Taishan is a coastal city along the southern province of Guangdong, China -- where an estimated half-million Chinese Americans are descendants. Many of these early Taishanese settlers who helped build the Chinatowns across America, were gritty entrepreneurs just like Wesley Huang.
In 1984, Huang immigrated from Taishan to New York City as a teenager and took a leap of faith that forced him to get up to speed with a new language and new culture, in a big city. He benefited from a Manhattan education, graduating from Seward Park High School and then City College of New York where he developed a passion for software engineering. While in school gaining practical skills that landed him a job, he also worked part-time in a restaurant supply store, gaining niche industry expertise and contacts -- which would turn out to be the seeds planted for his future success.
After graduating from CCNY in 1995, Huang found a job working as a software engineer -- but was eventually laid off in 2001. At that time, the collapse of the twin towers coupled with unemployment became a symbolic and pivotal turning point in his life -- a time when he had not been earning money for a year, back against the wall and had to make an important life decision: either keep looking for a job and risk getting laid off again -- or take a chance and create something that was his own.
Huang spent a lot of time traveling back and forth between Boston and New York City visiting his future wife. As a result of those 4 hour trips, he spent countless hours in his head thinking about his next move. One of those trips yielded a simple, yet powerful revelation -- he just noticed that Boston did not have as many kitchen supply stores as New York City. He remembered his time working in a restaurant supply store in NYC Chinatown and thought about the possibilities of bringing the niche Chinese restaurant supplies, product knowledge and services to the restaurant community in Boston.
On April 18, 2002, Huang opened Eagle Kitchen Supply in Boston’s Chinatown out of a cramped retail shop on the corner of Lincoln Street -- a strategic location in front of where restaurant employees were picked up and transported to their jobs every day. For 13 years, Eagle Kitchen Supply has developed a loyal following of restaurant owners all across the New England area -- attracting not only Chinese restaurant owners, but restaurateurs of all cuisines that learned about his kitchen design and supply expertise. This success led Huang to expand his services and find a larger home for his business. After consulting with his advisors, including his CPA -- Huang learned about SBA’s 504 program and was attracted by the low 10% equity injection and low fixed rate.
While going through the SBA loan process, it made Huang think about the growth possibilities for Eagle Kitchen Supply. Going through the business planning process with the help of his wife in preparation for funding the purchase of a commercial property, helped him to define the future aspirations for his business. He eventually found a hidden gem, multi-use building for sale in South Boston’s redeveloping commercial district. Huang admits, “I could not have done this without SBA’s help and the loan process was easier than expected”. Currently, his business is occupying three of the five units in the building -- housing an office for the business, sheet metal fabrication shop, warehouse for inventory and a street-level retail store – much bigger than the original location. Additionally, Huang receives mortgage assistance in the form of rent from two tenants occupying retail spaces on the street-level of the building, including a pizza chain and a home security store.
New American entrepreneurs just like Wesley Huang are twice as likely to start a business, and twice as likely to file a patent according to research conducted on immigrant entrepreneurship. Today, immigrants employ 1 out of every 10 employees and start 28% of all new businesses – that’s why SBA is piloting a “New Americans Initiative” to help raise awareness about SBA resources available in communities with high concentrations of immigrants and refugees.
For more information, visit: https://www.whitehouse.gov/issues/immigration/new-americans