WACO, Texas — Lawmakers on Capitol Hill held a virtual hearing to discuss immigrant entrepreneurship as an important aspect of growth in the American economy.
On Wednesday, Jaja Chen, co-owner of Waco Cha on Franklin Avenue, spoke in front of the House of Representatives, specifically the Small Business Committee, in the hearing titled “Harnessing the Power of Immigrant-owned Businesses to Build Back Better."
"It was such an honor to be able to represent the voices of the community,” said Chen. “As an Asian-American individual that was definitely a huge part of the experience, just feeling like I can be a part of representing the Asian-American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community especially with the upcoming month."
May is going to be AAPI heritage month.
Chen co-owns Waco Cha with her husband Devin Li. There, they make handcrafted boba tea. The couple are both children of immigrants and thought it would be great to start their own business.
"For us, we really wanted to be a part of inclusive and diverse growth and change in our city,” said Chen. “In 2018 that is when we got approved to be a part of the farmer's market."
Wednesday’s hearing also focused on the role of immigrant-owned businesses in their communities, as well as their ability to foster a more equitable recovery.
The week that Chen and her husband were supposed to open their Waco Cha storefront was the same week Waco's shelter-in-place order was issued at the start of the pandemic. Chen testified about how they were able to bounce back in the middle of a pandemic.
"It is because of the local Waco community that really helped us be where we are at today,” said Chen. “We literally would not be where we are at without the Waco people who continually followed our journey and supported us."
Chen said she and her husband plan to open another Waco Cha business in Downtown Temple this year.
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