Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

What's it like to be part of a cross-cultural, multigenerational family business?

Photo by elycefeliz/Flickr (Creative Commons)

The immigrant family business has traditionally been a way for the first generation to launch the second into a better life, with the parents who spend their days toiling in small restaurants, convenience stores and countless other small businesses putting their savings away for their children's education. But what happens when the children come back to work with them?

This is going to be the subject of a panel next week at KPCC's Crawford Family Forum, which I'll be moderating. The panelists joining me will be members of the families behind some of Los Angeles' most iconic Latino businesses: Tapatío hot sauce, Porto's Bakery, Gaviña Gourmet Coffee and the Guelaguetza restaurant chain.

The latter, a favorite eatery for years, made me do a double take last year when I saw the Guelaguetza posting updates on Twitter - the influence, it turns out, of the twentysomething daughter and son of the restaurants' Oaxacan immigrant founders.

So what's it like to be part of a multigenerational, cross-cultural business family? In some cases, the kids set out to do something different - then fall back into the family's line of work. Last summer, the New York Times features several second-generation restaurateurs who had gone to work with their parents, expanding and revamping the family's restaurant businesses. Here's what one of them, Wilson Tang, had to say about the Wall Street jobs he held before coming back:

“I’m a typical second-generation Asian-American,” he said. “My parents wanted me to go to school and study hard and get a good job at a big company. And I did exactly that.”

We'll talk about these expectations and personal career journeys in the panel, as well as the cross-cultural, inter-generational dynamics that take place with first-generation elders work with their American offspring, and how their collaboration has helped these businesses grow.

Now it's your turn: Are you part of an entrepreneurial immigrant family, or close to one? My KPCC colleagues have put together a nifty Assignment Desk project that allows the public to get involved in the storytelling process, conducting interviews and shooting photos and video. We're looking for the stories of interesting family businesses - and not necessarily big ones, as everyone has a good story to tell. Check out the details here.

And please join us Dec. 6 for the panel in Pasadena. It starts at 6:45 p.m. and tickets are free.