A Woman of Entrepreneurial Solutions
By Alison Grimes | Photography provided by CNY Latino
Entrepreneurship comes in many forms. Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management refers to the practice with a three-word slogan: “Dream, believe, pursue.”
Gabriela Escalante, Syracuse University alumna, current entrepreneur-in-residence at the Whitman School of Management and business consultant at the South Side Innovation Center, began to master entrepreneurship at an early age.
Gabriela was born and raised in El Salvador. She was first exposed to entrepreneurship through the markets her great-grandmother and later grandfather ran to support their family and neighborhood.
The most influential force, however, was her mother’s corporate training business.
“My mother is my inspiration,” Gabriela said with a bright smile. “I learned a lot from her, especially when it comes to business.”
Her mother taught her the importance of effective communication, engagement and understanding, while also showing her various forms of leadership.
Following her high school graduation, Gabriela founded an events planning company with her best friend. They started by planning children’s birthday parties for 20 to 30 attendees, and ended up throwing corporate events for more than 600 guests at a time.
After a year, the duo closed the business to continue their education. Gabriela studied for about a year and a half, but didn’t feel it was enough of a challenge. She decided to seek a solution elsewhere. Breaking from her comfort zone, she left family and all else familiar in El Salvador, and moved to Washington D.C.
She worked as an au pair for a year, learning the culture of the new country, and then spent a year in California. But Gabriela’s heart and soul was set on earning a college degree in the United States.
“I remember speaking to my mom on the phone about going back to school in the United States, but we both knew there was no way to afford it at the time,” she said.
Her mother offered Gabriela a job at her corporate training company. Gabriela accepted, moving back to El Salvador to work in the operations, development and various other departments of her mother’s business.
A few months later, the family took a vacation to Orlando that jumpstarted Gabriela’s next business venture. On the trip, she discovered light-up T-shirts. Although she didn’t opt to wear one herself, she wondered if there was a market for this clothing in El Salvador.
A bit of research and one loan from her father later, Gabriela had placed her first order of 100 light-up T-shirts and sold every last one. Eventually, she opened a mall kiosk and operated for a year with four employees, while still working for her mother.
Gabriela’s T-shirt business and her mother’s company were growing. Her mother approached her and said, “If you want to go to university in the United States, now is the time.”
She was right. Gabriela enrolled in Syracuse University, and earned a degree from the Whitman School of Management, all while maintaining her T-shirt sales for one more year.
Before graduating, Gabriela launched her company, EB Active. She still maintains the business, selling her first product of LED light-up snap bracelets online and in five stores locally.
Today, Gabriela works full time at the Whitman School of Management and the South Side Innovation Center, training, coaching, guiding and challenging local entrepreneurs and Syracuse University students, with the mission of improving the city’s economy.
Gabriela is grateful for her supportive network of family and friends. She talks to her mother — her mentor — several times a week, catching up on life and, of course, their latest business experiences. Gabriela wouldn’t be where she is if not for those experiences and her winding journey.
“Providing solutions has always come naturally to me,” she said. “Being able to do this on a daily basis at work — yet also being able to fulfill my own entrepreneurial ambitions — is the perfect balance for me, and I couldn’t be happier.” SWM
This article was provided by the CNY Latino newspaper, the only Hispanic-oriented publication in Central New York. The Spanish version of this article can be read in the April edition of CNY Latino, in both the traditional paper version and the digital format at cnylatinonewspaper.com. Photography courtesy CNY Latino.