Above: KYCC Business Counselor Young-Gi Harabedian leads small business workshops and consultations in Spanish, Korean and English.

This article was featured in the April 2015 issue of KoreAm.

This spring, the Small Business Development Program at the Koreatown Youth & Community Center (KYCC) is promoting our Women’s Business Center (WBC) to encourage and support women entrepreneurs in Los Angeles’s Koreatown. KYCC, as part of the Asian Pacific Islander Small Business Program (APISBP), received a federal grant in 2003 to operate a WBC from the Small Business Administration’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership to foster, recruit, and assist women entrepreneurs.

Our four APISBP partner agencies are Chinatown Service Center, Little Tokyo Service Center, Search to Involve Pilipino Americans, and Thai Community Development Center.

“Since there is a tendency for the business climate to be male-dominated, it is crucial to provide networking opportunities, resources and tools to women business owners,” says KYCC Business Counselor Young-Gi Harabedian. “We are looking to create an environment where women entrepreneurs—particularly those who are economically or socially disadvantaged–can exchange their ideas, concerns and best practices to help each other thrive.”

In 1988 the SBA established the Women’s Business Center (WBC) Program to better help women overcome continuing barriers to success. Today there are WBCs in almost every state. KYCC’s WBC offers comprehensive training and counseling for women entrepreneurs to help them start and grow their own businesses.

The return on investment of the program is high, as businesses that receive assistance from WBCs have significantly better survival rates than those that don’t receive similar support. These successful businesses directly affect the communities in which they are located by bolstering the local economies.

Currently, the majority of KYCC’s Small Business Development Programs clients are male (51 percent), but Harabedian hopes that by building up recruitment and marketing efforts for women entrepreneurs the percentage of women’s involvement will increase.

She adds that though these efforts are underway, the SBDP, a program of KYCC’s Community Economic Development unit, is not segregated by gender. The SBP, which has offered workshops and one-on-one counseling for Korean American and Koreatown businesses since 1992, is open to any first-time or current business owners who are in need of assistance.

As the new KYCC Business Counselor, Harabedian is particularly adept at this role, given her professional background in local government, private sector agencies and media organizations. She is also fluent in Korean, Spanish and English, which enables her to provide trilingual business counseling.

Clients spend hours in one-on-one business counseling sessions, monthly workshops and an eight-week Entrepreneurial Training Program (ETP) concentrating on industry-specific topics that provide key resources and tools.

One of the strongest components of the program is brainstorming, receiving feedback and accessing resources to create a sound business plan, which can be a daunting first step for many small business owners.

In March 2015, KYCC’s SBP workshop reviewed licenses and permits to start a business in the City of Los Angeles, and detailed the local government agency’s process. A second workshop discussed target audiences, multicultural marketing, and public relations. Wells Fargo Bank delivered a third “Access to Capital” workshop, which outlined step-by-step procedures to qualify for small business loans.