Emcee and Program Director

Poh Lin Khoo, Founder and CEO of Khoo Consulting, LLC

Poh Lin Khoo is a multi-lingual immigrant and self-funded, first-generation college student who is committed to equity and inclusion. She founded Khoo Consulting in 2020 with 20+ years of comprehensive marketing experience to help organizations step into diverse spaces and better communicate with multicultural audiences.

Recently named the 2023 Outstanding Immigrant Business Award recipient, Poh Lin focuses Khoo Consulting’s work on projects that transform lives through public outreach and community engagement, marketing and communications, and Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Access. Their client, Dakota County Parks & Recreation, recently received an award from the National Association of County Parks and Recreation Officials for their marketing, awareness, and promotion plan that was developed with Khoo Consulting.

Under Elevate Hennepin, Khoo Consulting also coaches small businesses to help them achieve and sustain growth, using a culturally-sensitive approach to create connections and applying relevant industry expertise to advance clients’ businesses.

Khoo Consulting is a federal- and state-certified, woman-owned small business. Learn more at khooconsulting.com

Special Address

Jin Chen, Executive Director, Chinese American Chamber of Commerce – MN, Founding member of Asia Mall

A native of Fujian, China, Jin Chen moved to the US in 1991 and started his first job working at a restaurant in New Jersey. After working his way up from entry-level positions in the restaurant industry, he moved to Minnesota in 1996 and opened his first restaurant in Minneapolis in 1998. Over the next 9 years, he went on to open a total of 9 Chinese and Japanese restaurants and learned the ins and outs of the industry. While running his businesses, he became intimately familiar with what it takes to open a restaurant, including renovation and design, financing, construction codes, and business licenses.

A native of Fujian, China, Jin Chen moved to the US in 1991 and started his first job working at a restaurant in New Jersey. After working his way up from entry-level positions in the restaurant industry, he moved to Minnesota in 1996 and opened his first restaurant in Minneapolis in 1998. Over the next 9 years, he went on to open a total of 9 Chinese and Japanese restaurants and learned the ins and outs of the industry. While running his businesses, he became intimately familiar with what it takes to open a restaurant, including renovation and design, financing, construction codes, and business licenses.

In 2008, he used that knowledge to start a commercial renovation and remodeling company specializing in restaurants, retail, and service locations. After 14 years in the business, he has counted approximately 300 Minnesota businesses as his clients. If you’ve been to a Chinese or Japanese restaurant in the greater Twin Cities area, there’s a good chance you’ve seen his work.

In 2021, Jin became one of the founding partners of Asia Mall, the first premier pan-Asian shopping center in the Twin Cities. Featuring Asian-themed architecture and décor, it will be home to over 20 food, retail, and service tenants providing a one-stop shopping and dining experience for all. In addition to being a leader in the Minnesota AAPI business community, Jin is also the executive director of the Chinese American Chamber Of Commerce – MN, a nonprofit organization that provides training and resources to Chinese- and AAPI-owned small businesses.

Brian McDonald, District Director, Minnesota District Office, Small Business Administration (SBA)

Brian McDonald is the District Director for the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Minnesota District Office. Under his leadership, McDonald’s team facilitates SBA-backed loans, advocates and trains small businesses for federal government contracting opportunities, and works to improve entrepreneurial development to strengthen business growth across all 87 Minnesota counties.

Before joining the Minnesota District Office, Brian worked in Washington, D.C. for the U.S. SBA Headquarters Office of Entrepreneurial Development and for the U.S. Treasury CDFI Fund. Prior to federal service, Brian worked in private banking. Originally from Upstate N.Y., Brian went to Syracuse University for undergrad and Georgetown University for his Master’s degree, and resides in Minneapolis with his wife and two children.

