Marla Bilonick was named LEDC's Executive Director in October, 2014. Prior, she served for 5 months as the organization's Interim Executive Director. She rejoined LEDC in 2012 as Director of Small Business Development after first working at the organization in 1999 as a microloan officer. As Director, she worked with her team to provide high-quality bilingual training and technical assistance to entrepreneurs and small business owners in the DC metropolitan area. In her current role as Executive Director, she is leading LEDC's regional efforts to drive the economic and social advancement of low- to moderate-income Latinos and other D.C. and Baltimore area residents by equipping them with the skills and tools to achieve financial independence.
Previously, she worked for Seedco with entrepreneurs in Lower Manhattan New York that were impacted by the 2001 attacks of September 11th, helping to re-focus their businesses so that they could be retained and could grow despite the effects of the tragedy. As previous director of the Upper Manhattan Business Solutions Center, Marla’s team was able to work closely with community entrepreneurs in Harlem to launch and expand their businesses, bridging gaps to critical resources including information and financing. Her work in microenterprise development and microfinance in the international arena for DAI in settings such as Bolivia, El Salvador, Mexico, and her native Panama provides her with cultural sensitivity and awareness that is useful for working with LEDC's core constituents. She is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin at Madison and received her Master of Arts degree in International Economics and Latin American Studies from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies-SAIS.
Marla is a member of the Board of Directors of the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Economic Development-CNHED and a member of the Montgomery County Comprehensive Economic Strategy Advisory Group. She is a former Aspen Institute Emerging Leaders in Microbusiness-ELM2 Fellow and is a graduate of the Citi/Opportunity Finance Network (OFN)'s Leadership Program for Opportunity Finance at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Marla currently serves on Capital One Bank's Community Advisory Council and is a member of the Equity Committee of the Opportunity Finance Network (OFN)'s Board of Directors, and of the Policy Committee of the National Association of Latino Community Asset Builders (NALCAB)'s Board of Directors. She was named a Community Champion for the Washington, DC metropolitan area by Capital One Bank in 2015.
Rosana has more than ten years of experience in Business, Human Resources, and working as a Special Projects Coordinator at a Senior Management level. Rosana has excellent written and oral communication skills, problem resolution abilities, and maintains a high level of confidentiality regarding work-related issues. Rosana started with LEDC in 2009 as a Bilingual Default Foreclosure Counselor and was promoted after 5 months to become Financial and Human Resources Specialist. Rosana has over 4 years of experience working in the Administration department at LEDC and over 20 years of background experience. She has recently returned to LEDC’s Finance Department where she continues to exercise her well-developed skills in Human Resources administration, office management, bookkeeping, and finance.
Ms. Nemes comes to LEDC with 14 years of experience in the community development field. As LEDC's Development Director, in partnership with the Executive Director, Ms. Nemes spearheads development efforts, including communications and evaluation. Prior to joining LEDC, Ms. Nemes’ work focused on assessing the needs of vulnerable and marginalized communities and the impact of programs designed to minimize social inequities. She has directed, consulted, and supported research and evaluation projects related to immigrant and refugee integration (including race and ethnic relations), public health, community change processes, and economic development. Ms. Nemes is bilingual and has extensive experience conducting field work with ethnic communities. Having served as a research and evaluation consultant to foundations, government agencies, and non-profit organizations, Ms. Nemes is well versed in program development and organizational capacity building. She received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Maryland, College Park, in Psychology and a Master of Science in Cross-Cultural Psychology from Brunel University in London, England.
