In the vibrant communities of Northern Virginia, dreams are taking flight, and small businesses are flourishing, thanks to the Escala Program offered by Northern Virginia Family Service (NVFS). With a mission to support aspiring entrepreneurs from low-income backgrounds, Escala provides a platform for individuals to turn their passions into sustainable businesses. In this blog, we will explore the essence of the Escala program and meet three inspiring graduate entrepreneurs who have successfully climbed the ladder of success with the program’s support.
The Escala Program: A Stepping Stone to Success
Escala, derived from the Spanish word “to climb,” has empowered entrepreneurs since its establishment in 2001. After its relaunch in 2020, the program focused on providing multilingual technical assistance tailored to food-industry small business development for low-income individuals in Northern Virginia but has recently expanded to include all industries. The primary goal is to overcome barriers and enable the growth of sustainable businesses that increase household incomes, create jobs, and contribute to the local economy and our communities.
Supporting Aspiring Entrepreneurs
Embarking on the entrepreneurial journey can be both exhilarating and challenging. It requires dedication, hard work, and unwavering commitment. However, the rewards and benefits of being an entrepreneur are priceless. As entrepreneurs, individuals can give back to their communities, strengthen the local economy, support their employees, and create a positive impact far beyond their immediate surroundings. A unique cornerstone of the Escala program includes individualized support and in-person guidance.
“Escala helped me a lot. I feel very grateful to the advisors for so much unconditional support. I learned a lot about being an entrepreneur and topics that I did not know. I loved the opportunity to be in the classes. I feel very lucky.”—Laura Afanador, Escala Graduate.
The Escala Program recognizes the inherent problem-solving nature of entrepreneurs and strives to provide the necessary tools, guidance, and confidence building to make their dreams a reality.
Meet Gerber Martinez and Flavors of Blanquita
Gerber Martinez and his mother, Blanca Flores, established Flavors of Blanquita—a bakery and Salvadoran Artisan Pupuseria that shares the authentic flavors of their Salvadoran heritage. Blanca’s passion for baking, cultivated since her early years, inspired Gerber to follow in her footsteps. With his extensive experience working in professional restaurants in Washington, D.C., and Virginia, Gerber brought his culinary expertise to the family business.
The Escala program provided Gerber with the necessary tools, information, and guidance of counselor Piedad Jennings to empower him to achieve his entrepreneurial goals. Find them on Instagram: @cafesabores23
Meet Laura Afanador, owner of Lalassfood
Laura Afanador, the founder of Lalassfood, embarked on her entrepreneurial journey driven by her passion for cooking and the desire to bring Colombian cuisine to her local community in Woodbridge, VA. Lalassfood offers a delightful array of snacks, classic Columbian dishes, fast food, event catering, desserts, and frozen products. Laura values the effort, dedication, love, and patience she invests in her work and takes pride in witnessing her clients’ satisfaction with each preparation. You can find Lalassfood on Facebook: @Lalassfood
The Escala program, along with the guidance of advisor Piedad, provided Laura with invaluable support, knowledge, and the opportunity to participate in enlightening classes.
Meet Fanny Carillo and Tango Empanadas
Fanny Carillo, the proud owner of Tango Empanadas and Bakery, hails from Peru but found her heart in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Yearning to share a taste of her beloved Argentina, Fanny embarked on a mission to offer delicious, traditional Argentinian empanadas baked from scratch with top-quality ingredients.
The Escala program supported Fanny in crafting a business plan and launching her website, enabling her to bring the flavors of Argentina to the Northern Virginia community. Fanny greatly appreciated the personalized assistance from the Escala team, whose advice and guidance were instrumental in the successful launch of her business.
The NVFS Escala Program
The Escala Program at Northern Virginia Family Service (NVFS) has become a catalyst for transformation, empowering individuals to climb the ladder of success and turn their entrepreneurial dreams into reality. Through its multilingual technical assistance, individual consulting, coaching, and training programs, Escala equips aspiring entrepreneurs with the knowledge, resources, and confidence needed to build sustainable businesses.
NVFS urges all aspiring entrepreneurs to follow the Escala webpage for seminar calendars, updates, and new class enrollment periods. Escala can help you create a business plan and train to be a new business owner if you have the entrepreneurial spirit and a business idea in any industry.
The stories of Gerber Martinez, Laura Afanador, and Fanny Carillo are inspiring examples of the positive impact of the Escala Program on the lives of its graduates. As we celebrate their accomplishments, let us continue to support and nurture the dreams of entrepreneurs, for they are the ones who shape the future of our communities and contribute to a brighter tomorrow.