In her native China, Susan Fang worked as a doctor and a nurse throughout intense years of political and social chaos. When she emigrated from Shanghai to the United States with her family in 1996, she got a master's degree in acupuncture and Oriental medicine and became a licensed acupuncturist. But translating her medical expertise into local business know-how, and achieving her dream of opening her own practice, looked impossible. Then Fang took an entrepreneurial training course offered in Mandarin by the Women's Enterprise Development Corp. in El Monte. The class, sponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration, unlocked the mysteries of Western commerce for Fang, who was interviewed by freelance writer Karen E. Klein.
For two years after I got my acupuncture license, I looked for a job. I worked for acupuncture clinics, but most are small and they don't hire assistants. When they do, the pay is not good. I thought about opening my own clinic, but my English is not good and I didn't know how to open a business here.
In 1999, I came to the WEDC [Women's Enterprise Development Corp.] class and learned all the necessary, basic knowledge so I could open my business. They taught me marketing, and banking, and insurance, and business law. When I was through I wasn't worrying too much about opening my clinic because I knew exactly what to do.
I was one of the first 28 people to complete the Chinese class and eight of us have started our own companies so far. The government does not have these wonderful programs in other countries and I felt so lucky and so proud of myself when I completed the course. Before, I couldn't decide if I should open my clinic. I hesitated. But this program gave me so many pushes that there was no way for me to go back. I knew, even if it was difficult, I could do it. The WEDC and the SBA gave me strong power to open my own business.
In March 2000, I opened an office in Arcadia. During the class, I had learned about choosing a location, getting permits and doing the marketing. The WEDC also helped me get an SBA Microloan for $5,000 to buy equipment. When I had a question, I called them and they gave me a wonderful answer. If you hire a lawyer, or an accountant, or a banker, they all charge you money. This advice was free and I wouldn't have been able to open a business without it.
I could never imagine myself as a businesswoman before, but now I am one. I have had more than 100 patients in my clinic, and I have opened another location in Huntington Beach with two partners, where we can do a new treatment that we're getting a patent for. I have applied for another SBA loan, this time for $20,000, for the new equipment.
I feel like the WEDC and the SBA are my business hometown. It's like a mother-child relationship, because any time I need something, I think about my training and I call Jinbin Wang Bacon, the project director in El Monte, and she helps me with follow-up counseling.
I would not be here today without all their help. I have a booth and I've donated my services at Asian festivals and business education forums so I can give something back to the community. Personally, I am weak, but with all the support I have gotten, I am strong.
If your business can provide a lesson to other entrepreneurs, contact Karen E. Klein at the Los Angeles Times, 1333 S. Mayflower Ave., Suite 100, Monrovia, CA 91016 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your name, address and telephone number.