Pat Fong Kushida ’85 (Business Administration)
2015 Distinguished Service Award Recipient
The Distinguished Alumni Awards celebrate the success and impact of Sacramento State through its alumni. Pat Fong Kushida was chosen for her entrepreneurship and dedication as a community leader.
Pat Fong Kushida ’85 (Marketing) never lets expectations hem her in.
The youngest of five children born to Chinese immigrants, she wasn’t expected to aspire beyond marriage and raising children.
But Fong Kushida thrived as a businesswoman and her efforts in raising the Sacramento Asian Pacific Chamber of Commerce to statewide prominence have altered the standards for business chamber groups.
“The expectation for me was not necessarily to use education as a pathway to success,” says Fong Kushida, who is receiving a Distinguished Alumni Award from the Sac State Alumni Association. “I got married to satisfy my family expectations. That didn’t work out and I thought, ‘I need to go to college.’”
At Sac State, Fong Kushida tapped into her business acumen, which was ingrained from an early age. Walter Fong, Pat’s grandfather, founded Farmers Markets and he operated 40 supermarkets across Northern California when the company was at its peak. Fong Kushida helped out in the stores and took note of her grandpa’s business management skills.
She didn’t fully realize it at the time, but as Fong Kushida took on leadership roles in Sac State’s Center for Small Business, she was getting perfect preparation for her career. She cites marketing professor Dennis Tootelian as a major influence in her development.
“He was instrumental in building that program and I’ve always been very passionate about business, and especially small business,” Fong Kushida says. “When I saw the struggles of business folks in the small business center, I wanted to help. As a small business owner you have to wear so many hats you don’t have all the resources that a major company has, but you still have to do all of the same things. The passion that I had back then helping those businesses opened the door to what I’m doing now.”
Fong Kushida gained experience in the business world as a buyer for Weinstock’s, then for Macy’s. She remarried and stepped away to start a family. Her “second career,” as she puts it, was a happy accident that turned into a perfect fit.
“I saw a job listing for a desktop publisher at the Sacramento Asian Chamber of Commerce and I didn’t even know what that was, but I went and interviewed for it,” Fong Kushida says. “They called me back and told me, ‘We know you don’t do desktop publishing, but how would you like to run the Chamber?’”
She took the challenge head on, building the organization from a one-person staff to a powerful 18-person operation.
In addition to the Sacramento Asian Chamber, Fong Kushida also heads the California Asian Chamber, which represents 600,000 businesses across the state. The goal is to create opportunities and make sure the members have a voice in policy decisions.
“In my heart I’m truly an entrepreneur and I take that approach to running the Chamber,” Fong Kushida says. “We’re very nimble and innovative. Most organizations that represent ethnic communities can only get to a certain point, but what we’ve done successfully is cross the bridge so that we can get our issues and our needs to a wider community to be successful.
As a business and community leader, Fong Kushida sees Sac State’s role in the region from a unique perspective.
“Sac State really generates the workforce for the Sacramento region,” she says. “I love Sacramento and I’m just really excited to see the growth and vision for the campus. It’s really remarkable.”