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From Far East to Southeast, Yang Luo-Branch Brings Business Cultures Together

3 min read
Yang Luo-Branch, 33, is the founder and president of the Arkansas Association of Asian Businesses, which was formed in 2017 and works with Asian-owned businesses or Arkansas businesses with Asian interests.

She was born in Henan, a province of China, and came to the United States as a postgraduate, where she earned a master’s degree in urban sociology and a doctorate in land-use planning from Texas Tech University in Lubbock. She worked for Hot Springs Village before taking a position with the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.

Luo-Branch also is the owner of architectural rendering firm Y Illustrations of Little Rock.

Why is an Asian business association useful?

The Arkansas Association of Asian Businesses was formed to serve the Arkansan-Asian business community, specifically to support the professional growth of those Arkansans of Asian descent, to promote Asian-owned businesses in Arkansas, to provide assistance to Arkansas companies looking to explore Asian markets, to provide resources for companies and professionals from Asian countries looking to explore business opportunities with Arkansas and, overall, to be an advocate for entrepreneurship that is related to Arkansas and Asia.

As Arkansas becomes more competitive in the entrepreneurial ecosystem and advances in the global economy, I feel it is time for there to be a professional organization to bridge Arkansas and Asia, and our organization is stepping up to fill that role.

How many Asian-owned businesses are there in Arkansas?

According to the 2012 Survey of Business Owners released by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2015, there were 4,680 Asian-owned businesses, accounting for 2.05% of all businesses in Arkansas. To put this in perspective, the Asian population is about 1.2% of Arkansas’ total population. Among all Asian nationalities represented, Vietnamese-Arkansans own the largest number of businesses in Arkansas, while Indian-Arkansan-owned businesses represent the largest proportion when measured by sales, shipments, receipts and revenue.

What industries have been difficult for Asian businesspeople to break into?

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2012 Survey of Business Owners shows that Asian-owned businesses are low in these sectors: finance and insurance, wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, information, mining, quarrying, oil and gas extraction, utilities and management of companies and enterprises. My guess is that these sectors typically require more extensive social capital for the business to sustain, such as a developed local network and understanding of the culture. Because of language and cultural barriers, the Asian immigrants lack the accumulation of such social capital. However, as new technology alters how people do business, this dynamic may change.

What cross-cultural misunderstandings have you encountered on the job, and how did you deal with them?

In many professional settings, Asian people are often seen as the quiet ones. Their soft-spoken nature is sometimes perceived as a weakness and therefore they are sometimes taken advantage of — for example, not giving them a chance to speak in meetings.

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Sorted by country of ownership and city in Arkansas where located. Includes number of Arkansas employees.

The cultural misunderstanding goes both ways. The American team leaders and teammates need to understand that their Asian colleagues were brought up being told “silence is gold” and that waiting to be asked to speak was a virtue, which resembles humility and respect for others. The Chinese professional needs to understand that in the U.S., public speaking is an essential career skill and voicing one’s opinion is important and constructive to teamwork.

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