As LEDC’s Communications and Development Associate, Jorge implements LEDC’s communication strategy and assists with grant applications. He tracks, compiles, and produces content for LEDC’s communications efforts, which include website updates, quarterly newsletters, press releases, annual reports, flyers and other graphic design materials. He manages and compiles content for our social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. He also maintains LEDCs communications databases. Mr. Rodriguez is fluent in Spanish, Portuguese, and English, and has lived in various Latin American countries. He is a graduate of the University of Michigan where he obtained his BA in Political Science and Philosophy. Before joining LEDC, Jorge worked with several political campaigns including the campaign for reelection of Judge Clay Jenkins of the Dallas County, and as the Media Relations Director for Adrian's Garcia's campaign for Mayor of Houston. Jorge has also served as a White House appointee for the Department of Health and Human Services as the West Texas Regional Outreach Specialist and Media Advisor.
Morgan Shaw is a graduate of the University of Arkansas with a BA in Spanish & Latin American Studies and a BA in International Relations. Morgan has lived in abroad in Antigua, Guatemala & Madrid, Spain where he enrolled in language immersion schools. Morgan interned for LEDC in 2014 conducting follow-up evaluation with Small Business clients, and after finishing college joined the Small Business team as a Loan Officer. In 2016 Morgan transitioned to become the Development Associate for LEDC securing grants and funding for the future of the organization.
Oswaldo Acosta - Director of Small Business Services
As an entrepreneur, Oswaldo understands the value of having access to financial services first hand and is aware of the important role that the Latino Economic Development Center plays in the success of the region’s small business owners. In his own entrepreneurial ventures, he launched and expanded a food manufacturing company with market reach in Virginia, Maryland, DC, Pennsylvania and New York City. After his company’s acquisition, Oswaldo joined Self-Help Ventures Fund’s team, a non-profit Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) where he was part of a commercial lending group prior to joining LEDC as director of Small Business Services. Oswaldo’s academic training as an economist, his experience as a consultant for The World Bank and certainly his experience as an entrepreneur suits him with a broad and technical understanding of the challenges facing LEDC clients. He holds a bachelor degree in economics from Monterrey Tec, an MA in Political Economy and an MSc in Economic Regulation from Essex University and the London School of Economics and Political Science, respectively.
Rossana Espinoza - Program Manager, Small Business Development Department
Rossana Espinoza is the Program Manager for Small Business Development at LEDC. She is responsible for ensuring quality small business support through technical assistance and business trainings in the greater DMV region. Her team of small business coaches work to help entrepreneurs start and expand their businesses by providing bilingual technical assistance in the areas of business planning, incorporation and licensing as well as holding trainings on topics pertinent to small business owners. Rossana has been at LEDC for five years since first joining in 2011. A graduate of the University of Maryland at College Park with a Bachelor’s degree in Government and Politics, Rossana has previously worked for student-led organizations on campus advocating for the inclusion and retention of Latino students. Rossana has worked on community development in a professional setting and volunteer basis and currently utilizes the skills gained to help minority and low-income small business owners thrive.
Zara Cabrera - Portfolio and Data Administrator, DC
Zara was born and raised in the Petworth neighborhood in Washington, DC and her parents are Panamanian. Zara's previous work experience includes working as an administrative assistant at H&R Block and Rosemount Center. She graduated from Bell Multicultural High School in the Columbia Heights neighborhood and attended Montgomery College Silver Spring/Takoma Park campus. Zara enjoys being a part of an organization that helps small business owners that have difficulty obtaining credit from mainstream financial institutions achieve their dream of starting-up, improving, or expanding their businesses.
Richard Cisneros - Small Business Coach and Liaison, MD
Richard Cisneros was born in San Miguel, El Salvador. Richard holds a BS in Business Management from George Mason University and an Associate of Science degree in Business Administration from the Northern Virginia Community College. Richard worked for two years as the Marketing Manager at the Mariposa Cultural Foundation. Before this, Richard used to work as the Assistant Producer for Accent Media, Inc., and as the General Manager for Three Pigs Barbecue. Richard feels blessed to work with business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs. He feels inspired to work with motivated-hardworking individuals. He gets to help foster and develop ideas into functional businesses. Richard provides one-on-one coaching for small business owners, builds client base and fills courses through outreach, and organizes trainings on business topics. Richard is proud to hear the success stories of his clients.
