. But at least I see the growth.

A d

From the Mills 50 neighborhood to Orlando’s Chinatown, Asian American Pacific Islander-owned businesses cover a lot of ground in Central Florida, proving to be more than a monolith.

“We see a lot of Vietnamese business owners…around (50 Mills) and a lot more. Now it’s kind of like (mixed) with others. Like Chinese, Japanese, Koreans,” a said Ma.

She said she thought it was important that grocery stores and restaurants were all within walking distance in that area.

“I’m happy…with how Asian American businesses in the Pacific Islands stay close together in an area like this. I think it’s more convenient for tourists, convenient for visitors, convenient for us,” Ma said.

She said it was essential for all of the diverse heritages and cultures in Central Florida and across the country to come together and be a voice for one another, adding that the older generation should serve as model for this practice so that the younger generation can follow.

A d

“My philosophy is that together we are stronger,” Ma said. “I realized that without my mentors, without my friends, without my family, without any corporate or community leaders, I couldn’t be who I am today.”

Ma pointed out that his organization is just one of many seeking to help the community.

“If you start having problems, questions or need advice, just step in and talk. People help. We’re one of… (a) couple hundred resources out there, you know. So contact us and we can guide you to the right place or the right person. And you can get what you want.

To learn more about the Asian American Chamber of Commerce in Central Florida, visit their website.

Copyright 2022 by WKMG ClickOrlando – All Rights Reserved.


Comments are closed.