Honoring AANHPI Heritage Month & Celebrating Recovery Success

SBA Southeast Regional Update for Entrepreneurs


May 2021

u s small business administration

Asian American Pacific Islander Entrepreneurs Recover Significantly from the Pandemic

Janita Stewart

By Janita R. Stewart
U.S. Small Business Administration’s Southeast Acting Regional Administrator, serving Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee

According to The White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI), Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are the fastest growing racial group in the United States. There are more than 1.9 million AAPI-owned enterprises in the United States; nearly 10% of all businesses in the United States, or about 1 out of 10 businesses. During AAPI Heritage Month, we are honored to recognize the tremendous accomplishments of AAPI entrepreneurs, especially as all small businesses across the nation are striving to recover and excel through today’s global pandemic.

While we celebrate the many contributions of the Asian-American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander American populace to our Nation, we also recognize that AAPI communities and small businesses face challenges accessing capital and opportunities. Many of the AAPI-owned small businesses need assistance to access available resources such as business development counseling, small-business loans, and government procurement opportunities. This is where the SBA steps in.

Last year, the SBA backed $11.5 billion in traditional 7(a) and 504 Loans to AAPI entrepreneurs. These loans contributed to the $814 billion in revenue that is produced by AAPI-owned employer firms per year. To help maintain these levels of success, many AAPI entrepreneurs took advantage of the recovery programs provided through the Economic Aid Act as well as found success through SBA’s fundamental small business programs.

AAPI Entrepreneurs Highlighted Across the Southeastern Region:



Talha Faruqi, President & Zaheer Faruqi, CEO, Aventure Aviation
Aventure Aviation is a global aftermarket aviation parts supplier headquartered in Peachtree City, Georgia. They have locations across the world and have been able to continue their success through utilizing the first and second draws of the Paycheck Protection Program, which became available under the Economic Aid Act.

Sri Birmingham AL

Sridhara Gutti, Owner, Essnova Solutions, Inc., Birmingham, AL
Srida Gutti has been able to overcome the challenges of today’s environment through utilizing the SBA’s 8(a) Business Development Program as well as designating his business as a HUBZone firm. Through government contracting, Essnova Solutions was named one of the nation’s fastest-growing companies by The Inc. 500 list.

In the SBA Southeast Region, we are happy to join SBA Administrator Guzman and the Biden Administration in honoring and celebrating Asian-American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Americans and their contributions to our nation’s economy through dedicated entrepreneurship. Learn more about SBA programs and services, including Economic Aid Recovery assistance, by following us on Twitter @SBASoutheast and by visiting www.sba.gov.

Congratulations to the New SBA North Carolina District Director, Michael P. Arriola

Michael Arriola Swearing in

Michael P. Arriola was sworn-in as the SBA North Carolina District Director during a ceremony on May 24, 2021. Acting SBA Southeast Regional Administrator Janita R. Stewart (pictured above swearing in Mike Arriola) says “Mike, supported by his SBA North Carolina team, has promoted critical SBA programs and services throughout the duration of the pandemic. Under Mike’s leadership, we look forward to SBA continuing to provide this and other vital assistance to small businesses and entrepreneurs in North Carolina as they get back on track toward regular business operations.” Mike was most recently the Deputy District Director in the North Carolina district and he began his SBA career working in Guam. Please help us in Congratulating Michael Arriola, SBA North Carolina District Director.

SBA Announces New Deputy District Director for North Florida

The SBA is proud to announce the selection of Ms. Jonel Hein as the North Florida Deputy District Director. She will oversee the operations of SBA programs and services across the 43 county North Florida territory. Hein will work with J. Malcolm Richards, District Director to continue providing outreach and assistance to all the small business owners in the area.

Hein previously served as the Deputy Director for the SBA in South Florida.  She has been responsible for the daily operation of the District office in Miami and two Alternate Work Sites in Tampa, FL and Ft. Pierce, FL.  Welcome to North Florida, Jonel!

Jonel Hein

Hear from YOUR Local

SBA District Office

Tom Todt

Alabama District Office

Thomas (Tom) Todt, District Director


Join the SBA Alabama District Office on Tuesday, June 1 for the Monthly SBA Certification Seminar

Each year, our government spends billions of dollars in goods and services purchases from private firms. The SBA works to create an environment for maximum participation by small, disadvantaged, and woman-owned businesses in federal government contract awards and large prime subcontract awards. SBA administers several programs and services that assist small businesses in meeting the requirements to receive government contracts, either as prime contractors or subcontractors. These include the 8(a) Business Development Program, HUBZone Program, Women-Owned Small Business Program, Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business, and the All Small Mentor Protege Program. Please contact Latonya Hayes to register for this event: latonya.hayes@sba.gov.

Malcolm Richards

North Florida District Office

Jon Malcolm Richards, District Director


The North Florida District Office and the Small Business Development Center at the University of North Florida recently hosted an Asian American and Pacific Islander Month celebration. The event featured successful Asian small business owners, advocates, and partners. NFDO District Director, J. Malcolm Richards participated in the call and spoke to the group about Asian-American history and SBA’s continued commitment to helping the Asian business community. Jay Choi, NFDO Business Opportunity Specialist presented information about SBA programs and services, as well as a special presentation on the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF). The event also featured Sandro Murtas from the Office of International Trade, who provided a briefing on International loan programs. 

