MOTIVASIANS FOR CLEVELAND--a social, cultural and networking group--emerged in the early 2000s to try and connect young Asian professionals to one another and to the larger community, with the aim of fostering their success in Northeast Ohio.

MotivAsians was founded informally in 2001. At the time, Greater Cleveland’s Asian American community was small and widely scattered, making it difficult for young Asian professionals, many of whom arrived from other cities, to find cultural camaraderie and peers. Some established Asian Americans saw a need for a group that would welcome the newcomers and help them to become engaged in the community.

MotivAsians grew into a busy, influential group that helped to introduce Asian culture to Greater Cleveland. By 2020, nearly 20 years after its founding, the group continued to attract young professionals to its program of networking and social events, often in partnership with other community groups and civic institutions. Adding to its influence, its members often represented skilled professions and the region’s top employers.

MotivAsians' first president, Stephen Ong, the son of immigrants from Hong Kong, was a 38-year old vice present of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. Other founders included Laura Mimura and Alyssa Yoo, marketing executives in Cleveland’s banking sector, lawyer Laura Hong and entrepreneur Jay Yoo.

The founders resolved to engage newly arrived Asian Americans in community service and to boost their careers with leadership training and professional connections. In so doing, group leaders helped to showcase and coordinate an emerging Asian community.

In 2010, MotivAsians' members were instrumental in the founding of the Cleveland Asian Festival, which quickly grew into one of the region’s most popular ethnic festivals. In 2012, MotivAsians launched CommunicAsians, a series of public speaking classes aimed at helping young Asians polish their professional image.

By 2018, the group’s most popular events included a series of Discover Cleveland tours, an annual summer BBQ, a Lunar New Year Celebration Dinner, participation in the NBA Chinese New Year Celebration with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and participation in the annual Dragon Boat Festival in the FLATS.

In 2020, the group counted roughly 2,000 members, that is, individuals who had signed up to receive its emails and Facebook posts. It was led by Yu Hin “Billy” Hau, an engineer at the NASA GLENN RESEARCH CENTER, who followed outgoing president May Luo, a  CPA at CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY.

While still promoting professional networking, the group had shifted more toward social events and cultural outreach. In early 2020, a newly seated board was assessing the goals of active members in order to plan a new schedule of events.

“I think MotivAsians's proudest achievement is being able to bring together people from various backgrounds and stages of life,” Hua said. “It provides a very good platform to network professionally and make new friends in the community, especially for newcomers to the city.” 

Robert L. Smith

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