Patricia Fong Kushida '85 (Business Administration-Marketing)
Taking care of business
While working toward her Sac State degree, Pat Fong Kushida was a student coordinator for the Sacramento State Center for Small Business, which provides free management assistance to small businesses in the Sacramento region.
Kushida, head of the Sacramento Asian-Pacific Chamber of Commerce, says, “It was there that I developed my love for small businesses.” That passion would serve her well in the years to come.
Kushida first took her business skills into the retail fashion industry, where she enjoyed a 13-year career as a buyer, first for Weinstock’s and then as a senior buyer for Federated Department Stores, Macy’s division, in San Francisco.
“The key to success in my job was 5 percent fashion sense and 95 percent business sense,” she says.
She married and returned to Sacramento to help her husband run his small business, Kushida Audio and Video Services. There, a promotional flyer about an opening for an executive assistant at the Asian-Pacific Chamber of Commerce came across her desk. Kushida applied and did so well in the interview that she was instead offered the job of executive director.
“It sounds more impressive than it was,” she explains. “I had no staff. I eventually had to use some of my salary to hire that executive assistant.”
During her 13 years at the Chamber, Kushida, now president/CEO, has seen membership grow from 125 to more than 600 and the budget increase from $98,000 to more than $1 million annually. It is the largest Asian chamber in Northern California. In March 2010, she and her staff of 10 launched the CalAsian Chamber of Commerce, taking their mission statewide. Kushida now actively promotes the interests of more than 400,000 Asian Pacific Islander-owned businesses throughout California.
She sees support for small business as the driving force behind the Chamber’s success.
“The quickest way to the middle class is through small business ownership,” Kushida says. “We serve 16 different Asian-Pacific ethnic communities, most of them first- and second-generation.”
Kushida is happy with the direction Sacramento State is taking in its outreach to all ethnic communities and wants to work with the University to foster more opportunities for entrepreneurship among them. In addition to her work with the Chamber, Kushida serves on numerous regional boards of directors.
She has been recognized as an exemplary leader by the American Leadership Forum and as one of the 100 most influential people in the Sacramento region by Sacramento Magazine, among other accolades.
This article was originally published in the Spring 2011 edition of Sac State Magazine.