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Finding Your Voice: Celebrating Asian American Small Business Month

May 26, 2021
Tim Coop
Tim Coop

Eight years ago, Alexis Nguyen was steadily gaining a reputation in corporate America as a leading executive in the IT management industry when she was suddenly struck with “a calling.” The 49-year-old feels at a loss for words when she tries to convey her emotions at the time.

“This calling went on for a long time. Six months. I remember trying to figure out what it was, and then two words popped into my head: senior care,” said Nguyen.

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With that thought in mind, she left her job as a multi-state utilization management expert and began exploring the realm of senior health care. Today, she is flourishing as an entrepreneur, a franchise owner overseeing six locations and 200 employees at Assisting Hands Homecare in Florida, a senior home care service organization. Assisting Hands supports the enrichment of seniors’ lives by providing services that encompass personal care, custodial care, homemaking and companion care, and specialized services and programs, such as respite care.

While Nguyen is currently reaping the rewards for her leap of faith, she stresses that life as a small business owner is not easy. “Eighty percent of people fail within the first year. Recently, the rates have been a lot more or higher. That first year, it’s a balancing act of managing your finances and wearing a multitude of hats,” said Nguyen.

She said that one of her most significant accomplishments was learning how to be her own advocate, creating opportunities, and accessing resources.

“Culturally, Asian women are not encouraged to be assertive or taught how to be persistent. These are skill sets I learned over the years. Thanks to my mentors, I learned the right time to speak up and intentionally create opportunities for myself.”

She met one of those mentors at a networking event Hancock Whitney Vice President and Business Banker John Balestrieri. The two shared common interests, and John provided insights that resonated with Nguyen. She had previously looked into partnerships with other banks, but “it never felt like the right partnership.”

When her business plans fluctuated shortly after their meeting, she reached out to Balestrieri for his expertise. “I needed a line of credit in 2019, and he made that happen for us. Then April of 2020 came around. We were constantly juggling, trying to maintain our regular service offerings, and adapting to certain lockdown restrictions. We knew we needed help,” said Nguyen.

Balestrieri effortlessly navigated her team through the application process of the first round of Payroll Protection Program (PPP) loan distributions. “It was like he was reading my mind. There were no barriers,” said Nguyen. “Since then, I haven’t worked with any other bank. I built my relationship with Hancock Whitney and even opened a second business with them.”

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Alexis Nguyen celebrates her staff's excellence in service.

In addition to acquiring mentors and building financial stability, Nguyen seeks to set her business apart creatively through unique business strategies. She actively hires bilingual or multilingual staff members that can provide translation offerings, and the client response to this practice has been overwhelmingly positive. Her locations provide up to six different language services, which include Spanish, Vietnamese, Russian, to name a few.

“Offering alternative services like this means a lot to minorities during this time, especially with the anti-Asian hate acts. Being an Asian American business owner myself, I feel responsible for moving the needle forward in my service areas,” said Nguyen.

Even before her career switch, Nguyen was no stranger to change. In 1975, when she was three years old, Nguyen’s parents gathered their family to escape the aftermath of the Vietnam War. “As immigrants, we had to learn everything from scratch. The language, the culture. It was challenging,” said Nguyen.

The level of personal fulfillment she experiences from entrepreneurship and love of elders spurs her beyond her recent achievements. “I’m not going to stop here, and that’s where Hancock Whitney comes into play. I’m going to continue to grow,” said Nguyen.

For more information about Hancock Whitney’s Small Business Resources, please visit the following link: https://www.hancockwhitney.com/small-business.