Maria Jimenez - Small Business Coach, MD
Maria brings to LEDC fifteen years of experience in finance and accounting, working on multiple assignments at the Senior Management level. Her experience includes private sector and, more recently, the international nonprofit sector where she had the opportunity to work in Peru, Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua and USA. She is bilingual and originally from Peru. Her passion is social entrepreneurship and social finance. In that sense, she volunteered as a mentor helping a Peruvian entrepreneur and as a volunteer evaluating social enterprise in Africa and Haiti. She holds a Bachelor in Accounting from Catholic University, Peru, and an MBA from Monterrey Institute of Technology, Mexico. She received a certificate in Microfinance at the Boulder Institute of Microfinance and Social Enterprise and a Social Impact Investment certificate at Monterey Institute of International Studies (MIIS), in California, USA. She is very excited to be part of LEDC and to provide technical assistance to small business and entrepreneurs to help them to flourish.
Johanna Amaya - Small Business Coach and Liaison, MD
Johanna Amaya joined LEDC in August of 2016. She received a dual bachelor’s degree in Business Management and Finance from the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business and brings a wealth of practical experience working with small business owners through SBDC. Johanna also has experience in the financial field, specifically in the banking industry through past internships. As a Small Business Coach and Liaison for Small Business Development at LEDC, Johanna is responsible for providing one-on-one technical assistance to business owners as well as liaison services between businesses and Montgomery County. Johanna is passionate about helping her clients. Watching them grow and succeed makes her work fulfilling.
Omar Velasco - Small Business Coach, Baltimore
Omar has more than nine years of business experience. He spent two years as a leader in quality management and strategic planning for the Cardiovascular Foundation of Colombia, and six years as a manager and owner of a food manufacturing company, which is still operating. In addition to managing and operating his company, Omar was a business coach at the Chamber of Commerce of Bucaramanga, where he coached 180 entrepreneurs with the objective of turning their ideas into sustainable companies. As an entrepreneur, he knows first hand the setbacks of starting and running a company and he learned that every difficulty is in fact, an opportunity. Omar is an Industrial Engineer in process optimization from the Industrial University of Santander and certified auditor for integrated management system ISO 9001 ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001. He is very happy to be part of LEDC and to have the privilege of serving the community.
Karina Mendoza - Small Business Coach, DC
A University of Southern California graduate, a high school teacher in South Central L.A., a chocolatier and inventory manager in Wisconsin, a small business coach in Washington DC, and currently a CPA student at Syracuse University, Karina Mendoza brings with to LEDC a diverse professional experience that encompasses the many intricate sides of entrepreneurship. Formerly at Crossroads Community Food Network, where she managed the Microenterprise Training Program, assisting entrepreneurs in Maryland start food businesses, Karina is dedicated to assisting marginalized community members increase their financial well-being.
Michelle Maluwetig - Small Business Coach, DC
Michelle brings business development and communications expertise acquired in startups and international organizations where she focused on social entrepreneurship, women empowerment, and civic engagement. Most recently, Michelle was the Director of Operations at Cambio Coffee, the first Latino-owned benefit corporation in China. Before working at Cambio Coffee, she was a policy delegate representing Canada at the Organization of American States, in Washington DC. Michelle holds an undergraduate degree in international relations from McGill University in Canada, and a Master’s degree in International Business from the University of Queensland, Australia.
Diana Avellaneda - Program Manager, Lending Department, DC
Diana Avellaneda brings 22 years of experience to LEDC working in the field of finance in areas such as cash management, accounting, and investing with institutions including Citibank and Santander Bank. As Program Manager of the Lending Department, Diana is responsible for the management, administration and accounting of LEDC’s portfolio which has reached $2.7 million and more than 260 clients. Diana is a member of the Board of Directors of Credit Builders Alliance. She loves working at LEDC because of its work to help people not just tackle the challenging world of business but achieve success.
