An Inclusive Economy Means Opportunities for Business Ownership
America has always represented to me “the land of opportunity.” In 1964 I immigrated to America from China with $100 in my pocket and an engineering degree. Wanting to succeed in my profession, I went to school at the University of Washington to earn my masters degree in civil engineering. I was grateful to have had the opportunity to attain higher education. I was an engineer for 18 years.
When the engineering profession took a downturn, I was confronted with potential options for my next career move. In 1984 I was given the opportunity to own my first McDonald’s franchise in Oakland. McDonald’s believed in me and took a risk. Owning a restaurant in a disadvantaged neighborhood wasn’t easy. As a business owner I knew I had to be part of the community and local government. Although we had a recognizable brand, we faced every challenge and responsibility that any other independent business owner would face in building a business.
Since owning that single restaurant, my family business has greatly expanded through hard work and community service.
Although I am proud of this success, I believed that true success is bigger than me, my family or even the specific communities where we operate. In 2000, I was concerned that the same lack of diversity that we saw in the business world also existed in the political world. Even though California’s Asian community was growing quickly, we had little representation among our elected officials. I then along with my friends, founded Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs (APAPA). We recently celebrated our 20th Anniversary, having achieved much success in electing greater number of Asians to office.
Why do I share this story? To show what economic opportunity means for individuals, families, neighborhoods, and entire communities of people. As a state, we struggle to find ways to make our economy more diverse and inclusive. We want to create opportunities for business ownership for diverse owners, women and others who don’t have such opportunities.
The franchise model has worked well for persons of color, minorities, and women to become part of a larger successful franchise while still being their own independent business owner. A franchise does not guarantee success, but it can increase the odds of success vs failure. It takes a proven business model and allows someone like me the opportunity to be part of that franchise.
Unfortunately, some state lawmakers are being pressured to disrupt the franchising model with unjustified and unfair new rules that would not apply to other restaurants. The proposal before them would make owners like me have less pride of ownership and be less independent. Ultimately, this would result in fewer opportunities for our friends and neighbors to become business owners themselves through franchising.
Supporters of this proposal want to divide franchisees from their workers and suggest we are in conflict. But the small business owners I know consider our crew and managers as part of our extended family. We are invested in their success and want to provide opportunities for our workers through work and education, perhaps to become a business owner themselves someday. And we care deeply about creating a safe and healthy worksite for them every day.
A threat to independent, franchisee business owners is also a threat to the opportunities we provide to the workers employed at our restaurants.
As an Asian American businessperson in a post pandemic economy we want the opportunity to grow back our business and not have opportunities taken away from us or limited for the next generation of owners.
CC Yin is a McDonald’s Owner/Operator and Founder of Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs (APAPA)