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Celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month: How Giving Back and Leaning on Relationships Helped Jung Ahn and His Team Navigate the Pandemic

running-a-business | Read Time: 2 minutes

By Eric Springer | Published: May 2021


When Jung Ahn and his business partners, David Taing and Kenny Poon, opened their The Halal Guys franchise in Chinatown Square in Philadelphia, Pa. more than six years ago, he never could have envisioned how a global pandemic would further deepen his strong roots in Philadelphia’s small business and Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities.

When the COVID-19 pandemic first impacted the region, Jung, David, Kenny and the staff at their Chinatown Square and University City locations swiftly decided they wanted to stay open.

“We all discussed our options and agreed the best thing for our community, and our livelihoods, was to stay open as much as we were legally allowed by the city and state,” said Jung. “I'm so incredibly proud of our team because we overcame so many obstacles along the way and came out stronger than ever.”

With catering part of The Halal Guys franchise offerings, they had the wherewithal to help community groups and organizations as well, making food donations to local hospitals, front line workers, college programs and student organizations, and minority groups.

“We recognized early on that there were people and groups in the local community whose lives were completely disrupted by the pandemic,” said Jung. “Some folks lost jobs and had a tough time putting food on the table, while front line workers needed quick access to meals during the middle of long shifts. Our team wanted to help.”

These experiences reminded Jung of the advice he gives to other Asian American entrepreneurs and his own staff.

“Do it for the people, not for the money. What we teach inside our stores can really impact our employees’ lives, and I take this same approach when speaking with colleagues in the business community,” said Jung. “It’s really important that we stay connected and build trusting relationships that we can lean on during the tough times.”

When the challenges of rising costs for goods, shrinking supply chains and mandated shutdowns impacted Jung and David’s business, they turned to their partners at WSFS Bank, led by Daeyoung Kwak, Vice President and Director of Select Markets.

“Working with Daeyoung and his team, we have been able to grow and build our franchise over the years,” said Jung. “When things got tough, they have been able to connect us with needed funds through SBA loans and grants, including the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which helped us keep our business and our staff afloat during times we were shut down.”

“Having a business during the pandemic has been tough to navigate, affecting everything we do from supply chains and cost of goods to staffing and sales. Having our staff, community and banking partners on our side has been instrumental to keeping our business running.”

About the Author – Eric Springer
Eric Springer is Assistant Vice President, Integrated Communications Manager at WSFS Bank. He brings more than 15 years’ experience in corporate communications and marketing for banking, professional services and nonprofit organizations.


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