3rd Annual California Asian Business Summit

Thursday night commuter traffic in the heart of downtown San Francisco coalesced with the roar of applause pulsating from the Ralston Room of the luxurious Palace Hotel.

Mayor Edwin Lee’s voice cut through the brass-trimmed doors that swished across slabs of elegant cut marble at the southwest entrance as he spoke about the legacy of San Francisco and its businesses.

Over 200 people attended the VIP Cocktail Reception on Sept 18 and celebrated the launch of the 3rd Annual California Asian Business Summit hosted by the California Asian Pacific Chamber of Commerce (CalAsian), the Asian and Pacific Islander American Chamber of Commerce and Entrepreneurship (ACE) and ChinaSF.

Business and government leaders from across California enjoyed appetizers and refreshments as they witnessed their fellow colleagues be praised for their efforts this past year in facilitating the success of Asian Pacific Islander (API) businesses all across the state.

Mayor Lee and Assemblymember Phil Ting were among the presenters of the Summit awards, which included Legacy of the Year, Nonprofit of the Year, Entrepreneur of the Year, Innovator of the Year and Export Achievement of the Year.

“The VIP award ceremony set the perfect tone for the Summit’s events the next day,” said Innovator of the Year award recipient Esther Yang Shaw. “I was honored to help represent the qualities of California business that the Summit aims to impart upon all of its attendees.”

When the brief ceremony concluded, bottles of Anchor Steam continued to clink together with hearty handshakes and warm laughter, all as an overture to the grandeur of a string quartet concluding the gala.

With Summit doors opening at 8 a.m., attendees were greeted by the Summit’s connection corridor in the Regency Foyer, which featured top-tier exhibitors such as AT&T, PG&E and Union Bank.

Across the hall, as attendees admired the vintage vaulted ceilings of the Grand Ballroom and made themselves comfortable in the network-friendly banquet seating and enjoyed a breakfast buffet, which included pastries, fresh fruit and sausage.

Nearly 500 attendees listened and watched as the morning address highlighted the morning breakout sessions and championed individual small business that played a role in the Twitter-oriented #iamsmallbusiness campaign.

Behind each speaker, the highlight of which was Assemblymember Phil Ting echoing the sentiments expressed during last night’s reception, a flood of real-time interactions were documented by participants tweeting and re-tweeting their experience as they flashed above the Summit’s projection screen.

The campaign put a digital face on California’s small business community, featuring key industry sectors and the diversity of California’s small business owners. According to Tweet Binder, #iamsmallbusiness had over 2 million Twitter impressions.

The impact of API businesses in California was further revealed by an eye-opening video presentation put together by CalAsian and ACE board member, IW Group’s Bill Imada and the Asian American Advertising Federation, that specifically cited the statistical emergence of the API voice all across the country.

The general morning session, held directly after the morning ceremony, featured moderation by Bay Area Council’s Jim Wunderman and distinguished panelists from Verizon, Wells Fargo and Dignity Health.

Their fruitful conversation set the stage for smaller breakout events conducted upstairs that traversed crucial topics such as strategies for successful start-ups, innovations for small businesses, skills for lucrative international trade and one-on-one business matchmaking.

“The focus on promoting California small businesses at this year’s Summit, and the manner in which it was executed, raised the bar for all other Asian business events,” said Warren Kashiwagi of Crowe Horwath, who attended the event.

The community structure of each of the discussions brought forth valuable information from direct personal reflections each attendee could apply to their own trials and tribulations in successfully navigating California’s economic landscape.

Flushed with new information and insight, attendees were then treated to a lunch banquet, mimicking the culinary excellence displayed at breakfast.

As summit participants renewed their energy on braised beef, seared pork belly and roasted chicken breast, accompanied by a variety of salad options, the keynote speaker took the stage.

Formally introduced by Chase, with the measured flair of a rock-star politician, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom delivered an engaging treatise on a dynamic California, an environment that no longer thrives in a top-down business structure, but requires the implementation of new technologies to take advantage of the lateral connectivity available among modern business resources.

The entire room was captivated. At one point prior to Newsom’s address, CalAsian President & CEO Pat Fong Kushida had to quiet down the clamor of attendees who wanted to have their picture taken with the Lieutenant Governor.

“The Lieutenant Governor’s presence and message created so much electricity for the event,” said Kushida. “The energy he brought to Summit sustained the attendees appetite for groundbreaking ideas as they transitioned into the afternoon programs.”

Continuing the prestige of Summit speakers, the afternoon general session, moderated deftly by State Controller John Chiang, corralled tech-industry input by digital-platform leaders such as Comcast, Google and Soffront, and discussed the best applications of 21st century technologies.

Similar to morning format, the afternoon sessions were held upstairs. They provided the paths to success through facilitating avenues for trade in China, tools to grow your business, dissecting California’s new majority, while continuing one-on-one business matchmaking.

“Each breakout session succinctly revealed comprehensive details that cater to achieving the type of business success our participants desire,” said Kushida.

As the afternoon sessions came to a close, Summit participants left the Palace Hotel better equipped with the tools necessary to compete in the next generation of business.

ChinaSF, CalAsian Chamber and ACE were lauded by the community for not only the quality of the Summit experience, but the organization in its framework.

As the San Francisco financial district settled into its weekend lull, nearly 500 emerged from its core with a definitive edge in applicable knowledge and a wealth of lucrative contacts as they step forth into California’s future.

“This was the best Asian business summit I have ever attended,” said Kashiwagi.