Wells Fargo “La Escalera” Grant Supports Spanish-speaking Entrepreneurs

By Katie Knipe | January 28, 2022

It is well-documented that COVID-19 and the resulting economic fallout have disproportionately harmed Latino and Black-owned businesses. WESST’s focus on supporting historically underserved entrepreneurs, including women, people of color and people who earn low incomes, is especially critical as we support our state’s small businesses who are attempting to stabilize and recover. This important work would not be possible without philanthropic support from our generous partners like Wells Fargo.

Knowing that COVID-19 would profoundly impact  small businesses, Wells Fargo developed the Open for Business Fund to help small businesses recover and rebuild. Wells Fargo awarded nearly $50 million in grants to nonprofit organizations to support and expand critical technical assistance services to small businesses as they navigate the economic effects of COVID-19. The program was designed to emphasize Black, African American, Latino, Asian American, American Indian, and Alaska Native owned businesses, acknowledging that the global health crisis has disproportionately impacted these businesses.

WESST is grateful to receive a $200,000 Open for Business grant from Wells Fargo in support of La Escalera, a program focused on helping Spanish-speaking business owners formalize and strengthen their businesses. This support for La Escalera has been critical at this time by helping Spanish-speaking and immigrant entrepreneurs to access timely and relevant entrepreneurial development services in Spanish.

Isabel Licano is the owner of Gifts, Baskets and Beyond, LLC, a retail business that provides gifts for every special occasion. Clients can customize and build their own gifts or buy ready-made gifts. The business has a retail location at the Cottonwood Mall and offers delivery. Isabel was working full time, but she had been thinking about starting a business for many years. Isabel has always enjoyed building gifts baskets but never felt that she could start a business out of her passion until her friends began ordering and she began receiving referrals from other clients.

La Escalera provided Isabel the opportunity to access consultations and trainings, and she is currently applying for a loan to grow her business as demand is growing. With WESST’s assistance, Isabel is mastering the financial side of the business, learning about inventory, cash flow projections and how to optimize marketing.

Isabel was able to quit her full-time job and increased sales by 60% during the holiday season. Through her entrepreneurial spirit, she has created two jobs in her community. Isabel’s location at the mall contributes to local economic development. More importantly, she has impacted her community by being an example of a working mother who had a dream and made it a reality.

Thank you, Wells Fargo, for supporting WESST’s work with Spanish-speaking entrepreneurs so we can support our clients in the language they learn best!

Isabel says: “I don’t know what I would do without WESST’s assistance, I would be completely lost. I am so grateful for all the information and for knowing I am not alone. I am so grateful I can obtain assistance in Spanish, as I am more comfortable with my native language than English. I am inspired to keep learning and grow my business with WESST.”

About the Author


Katie Knipe

Katie Knipe is the VP of Development for WESST and has worked in nonprofit management and arts administration for the past decade. She has dedicated her career to fundraising for organizations whose missions fuel her fire, including those who promote classical music performance and who serve people experiencing homelessness.

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