Susan Pha, Minnesota State Senator

Susan Kaying Pha is a small business owner, author, and Minnesota State Senator. Susan was elected to the City Council in 2016 as the first person of color to ever hold public office in Brooklyn Park. She served two terms as the West District Council Member and Mayor Pro-Tem. In 2022, Susan won a historic Senate race, becoming the first woman of color to represent her senate district (SD-38). She is the Vice-chair of the Minnesota Senate Capital Investment Committee and a member of the Housing and Homelessness Prevention Committee.

Susan is a strong advocate for racial equity and social justice. She is a recognized leader for creating community partnerships to build thriving communities and has received several awards for her work.

Guest Speakers

John B. Yang, Founder & CEO of Digital Synergy, LLC Executive Director, Asian American Business Resilience Network

John B. Yang is the Founder and CEO of Digital Synergy, LLC. Founded in 2011 and headquartered in Minnesota, his company provides digital marketing and website services. John’s extensive digital marketing experience includes working with small businesses and corporate Fortune 500 companies locally and globally. He is the Executive Director of Asian American Business Resilience Network (AABRN). John is also serving in the US Air Force reserve.

Digital Synergy is the leading AI Digital Marketing agency based in Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN.

Website: https://digitalsynergy.ai/

Yao Yaj, Executive Director Minnesota Hmong Chamber of Commerce

Yao Yaj comes to the Minnesota Hmong Chamber with extensive experience in the public sector as well as the nonprofit sector. She is currently the Manager of Strategic Initiates with the St Paul Area Chamber and Executive Director with the Minnesota Hmong Chamber of Commerce. Her civic leadership includes past appointments to the State of Minnesota’s Minnesota Grown Advisory and The Governor’s Committee on Pollinator Protection.

In 2020 Yao was recognized in Finance & Commerce’s third year class Rising Young Professionals Awards and listed in TCB 100: The People to Know in 2021. In addition, Yao is a cohort alum of the 2022 Minnesota Young American Leaders Program. Yao currently is a committee member of the City St. Paul Business Review Council (RBC). Prior to working at the St. Paul Area Chamber, Yao was an organizer, manager, and food hub director for the Hmong American Farmers Association. Yao has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the College of Saint Benedict.

Tri Thoung Tang, President of Vietnamese Community of Minnesota

Tri Thuong Tang has a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics from the University of Minnesota. He worked in the banking industry for 10 years as a Trust Analyst. With an entrepreneurial spirit, Mr. Tang established his own insurance agency and has provided the insurance needs of the Vietnamese community for over 18 years.

He expanded his service to the community five years ago and became a licensed mortgage lender. My Tang is always striving to fulfilled the needs of his community.

Siva Balasubramaniam, Associate Dean and Harold L. Stuart Endowed Chair in Business Illinois Tech's Stuart School of Business

Siva Balasubramanian serves as Associate Dean and Professor of Marketing at Illinois Tech’s Stuart School of Business. He also holds the Harold L. Stuart Endowed Chair in Business, and serves as the Director of Stuart School’s Management Science Programs and Faculty Review.

His career as a manager, educator, and academic administrator spans over three decades. He has previously taught at the University of Iowa, University of Alberta, and Maastricht School of Management. Prior to joining the Stuart School of Business, he served as Henry J. Rehn Professor at the College of Business, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.

Balasubramanian is the recipient of the prestigious Fulbright Research Chair award, in addition to several competitive research grants. He serves as a member of the editorial board at leading journals (Journal of Advertising and International Journal of Advertising) and regional editor for North America for the British Food Journal.

His research interests focus on artificial intelligence, social media, marketing communications (with an emphasis on product placements and public policy issues), diffusion of new product innovations, and advanced research/measurement tools in marketing. His work has appeared in leading academic journals, including Journal of Marketing, Journal of Marketing Research, Journal of Consumer Research, International Journal of Research in Marketing, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Journal of Strategic Marketing, Journal of Business Ethics, Information & Management, Journal of Advertising, International Journal of Advertising, Journal of Consumer Affairs, International Journal of Consumer Studies, Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Journal of Forecasting, and Journal of Personality Assessment. His research has received funding from private foundations, nonprofits, business firms, and state agencies.

