When Pedro Benedito Chimo Mandriz’s family returned to their home country of Angola, he stayed in the U.S. to pursue his dream of running his own restaurant.
Years later, the Lorton baker has taken a step to turning that dream into a reality after starting a pastry business in 2021 with the help of Escala, a rebooted counseling and business assistance program run by the nonprofit Northern Virginia Family Service.
Mandriz, 29, is one of 100 people who have benefited from Escala during the pandemic.
While working part-time at Manchester Bagel in Franconia, he took a class with Escala and launched Freaking Good Cakes, which specializes in German fruit cakes but also offers cupcakes and custom orders, all made out of his home.
“I was having the idea that to have or own a business in America, the only way is by doing…loans, and they showed me, no, that’s not the only way,” Mandriz said. “It helped open my eyes.”
Escala started in 2001 and stopped in 2017 before being rebooted during the pandemic. Its name comes from the Spanish verb escalar, meaning to climb, a nod to the program’s bilingual services.
The program’s small business counselor, Liga Brige, helps entrepreneurs develop their business ideas with marketing and financial assessments, frequently helping startups launch from owners’ homes.
“The majority of businesses established during those past years were usually in construction, in day care…in cleaning businesses and food,” Brige said.
During the pandemic, Escala’s participants have typically focused on the culinary arts, including female food service workers who realize they can prepare certain foods out of their homes, Brige says.
Known as food cottage laws, Virginia’s code lets private homes make some low-risk items without a food inspection, from baked goods to candies, dry seasonings, roasted coffee, and more.
“There are laws which allow you to produce from home certain foods, certain products which do not require a lot of licensing,” Brige said.
Most participants in Escala are Hispanic women, typically aged 36 to 55. Many were professional chefs in the hospitality industry and affected by the pandemic, while others were cooking out of their homes.
Escala’s successes so far include:
- Pizza Pita 24, a food truck that Colombian David Levy runs with his family
- Arepa Zone, Venezuelan cuisine with locations in D.C. and a commercial kitchen in Fairfax
- Dolce Amore Sweets, a Peruvian bakery and pastry shop in Manassas owned by Jennifer Solis
The program relies on government funding, and Northern Virginia Family Service plans to seek more grant money to expand Escala from Fairfax and Arlington counties for their upcoming fiscal years, which start in July.
Liga currently serves as the one-stop shop coordinator, but she hopes to have another counselor provide assistance to reach as many industries as possible.
Restricted to low-income adults in Virginia, D.C., and Maryland, the program offers counseling and workshops for free. A nine-week course costs $300.
Mandriz’s ultimate goal is to run his own restaurant that serves food from his country. His advice to new entrepreneurs? Take risks and listen to others’ expertise.
“Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Most of the people that want to go into business…they should be open to [listening] to other people’s information. They’re going to have a solid ground where they can build their business.”
Good Friday evening, Fairfax County. Let’s take a look back at today’s stories and a look forward to tomorrow’s event calendar. 🕗 News recap The following articles were published earlier…
Reston Association is seeking candidates for its 2024 Board of Directors’ election. Four seats are open for the election, which will take place in March. Specifically, two at-large director seats…
Zombies, pirates and other virtual characters are about to be unleashed on Tysons, just in time for Christmas. Sandbox VR will launch its new virtual reality gaming experience at 1656…
Do the holidays have you stressed and busy? Worry not about what to wear as Live Fairfax has the Style Survival Guide for this season!
The Georgetown Visitation Masqueraders proudly present
Descendants The Musical
Art House 7 warmly welcomes you to our upcoming Fall 2 session of classes starting on October 30th. We’re thrilled to offer a diverse range of mediums and flexible class lengths, catering to a wide age range, starting from as young as 2, and, of course, providing a multitude of engaging options for adults!
Our classes cover an exciting spectrum of creative mediums, including fiber arts such as knitting, modern embroidery, crochet, and sewing. We also offer classes in ceramics on the wheel, drawing, watercolor, gouache, oil, acrylic, still-life painting, and captivating Japanese Suminagashi and printmaking. One of the highlights of this session is the highly anticipated 5-week “Painting the Portrait and Figure” workshop, led by the renowned local artist, Danni Dawson.
For our younger artists, we have specially designed classes like “Art Exploration through Impressionism” for students in kindergarten through 5th grade, an engaging “Art Together” parent-child class designed for 2–4-year-olds, and a “Teen Taught Art Club” tailored for kindergarteners through 4th graders.