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Isela is a professional chef, entrepreneur, wife, and mother of three beautiful daughters. She has over 20 years of experience in the food and business industries in Colombia and the U.S. Isela came to the U.S. as a political asylee who fled her home in Cartagena due to the persecution by the government for her activism defending Black and Afro-descendant communities of Colombia. Isela was introduced to IRC resettlement services in February 2019 through the Survivors of the Torture program. 

Once Isela was settled and ready to start her business, she was referred to IRC’s Small Business Development Center and the WE STAR Program, where she received one-on-one business counseling services. She was able to establish her business and access a $15,000 business loan to buy a food truck for her business. Isela sells at local farmers’ markets, supplies to local specialty grocers, and caters for special events. The company is now investing in a food trailer to develop a restaurant chain and become a staple for Colombian food.

About IRC San Diego:

IRC San Diego’s “WE STAR” Program recognizes entrepreneurship as a viable option for low-income, immigrant, and refugee women to achieve economic mobility and lift themselves out of poverty. Many of these women face obstacles to financial stability, including a lack of: access to linguistically- and culturally-appropriate services, formal education, transportation, access to financial capital, and familiarity with business customs and regulations in the US. With WE’s support, barriers are reduced for these women to open and operate a successful small business through training and workshops, 1:1 business counseling, business licensing assistance, access to microloans, and assistance with marketing and bookkeeping, as well as social and emotional wellness support.