In addition to teaching undergraduate, Master of Business Administration, and doctoral classes on campus, he frequently conducts business seminars for senior corporate executives in the United States and abroad. Additionally, he serves as a business consultant to clients ranging from large corporations to government agencies. Prior to entering academia, Balasubramanian worked for several years as a marketing/sales executive.

George Chunkau Mui, Managing Partner Global Consultants United

George Mui is a global strategist. Leveraging his extensive global experience, and national network, George provides management consulting services for private business, non-government organizations and government agencies. Global Consultants United (GCU) is a Business Consulting Group that provides world-class solutions with a team of collaborating partners.

GCU’s current projects include Business Development Services for small businesses, Career Coaching & training services, special event planning, and supporting international business in America. George is also currently serving as the Business Coach for the U.S. Small Business Administration’s THRIVE program in Chicago.

George has recently retired from the U.S. Department of Commerce-MBDA after ten plus years of public services. His innovative programs earned George two MBDA National Director Awards in 2010 and 2017. George served as the Senior Advisor for The White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI) from 2014 – 2016 Prior to joining Federal Government Services, George served as the SBA Small Business Development Center Director in Chicago Chinatown for 2 years. George has also a successful 20-year career in the private sector as R&D and Business Management Director at AT&T Bell Labs and Lucent Technologies where he started as software engineer and ended up managing a $400 million dollars data networking business unit.

He is the current Vice Chair of the Alumni Board. He is the founder and current moderator for the Asian American Executive Network, a global networking forum for Asian American Executives.

George has a master’s (1980) and bachelor’s degree (1976) in Computer Sciences from The Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) in Chicago, IL. He also completed two Executive Education programs at Stanford University in Marketing and Business Management. George is married with two children and one granddaughter.

Mo Chang, President & CEO Mo's Tropical Wholesale

A business reporter turned communications pro, Cali understands nuanced and complicated subjects with ease and distills them into concise and compelling messages. As Goff Public’s lead writer, Cali is responsible for maintaining the quality of our written work, adhering to client standards, and elevating projects through creative and captivating copy.

Cali was trained as a professional journalist and spent the early part of her career covering higher education, real estate development, transit and urban planning for publications in North Dakota and Minnesota. Prior to joining Goff Public, she managed media relations, internal communications and social media for a Fortune 500 real estate company.

Ceci Dadisman, President, Cardinal + Company

Ceci Dadisman is a communications professional with 20 years of experience creating effective campaigns utilizing innovative, forward thinking methods. She is nationally recognized as a leader in marketing in multiple industries including nonprofits, arts & culture, religious organizations, startups, and government entities with a proven track record of deliverable-driven campaigns. She is an expert in multi-channel campaigns that integrate digital and traditional communications channels, leading edge technology, automation, and analytics.

Her body of work also includes creative solutions that are diverse, equitable, and inclusive of all communities including Hispanic, African American, Caribbean, Asian, Indigenous, and LGBTQ+ populations. A frequent public speaker, Ceci’s recent and upcoming engagements feature national, regional, and local events. Known for her easy-going and vernacular style, she creates open learning environments with an emphasis on information sharing and useful takeaways.

Elizabeth Yang, Strategist & Founder of Better with Company

Elizabeth Yang is an social monetization strategist and sales mindset expert helping service entrepreneurs use social media to grow online with consistent revenue in repeatable marketing and social sales systems. She’s the founder and CEO of Better With Company, a high-touch business coaching and consulting agency. She specializes in high ticket sales and lead generation, charging more, high performance, leadership, and talent & team optimization. She has 10 years of experience in innovation and product marketing with Fortune 10 companies. Others describe her as an energetic and passionate speaker, trainer, mentor, and powerhouse. Most recently she was called the “Monetization Queen” thanks to her ability to help clients charge 2X-25X more creating premium brands.

