Asian American Business Development Center to host 20th Anniversary of Outstanding 50 Asian Americans in Business Award

aabdc awards
John Wang, Anne Chow and Krishnan Rajagopalan will be recognized at this year’s Asian American Business Development Center gala. (Photo courtesy of AABDC)

With last year’s black tie event canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Asian American Business Development Center (AABDC) is resuming its highly anticipated 20th Anniversary Outstanding 50 Asian Americans in Business Dinner and Gala on Wednesday, Sept. 15. 

For two decades, AABDC has assisted Asian American businesses in strengthening their capacity to compete in the mainstream market, to expand business opportunities and to promote recognition of Asian American businesses’ contributions to the larger economy, according to John Wang, president and founder of AABDC. 

For Wang, it is gratifying to hold this year’s awards amidst the challenges to the Asian American business community which has experienced COVID-19 and increased hate crimes against Asians who have been blamed for the spread of the virus.

“Everyone has been affected and we are grateful to hold this event and have the support of many corporations and individuals to celebrate Asian Americans’ accomplishments and contributions,” Wang said.

John Wang, president and founder of the Asian American Business Development Center. (Photo courtesy of AABDC)

The 20th Anniversary of Outstanding 50 Business Awards, which was established in 2001 by AABDC, celebrates and reaffirms the valuable contributions of Asian American executives, small business owners and corporate leaders in the U.S.

Each year, AABDC honors some of the most outstanding Asian American business leaders and entrepreneurs from diverse industries across the U.S., which includes Pepsico, Bank of America, Chase, IBM and AT&T Business. 

“They run the whole gamut of industries,” Wang said. 

This year, AABDC is honoring Krishnan Rajagapolan, CEO of Heidrick & Struggles, and Anne Chow, CEO of AT&T Business. Each year, the Outstanding 50 award committee identifies and selects outstanding leaders who have built a successful business or who have distinguished themselves in their community. 

Krishnan Rajagopalan is president and CEO of Heidrick & Struggles, a global leadership advisory firm providing executive search, leadership assessment and development, organization and team effectiveness, and culture shaping services. (Photo courtesy of AABDC)

Of those, the committee also identifies a top Pinnacle Award recipient who has reached the acme of his/her professional career and is widely acknowledged as a leader in their industry.

Chow has set a precedent for the 2021 Pinnacle Award honorees by becoming the first to receive this award after also being selected as an Outstanding 50 award winner in 2009.

As a special commemoration of the 20th anniversary, AABDC is hosting a one-day conference that leads into the Dinner Gala that will be held at Cipriani 55 Wall St. on Sept. 15. The prominent event typically draws over 600 leading business, political and civic leaders to pay tribute to the outstanding entrepreneurs and corporate executives in the Asian American business community from across the nation.

Anne Chow, CEO of AT&T Business, AT&T Communications, LLC. She’s the first woman to hold this position and first woman of color CEO in AT&T’s history. (Photo courtesy of AABDC)

The conference, at the Asia Society, will include an opening keynote address by Angela Wang, group president of Pfizer Biopharmaceuticals Group. There will be three panel discussions composed of prior Outstanding 50 honorees as well as distinguished leaders from other minority enterprises.

Panels will explore strategies to increase Asian American representation in corporate leadership; how minority group allyship as the “New Majority” can promote social justice and economic equity; how to develop the new generation of Asian American leaders, and the importance of civic engagement by the Asian American community.

Throughout the past year, Wang has been leading and participating in efforts to support small businesses, advocate for fair representation of Asian American business and individuals, and advance Asian American business and individuals by expanding access and cultivation of young talent and leadership through:

  • Broad advocacy efforts and broadcast of a joint statement with the Hispanic Federation and the 100 Black Men Inc., to reaffirm solidarity with diverse leaders and institutions across the nation, while pledging to fight to turn the tide against racism.
  • Connecting business recovery grants to small businesses via Hennessy Inc.’s Unfinished Business minority-owned small business grants and New York State COVID-19 recovery resources.

Through Project Rebuild, AABDC cultivates and matches corporate leaders and resources to help small businesses in minority communities inclusive of financing access, marketing and technology upgrade expertise and professional advisory services. 

In 1994, Wang founded AABDC when he saw a gap in the national and local business community of minority professionals and were underrepresented in all spectrums and business owners struggling to access capital for business growth. 

“Years ago, Asian Americans were beginning to grow in many different ways. The population was growing rapidly, and many small businesses at that time were largely focused in their own community,” Wang said. “I thought it was important for Asian American businesses to participate in the larger economy. We introduce resources to help them grow and expand and we advocate for more Asian Americans in leadership roles and support companies who support diversity.” 

Thousands of small businesses have received technical assistance and mentoring through AABDC’s linkage with corporate ERG members — an entire generation of business owners have transformed into mainstream market competitors through AABDC’s guidance, educational events, networking and advocacy. 

Over 2,000 individuals who have achieved national distinction in their respective industries and for contributing to the national economy have been honored via AABDC’s Outstanding 50 Asian Americans in Business Award, as the alumni continue to contribute their time to help others.

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