Meeting spotlights
Filipinos in business

Star-Bulletin staff and news services

SAN FRANCISCO >> As one of the fastest-growing ethnic communities in the United States, Filipino Americans have expanded their presence in the business world in the past decade -- from mom-and-pop shops to big food chains and even some Silicon Valley startups.

Hoping to tap deeper into that entrepreneurial pool, venture capitalist Denny Roja has put together an international meeting to showcase the business successes of the Filipino American community.

The First Global Filipino Business Conference will be tomorrow at the Moscone Center in San Francisco and will feature business and political leaders from the United States and the Philippines. The gathering is part of the First Global Filipino Community Networking Convention this weekend, which will bring together Filipino American organizations in such fields as health care, law and education.

"We want to show we have stars all over the place, big and small," Roja said. "The thrust of the conference is to show examples of achievements."

He is particularly interested in showing young Filipinos that "you can achieve here, but you've got to learn the ropes."

Hawaii Filipino entrepreneur Eddie Flores, who has expanded his L&L Drive-Inn to 62 locations, including California and Las Vegas, while also running a real estate business, said he has long believed that the Filipino community has entrepreneurial skills, but they need to be harnessed.

"We have a tendency to work for government or someone else rather than running our own businesses," Flores said.

But Filipinos are becoming more united and are going in the right direction toward self-development, Flores said. He was to have been a speaker at the San Francisco conference but was too busy working to support the new Filipino Cultural Center in Waipahu to attend.

"We are still behind the Chinese, the Japanese and even the Vietnamese" as a united entrepreneurial force, Flores said.

The conference in San Francisco intends to focus on "nuts and bolts investing. How can you start a business and how can you exit a business profitably?" said Roja, who moved to the United States in 1967 and is now a managing partner at Acuity Ventures.

Star-Bulletin reporter Russ Lynch and the San Francisco Chronicle contributed to this report.

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