Elizabeth champions diversity with inclusive selling to maximize visibility and impact that converts.

Happy sales start with the human connection to becoming the first choice for your ideal customers, nurturing and closing faster. She is the creator of the Upscale Sales, a business mentoring accelerator, that helps diverse entrepreneurs scale online faster with the only all-in-one sales & marketing solution that you’ll ever need to capture Leads, Nurture and Close them and the playbooks for implementing marketing, sales, and people systems. She’s also the founder of Hmong Women Take on the World, a Global Online Leadership Summit that brings hundreds together to globally celebrate women and girls across 8 countries.

She’s helped clients and companies become better leaders, build winning teams, secure partnerships, and achieve sales growth with better customer experiences, relationship marketing,

Natt Lee, Business Development Specialist of Minnesota District Office - U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)

Natt Lee was recently hired with the U.S. Small Business Administration based in the Minnesota District Office as the Business Development Specialist. Previously Natt worked with the State of Minnesota at the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development for about 10 years.

He held positions in leadership management with non-profit organizations and was a former small business owner in the retail sector. Natt graduated from the University of Minnesota Graduate School – Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs with a master’s degree in Public Affairs & Policy and earned several leadership certifications from the University of Saint Thomas, Minneapolis, MN. Natt’s family resides in Minnesota and Wisconsin for over twenty years.

Don Mike Jackson, Economic Development Specialist for the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Minnesota District Office

Don Mike Jackson, Economic Development Specialist for the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Minnesota District Office, especially enjoys his role as the local Veteran Business Outreach Officer for the agency.

Mike shows his dedication to both public service and the Veteran community with every Boots to Business Reboot he plans and presents. As a veteran himself, Mike provides more than just entrepreneurial information. He understands that many Vveterans need other support and has created relationships at both the VA and the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs and shares that other information to help ensure they will be successful in life and their business venture.

He began his U.S. Government civilian career in February 2009 as a Human Resource Assistant with the U.S. Navy, and previously served with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Pittsburgh District Office as an Administrative Officer. He is a 13-year U.S. Navy veteran having served as an administrative assistant (Yeoman First Class) onboard three naval vessels, and two surface commands and as an executive assistant (Flagwriter) to two admirals serving from 1994 to 2007. He has been with the SBA since 2016.
Jackson attended Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh, PA and obtained a Bachelor’s in Business Administration and a Master’s in Organizational Leadership.

Fu Hang, Senior Loan Officer/Business Advisor NDC | Neighborhood Development Center

Fu Hang has extensive community economic development experience having worked for the East Side Neighborhood Development Center as a Business Development Specialist and as the Executive Director for the Asian Development Corporation. Over the years, he has worked with many other community development corporations and community financial institution.

Fu was a small business owner, and he has also served on numerous non-profit boards and committees including Hmong American Partnership and Minnesota Hmong Chamber of Commerce as well. His business ventures included owning a restaurant.

Fu has a Bachelor’s of Business Administration in Marketing and is certified as an Economic Development Finance Professional (EDFP) by The National Development Council.

Ying Sa, CEO and Managing Partner of Community CPA

Ying Sa was born in Beijing, China, immigrated to Canada where she received her accounting degree, before relocating to the United States. She started Community CPA in 1998 in Des Moines, Iowa, serving businesses and individuals with tax, audit, accounting, payroll, and business consultation needs.

The firm has grown to include branches in Coralville, Iowa, and Bloomington, Minnesota. Ying was appointed to the National Taxpayer Advocacy Panel, an Advisory Committee at the federal level to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in 2019, is a published author of her first book covering the essentials of a startup business called Appointment with Ying at 8am, and has recently been recognized by Accounting Today as one of their 2021 Managing Partner Elite.

Bill Imada, Chairman and Chief Connectivity Officer of IW Group

Bill Imada is Chairman and Chief Connectivity Officer of IW Group, a public relations and marketing agency specializing in the multicultural markets in the U.S.A.

