As California State Treasurer, Fiona Ma deals with some of the state’s top businesses and is in charge of trillions of dollars, but she still knows the plight of small businesses and works to help them to get what they need to be successful.
Ma describes herself as “the banker of the state of California, the fourth largest economy,” and said she “took in $3.2 trillion dollars in 2021.”
Ma remembers well her roots, as a former president of the Asian Business Association in San Francisco, where she helped lobby for business issues that affected minorities and women.
“I started my public service career as president of ABA in San Francisco 29 years ago, and that’s where I learned the importance of representing women and minority small businesses at the state, federal and local levels for contracting opportunities,” Ma told the crowd at the Asian Business Association of San Diego gala on May 19 at the Hilton Bayfront San Diego.
For her efforts, which continue today, Ma was presented with the ABASD’s Small Business Champion of the Year award.
Founded in 1990, ABASD represents the interests of more than 30,000 Asian Pacific Islander-owned businesses in San Diego County.
“During her term (as ABASF president) she harnessed her visionary leadership and deep rooted understanding of the needs and aspirations of the Asian business community which fueled her advocacy work for small businesses,” ABA gala host Lee Ann Kim told those in attendance.
“Now serving as California treasurer, Fiona prioritizes ensuring small businesses have access to the capital that they need to thrive,” Kim said.
Kim said Ma has been instrumental in expanding loan programs and financial assistance initiatives specifically tailored to small businesses throughout the state, and by working closely with financial institutions and community organizations. Ma has helped streamline access to affordable loans and grants, enabling small businesses to expand their operations, invest in innovation and create jobs, Kim said.
“She has been a vocal advocate for equity and inclusion in small business support and she has spearheaded initiatives to promote and uplift underrepresented entrepreneurs including women, people of color, veterans and individuals from marginalized communities,” Kim continued. “She understands that small businesses contribute to a vibrant economy and has worked to ensure that all entrepreneurs all have equal opportunities to succeed.”
Ma’s past work also includes board member and chair at the California State Board of Equalization, Majority Whip and Speaker Pro Tempore in the California State Assembly and a District 4 elected member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
Ma reiterated what Focuscom, Inc. President and CEO Dan Hom, honored for his service to ABASD earlier at the gala, said about listening to those who have been around for a while, as he did with ABASD founder Tom Fat before Fat passed away.
“It’s like Dan Hom says, ‘I always learn something when I hang out with the elderly,” Ma said. “We are very wise.”
Ma also repeated some lines from the movie Everything Everywhere All at Once, which was the theme of the ABASD gala, including Waymond Wong (played in the move by actor Ke Huy Quan), “The only thing I do know is that we have to be kind. Please. Be kind, especially when we don’t know what’s going on.”
Ma asked those in attendance if they had seen the United States Mint’s Anna May Wong quarters, and explained that Wong was a California-based actress who first starred in films in the 1920s.
Wong is widely acknowledged as the first Chinese American movie star. She is part of the U.S. Mint’s American Women Quarters program that started in 2022 and will continue through 2025.
“Ana May Wong was a Hollywood star 100 years ago and it took 100 years before Everything Everywhere All at Once won seven Academy awards,” Ma said. “Everything Everywhere All at Once won seven Academy awards because it is our time!”
Ma then shared the words of the movie’s main character Evelyn Wang (played by actress Michelle Yeoh), telling the audience, “No matter what, I still want to be here with you. I will always, always want to be here with you.”
Ma finished her speech by thanking ABASD for “being part of our Golden State and part of the fourth largest economy in the world.”