Being Asian American presents its many challenges especially amidst the pandemic. Jeff Yeh, President of the manufacturing company Synder Filtration, has taken his experiences facing these obstacles and turned them into a driving force to bring support and recognition to AAPI businesses, particularly for his own impressive family-founded company.
Synder Filtration is an excellent example of perseverance through hardship, well-deserved success in multiple industries, and community nurturing. Read below to gain insight into Yeh’s company involvement and get to know his story.
CalAsian Chamber: What does it mean to you to be an AAPI business owner?
Jeff Yeh: I grew up in Indiana and faced both casual and blatant racism from a young age. In fact, I remember clearly wishing that I was white because it would have been so much easier to fit in and avoid being picked on every day just because I was Chinese. In 1989, my family decided to expand our horizons by moving to Fairfield to start our manufacturing company, where we were welcomed by the Solano Economic Development Corporation. As a 10-year-old kid, my own perspective expanded as well. For the first time in my life, I saw other people who looked like me in school and started to believe that it was not only okay to be Asian, but that I was actually proud of it.
It has always been a challenge to be AAPI in this country and the pandemic has only magnified this with the scapegoating of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. In a time when many in our community are being attacked and made to feel like “we don’t belong”, it is extremely important to illuminate the significant contributions that AAPI businesses make to our local economies and communities. It’s important that we are seen for what we actually do, not just the labels that are projected onto us.
CC: Tell us about your business.
JY: Synder Filtration is a manufacturing company based in Vacaville, [CA]. We make polymeric membrane filters, which are used for the separation, concentration, and purification of many high-value products (basically we separate liquids on a molecular level). We are a completely independent family business with 65 employees and we got our start in the biotech field before expanding into other industries such as dairy, food & beverage, pharmaceutical and automotive.
CC: How can the community support your business?
JY: Currently, one of our challenges is finding good operators for production. As the economy reopens we are competing against other industries like construction to hire workers. Manufacturing creates the highest economic benefit per job for local communities of any sector by far, and we would like to work more closely with local school boards and work force development folks to promote the many exciting career paths in this field.
CC: What are you most proud of when it comes to your business?
JY: I am very proud of the fact that we have been able to build our company organically. We have no outside investors or operating debt and are fiercely independent as a result. This allows us to prioritize long-term investment in R&D, manufacturing advancements, and customer satisfaction over short-term gains. I am also proud that we did not lay off any of our team members due to the pandemic.
CC: What words of hope can you give to other small businesses out there?
JY: Know that you are not alone. We in the AAPI business community are in this together. Keep fighting. We have a real impact on our employees, customers, vendors and communities and we should hold our heads up high and be PROUD!
This blog is part of a larger campaign called #OurAAPIStories which is designed to amplify the experiences of AAPI business owners, leaders, and prominent figures in our communities. If you want to join our efforts and highlight these AAPI voices, use the hashtag #OurAAPIStories when posting on social media. Moreover, you can reach out to Janice at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to share your own story with us.