Bill and his agency represent clients such as Apple TV+, BeamSuntory, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Edison International/Southern California Edison, Jack Daniels, Janssen, Lexus, Lionsgate, McDonald’s, Nielsen, Northwestern Mutual, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Walmart, Walt Disney, Warner Bros. Pictures Entertainment, Wells Fargo, and many others.

Bill serves on the boards of the Advertising Educational Foundation, Coalition for Asian Pacifics in Entertainment, Institute for Public Relations, LAGRANT Foundation, National ACE, PBS Southern California, and the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations.

IW Group is a member of Worldcom PR Group and is also part of the Interpublic Group of Companies (IPG). IW Group has offices in Los Angeles, Dallas, New York City, and San Francisco U.S.A.

Alvetina Zhaivoronok, Vendor Specialist Minnesota Department of Administration - Office of Equity in Procurement

Alevtina Zhaivoronok is a Vendor Specialist with the Department of Administration Office of Equity in Procurement. She has been with the State since 2016 and had worked at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, and the Department of Revenue. Her responsibilities include helping qualified small businesses get certified with the State Procurement program. The certifications help the small businesses to better receive and qualify for contracts with state agencies to grow their businesses.

Kim Sin, Information Technology Specialist & Co-founder of the Village of Agricultural Cooperative

Kim Sin is an IT professional in Rochester, Minnesota. A graduate of RCTC, Kim arrived in the US a penniless refugee from Cambodia at around 6 years old. When he was just a toddler he and his family escaped the Khmer Rouge.

For more than 25 years, Kim has worked with members of the Cambodian community, including the elderly and those with physical and chronic health conditions. Through his experiences as a community member and advocate with the Cambodian and other immigrant and refugee communities, he has witnessed many first-generation immigrants struggling to start their own businesses in the US. He and his family know that struggle firsthand. In the late 80s, Kim’s family started their first business called the Asian Food Store, followed by the Little China, the Oriental Food Store, and most recently Rain Nail Salon. He knows what it takes to start a business, and supports and does consulting for small immigrant-owned business

Marshall Horgenson, Certified SCORE Mentor and Associate Branch Manager SCORE NorthStar

Marshall has an extensive and varied background in business ownership, management, operations, sales and marketing. He has also owned several small businesses in the printing industry, entertainment and consulting services.

Marshall is a Certified SCORE Mentor, workshop presenter and Associate Branch Manager of SCORE NorthStar.

Jonathan Mast, Chief Evangelist at Valorous Circle CEO of White Beard Strategies

Jonathan Mast is a leading expert on AI and Topical Authority. Jonathan Mast is the Chief Evangelist at Valorous Circle, a digital marketing firm based in West Michigan. In this role, Jonathan sets the pace for a team that provides all aspects of internet strategy and marketing, including digital marketing and local SEO (search engine optimization) for home services companies across the United States and Canada.

Website: jonathanmast.com

Nancy Xiong, Reiki Master Energy and Sound Healing Practitioner St. Paul, Minnesota

Nancy Xiong is a Reiki Master, energy and sound healing practitioner based in St. Paul, Minnesota. Through her practice, Hono Bono Healing LLC, she infuses Hmong Shamanic healing practices with her services to ensure a heart warming experience for her clients so they can live a life with purpose authentically. As a healing practitioner, Nancy has had the pleasure of working with folks from all walks of life and from across the nation: California to Washington, DC.

Nancy Xiong is a Reiki Master, energy and sound healing practitioner based in St. Paul, Minnesota. Through her practice, Hono Bono Healing LLC, she infuses Hmong Shamanic healing practices with her services to ensure a heart warming experience for her clients so they can live a life with purpose authentically. As a healing practitioner, Nancy has had the pleasure of working with folks from all walks of life and from across the nation: California to Washington, DC.