The highlight for the event was a pre-recorded message provided to the NFDO office for use during the program from Mr. Shad Khan, Owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars. The message from Mr. Khan may be viewed here.

Khan Jaguars

The Entire North Florida District Office Joined the AAPI Celebration

View Event

NFDO AAPI Celebration

Event Speakers Top Row (L to R): Eunice Choi, Regional Director, SBDC at UCF; Sugandha (Sugar) Yadav; Business Owner/Community Advocate; and Marice Hague, Communications Director, SBDC at UNF.

Middle Row (L to R): Dennis Chan, Owner of Blue Bamboo Canton and Bar; Jay Choi, NFDO Business Opportunity Specialist; and Huston Pullen, Regional Director, SBDC at UNF.

Bottom Row (L to R): Sandro Murtas, SBA Lead International Trade & Finance Specialist; Jon Malcolm Richards, SBA North Florida District Director; and Nayana Sen, SBA NFDO Public Affairs Specialist.

Not pictured: Ali Stephens, SBDC at UNF Marketing and Training Coordinator; and Ana Grogan, Outreach and Marketing Specialist who participated in the planning of this event.

Gregory Hall

South Florida District Office

Gregory Hall, Acting District Director


As part of National Trade Month, we are shining a spotlight on a South Florida-based South Florida-based SeaDek, a previous SBA National Exporter of the Year!

Serenity and Jason Gardner’s company manufacturers innovative non-skid products for the marine industry and exports to Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Europe, and South America. Beginning in 1988 as a surfboard fin and traction pad manufacturer, it was not until 2004 that the company’s Hyperform management team developed their innovative alternative to molded‐in non‐skid, paint‐on textures, and other marine traction products.

From producers of the Mars Rover to Michael Phelps and American Cup champions, these SeaDek customers have benefited from the products manufactured by the Rockledge, Florida-based company.

Terri Denison

Georgia District Office

Terri L. Denison, District Director


Consider Exporting to Take Your Business Global

By Terri Denison SBA Georgia District Office Director

Among the lessons the pandemic taught small business owners is the importance of building resiliency in your business plan. One way to achieve this is by expanding your customer base through exporting, and now is a great time to consider taking your business global. More than 95 percent of potential customers live outside the U.S., and businesses that sell to international customers grow faster, make more sales, and employ more people.

Georgia is a great place for exporting your goods and services. The state boasts one of the world's busiest and most efficient passenger airports, two deep-water ports, and the most extensive surface transportation network in the country. In 2020, even during the height of the pandemic, Georgia ranked among the top ten exporting states in the country with Georgia merchandise exports reaching 215 unique countries and territories.

The U.S. Small Business Administration provides essential resources to help small businesses in Georgia reach the global marketplace. The SBA’s export loan programs can assist small businesses with the financing needed to sell your goods and services to international customers. SBA also supports small businesses with export technical assistance through partnerships and resource groups.

International trade can open up a world of opportunities for small business, and now is the perfect time to explore the benefits and merits of exporting. To learn more details about how SBA can help you export your goods and services internationally, visit www.sba.gov/exporting or call the SBA Georgia District Office at 404-331-0100.

Robert Coffey

Kentucky District Office

Robert Coffey, District Director


May is Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. To celebrate, the Kentucky District Office is highlighting three inspiring AAPI small business stories.


Angie Yu

Asian carp is an invasive species brought to the U.S. in the 1970s to control weeds and parasites on aquatic farms in the Southeast. The fish spread uncontrollably.

Angie Yu, an entrepreneur with a background in the import-export business, recognized how to turn a big problem into a successful business. She started Two Rivers Fisheries, Inc. in rural west Kentucky.

The company contracts with commercial fishers in the region to catch the fish, which Two Rivers Fisheries processes. Angie’s company is now the biggest exporter of Asian carp in the country, shipping product to 11 countries on three continents. She also sells to many U.S. restaurants.

All was going well. Then the pandemic hit in 2020. Angie received an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and two Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. She stated, “We were able to keep our employees working.” Read more about Angie’s story here.

Chella Subram, who immigrated from India to the U.S. in 1992 to study engineering, opened Cornerstone Engineering, Inc. (CEI) in Louisville, KY in 2003.

The company has grown rapidly and leveraged SBA programs, including the SBA 8(a) Business Development Program. When COVID-19 struck, CEI received a PPP First Draw loan in April 2020 and a Second Draw PPP in early 2021.

The company now has offices in six cities. CEI has been named to the Asian American Fast 100 list two and Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing companies two years in a row. Read more about Cornerstone Engineering.

Bexion Pharmaceuticals, Inc. is a biopharmaceutical company that focuses on the development and commercialization of innovative cures for cancer. In 2009, Bexion received its first Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the National Institutes of Health in 2009.  

