SIPA holds small business seminar in Cerritos

CERRITOS – Search to Involve Pilipino Americans (SIPA), a Los Angeles-based nonprofit organization that serves the Filipino-American community in Southern California, held a small business seminar in Cerritos on Wednesday, Sept. 24 to promote entrepreneurship.

In staging the event, SIPA partnered with the City of Cerritos and three local Filipino American Chambers of Commerce: Orange County, South East Corridor, and South Bay.

Cerritos City Mayor Mark Pulido said that the local government is “proud” to take part in the event and to provide the venue for the seminar, which helps bring the community together — especially the aspiring entrepreneurs — and give them good information on how to properly establish their business and how they can be successful in their endeavors.

“The City of Cerritos is always interested in strengthening our local economy, and having a diverse mix of businesses in the community — from car dealerships at the Cerritos Auto Square, to retail stores at the Los Cerritos Center, to various restaurants offering various cuisines from around the world, to small businesses that could provide local members of the community with various services and goods,” Pulido said.

Pulido said that the seminar was, to his knowledge, the first of what he hopes will be many workshops that provide key entrepreneurial information and services to Cerritos residents and community members.

“I hope that we will see the fruits down the road. But at this point, I think it’s about getting the important information, and the advice and guidance from experienced professionals, to the people so that they could then work hard to realize their dreams,” Pulido added.

According to Joel Jacinto, SIPA’s executive director, the goal of the seminar is to provide entrepreneurial and business services to the attendees, which numbered to about 60 individuals representing 30 to 40 businesses in the area. Jacinto said that the event was part of SIPA’s small business program, which collaborates with the Asian Pacific Islander Small Business Program and the Small Business Administration (SBA).

“This is part of our core services at SIPA, and we’re just taking it out and partnering with Cerritos and Mayor Pulido, to offer it out to a broader number of businesses,” Jacinto said.

Speakers at the seminar discussed key topics for start-up businesses, including mistakes to avoid when opening a business, access to capital, activities that build success, and experiences in starting up a company.

Jacinto said the seminar on Wednesday is only an introductory session that provides an overview of the key areas that aspiring entrepreneurs need to know about. He added that event organizers want to gauge the degree of interest of the attendees in taking part in a “full-blown” entrepreneurial training program, where SIPA will take them through a four-to-eight session multi-week “business boot camp.”

Sam Legaspi, a Filipino-American wealth management expert, talked about how to foster a mindset that propels a successful business.

“Everyone wants to wake up one day and not worry about money,” Legaspi said. “Entrepreneurs nowadays are in a situation where they have a tremendous amount of flexibility.”

He pointed out that if entrepreneurs make the right decisions and moves, and if they understand the worth of their company at a very early stage, they could put themselves in a position where they could either sell their business or that business could be large enough for them to generate cash for the rest of their lives. Legaspi also warned against falling into one of the most dangerous traps of being an entrepreneur: using your business as an ATM on a regular basis.

Kanel Arceno, an aspiring Filipino-American entrepreneur who wants to open up her own restaurant in Downtown Los Angeles, said that the seminar was very helpful.

“It was great. I liked how Mayor Pulido brought everyone together and coordinated with SIPA on this event. SIPA is a great organization for encouraging young entrepreneurs like myself to move forward,” Arceno said.

With SIPA providing step-by-step guidance and resources, Arceno said that it feels like she is never alone in dealing with the challenges of starting up her business venture, a new Filipino restaurant called Pili Manila Grill.

She said that a key lesson she learned from the seminar was how to face the challenges of a startup company.

“As an entrepreneur, you’ll always face obstacles. There are resources that are available to you; even free resources with people willing to help you. It’s just a matter of you being willing to ask, and knowing who to ask in giving you direction and guidance. There are other entrepreneurs out there who have made it and who are willing to help you,” Arceno said.

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