More than 200 Asian business owners in the county gathered recently to do something they had never done before around here: meet face to face, network and pick up tips for expanding their businesses across cultural boundaries.

Sally Sternbach, executive director of Rockville Economic Development Inc., said the Asian-American Business Conference was designed in part "to put this very important business community on the map."

There are, she noted, 9,000 Asian-owned businesses in the county, but many of the people running them have never met each other, let alone customers and businesspeople outside their national origins.

"They seldom work pan-Asian," Sternbach said. "They market within their community. They don't market broadly. That's not surprising. You start where you are comfortable. You start where you know your market."

The business owners gathered for four hours of conversation and lectures on obtaining Small Business Administration grants, how to navigate technology start-ups and how to find locations for businesses.

"I'm Asian and I am interested in running my own business, so I thought this was a good place to come," said Grace Lo, who is working on a start-up in the field of meeting planning. "I'm doing a little bit of networking."

She was not surprised that this was the first time Asian business owners in the community were getting together to do that.

"I think it's part of the culture," she said. "I don't know how to put this, but it may be part of our culture not to blow our own horns."

Chamber to Host New Members

The Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce is hosting an orientation meeting for new members at 8:30 a.m. Nov. 3 at the organization's offices at 51 Monroe St., Suite 1609, in Rockville.

Business members can meet the chamber's staff and discuss how to better promote their businesses. The event is free, though registration is required. For more information, go to

Changes at Sodexho's Top

Sodexho Inc., the Gaithersburg provider of food and facilities management services, has shuffled its key financial executive positions. Thierry Amat has been named chief financial officer, making him responsible for keeping track of the company's $6.3 billion a year in annual sales. He previously worked as chief financial officer for global research and development at the Sanofi-Aventis Group, a Paris drug firm. Amat replaces John Bush, who has been promoted to market president at Sodexho.

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