“Bexion is an example of why the SBIR program exists. Without the SBIR, which SBA administers, small businesses would be severely challenged in obtaining funding for such cutting-edge research, said Robert Coffey, SBA Kentucky District Director.

Mr. Coffey continued, “And the two PPP loans that Bexion received in the middle of a pandemic provided a life-line at a crucial time.” 

Janita Stewart

Mississippi District Office

Janita Stewart, District Director




You may participate remotely.


  • Learn about SBA’s lending role.
  • Find sources of capital to start or grow your business.
  • Learn loan interest rates, terms, amounts, collateral requirements, and         where to get the forms.
  • Learn how to find banks that are interested in your loan needs.

Eventbrite registration is required.

Click link to register, select your date and JOIN US at 11:00 AM (CDT):



Event link will be emailed to registered attendees. This event will be conducted via the Microsoft TEAMS Live Event platform.

Questions?  Email:  Rosetta Harris, Lender Relations Specialist at rosetta.harris@sba.gov Or Rhonda Fisher, Supervisory Lender Relations Specialist at rhonda.fisher@sba.gov.

Michael Arriola

North Carolina District Office

Michael Arriola, District Director


SBA Celebrates and Supports AAPI-Owned Small Businesses



Pushpinder Garcha

Golden Tech Systems, Inc.

101 S Tryon St, Charlotte, NC 28280

Picture 1 NC

Pushpinder Garcha is living the American dream. Originally from India, Pushpinder came to the United States on a student F1 visa to further his education. Following graduation, he was granted a work visa and went on to become a naturalized citizen. Today, Pushpinder holds a top-secret clearance and is the owner of the firm Golden Tech Systems.

Pushpinder took the plunge and started GoldenTech in 2007.  Right from the beginning he wanted to ensure his company focused on the belief in helping others succeed and developed a business strategy for being resilient, empowering customers, and growing from mistakes.  Initially that meant providing augmented staff through sub-contracts but eventually he found a niche in cyber solutions.

As GoldenTech found its identity, so too did Pushpinder as an entrepreneur.  He knew that in order to continue his desire of helping others, he would need to grow and expand his business’s outreach.  It was 2015 when Pushpinder was introduced to the programs and resources of the Small Business Administration, and by 2017 GoldenTech became a firm in the SBA’s  8(a) program.  It was through the 8(a) program that GoldenTech was awarded its first major federal contract, fulfilling a requirement for the United States Air Force.

 “The 8(a) Program was my magic golden arrow,” said Garcha. “I learned that a small business cannot build an Ohio class submarine; however, they can create a piece that contributes to its lethality.”

Pushpinder is also a graduate of the 2018 SBA’s Emerging Leaders class. He credits the course for providing him with the opportunity to network with other business owners and for teaching him how to effectively run an office.

“The Emerging Leaders program was eye opening,” said Garcha. “If you are too focused on the little elements of the business, you cannot run the business.”

Picture 2 NC

Most recently, GoldenTech received an SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and an SBA Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan. These loans were made available from the CARES Act of 2020.

“SBA has been helpful to open doors that would not have been open to small business, especially a minority business,” said Garcha.  “They were critical in helping us with our first contract and, more recently, with the application and approval of EIDL and PPP.”

Going forward GoldenTech aspires to continue helping others succeed by providing Cloud based solutions, systems administration, and cyber security. 

Richard White

South Carolina District Office

Richard "Gregg" White, District Director


Are you interested in expanding your business opportunities through Federal Contracting? Join the South Carolina District Office for two informative workshops on Government Contracting:


May 25th at 10 a.m. – Federal Contracting 101

Are you looking to expand your business into contracting opportunities with the federal government? Are you registered in the System for Award Management (SAM) at www.sam.gov? Are you eligible for federal certifications for your business at www.certify.sba.gov? Participants will learn how to qualify, apply, and utilize certifications to seek federal contracts.


May 26th at 3 p.m. – Certifications 101: Using the Right Tools to Grow Your Business

If you've wanted to get your business certified but didn't know where to begin, then this webinar is for you! Some of the points to be covered include:

  • What does it mean to be certified?
  • What are the types of certification?
  • How do I get my business certified?
  • How can being certified help my business?

Guest presenters include:

State of South Carolina Division of Small and Minority Business Contracting and Certification, South Carolina Department of Transportation, Director of Minority & Small Business Affairs, The City of Columbia, Office of Business Opportunities, The U.S. Small Business Administration, Greater Women's Business Council, and the Carolinas-Virginia Minority Supplier Development Council

More Information

For additional information on government contacting, visit sba.gov/federal-contracting, or call our office at 803-765-5377 and ask to speak to a Business Opportunity Specialist.

LaTanya Channel

Tennessee District Office

LaTanya Channel, District Director


SBA Tennessee District Office (TNDO) Announces 3rd Annual Business Development Academy

Save the date!!! The SBA TNDO will virtually hold the 3rd Annual Business Development Academy on June 23, 2021.  If you are a small business interested in government contracting, then we hope to see you there!!! Stay tuned for more details.  To learn about future events, please sign up to receive the Tennessee District Office newsletter and follow us on Twitter at @SBA_Tennessee and Eventbrite.