Amanda Gant - Small Busines Lending Officer, DC
Amanda Gant joined LEDC as a Small Busines Lending Officer in January 2017. She previously worked with the non-profit CRDF Global where she developed and organized startup boot camps and virtual mentorship programs to support technology startup entrepreneurs in Africa, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. Amanda has long had the entrepreneurship bug, selling bracelets on the beach of her hometown of Cocoa Beach, FL since middle school, and it was this experience which inspired her to study international development at Georgetown, with the goal to empower others to realize their dreams by starting their own businesses. Amanda has also researched technology’s role in improving microfinance outreach in Kenya. Amanda holds a master’s degree in International Public Policy and a bachelor's degree in Foreign Service from Georgetown University.
Rodrigo Cordon - Small Business Lending Officer, Baltimore
Rodrigo Cordon is from Guatemala and graduated from Loyola University Maryland with a degree in Business Administration with a concentration in International Business. Before joining LEDC, Rodrigo worked for Under Armour, at the E-commerce department as a CSR in the returns team. Rodrigo has a passion for international development and has field experience in Peru and Zambia, where he performed his internships with Chemonics International. Rodrigo is very excited to be part of LEDC and help small businesses grow in Baltimore and its surrounding area.
Isis Salmeron - Small Business Lending Officer, MD
Originally from El Salvador, Isis Salmeron brings four years of experience working with small businesses and low-income population in the DC Metropolitan area, especially in Montgomery County. She received her bachelor degree in Finance and Business Administration from the University of New Orleans, and her Master of Science in Finance from Johns Hopkins University. Isis is very excited to be part of LEDC and provide financial opportunities to small business’ owners and entrepreneurs.
Carlos Garcia Rada - Small Business Lending Officer, MD
Carlos Garcia is a Small Business Lending Officer with LEDC. He has developed a solid reputation for excellent client service and customized financing solutions. He works out of LEDC’s Montgomery County hub in Wheaton, Maryland. Prior to working at LEDC, Carlos cultivated a career in financial service provision in the private sector, working for entities including SunTrust Bank where he served as a Business Relationship Manager. He also worked for banks in his native Peru, including Banco Santander and Banco Solventa in the areas of marketing and sales. There he developed, launched, and grew critical brands and products for those respective banks. Carlos holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Lima in Lima, Peru.
Walda Yon - Director of Housing, DC
Walda Yon brings six years of experience working with the Latino community in Washington, DC. Prior to working with LEDC, Walda worked in administrative and outreach capacities with Health Services for Children with Special Needs, Carlos Rosario International Career Center & Public Charter School, International Migrants Development Fund, and Alfa Omega Tax Service. Originally from Guatemala, Walda came to the US in 2000 with solid work experience in customer service and procurement at one of the leading sugar refineries in the country. Walda attended the Business Administration School at the Mariano Galvez University in Guatemala. In her position as Senior Housing Counselor Walda educates clients on the credit system, financial literacy and the home buying process. Also, Walda works with homeowners at risk of losing their homes to avoid foreclosure. She can also be seen in the community leading workshops at off-site venues. Walda is motivated by the fact that she is helping to improve the financial health of the community. She knows that by providing the tools for wealth-building to each client, she is helping their families and the community as a whole.
Maria Godoy - Bilingual Housing Counselor, DC
Born in Los Angeles California but raised most of her childhood in El Salvador. Maria joined LEDC November 2010 as a Bilingual Foreclosure Housing Counselor. Prior to LEDC, Maria worked for two years as a Loan officer for Bank of America and for three years as a Title Closer for RGS Title. Maria has had an active license as a title insurance producer for five years. Maria successfully completed Neighborworks Foreclosure Intervention and Default Counseling Certification in February of 2011.
Yesenia Rivera - Bilingual Housing Counseling Coordinator, MD
Yesenia joined LEDC in 2013. She grew up between New York and Puerto Rico but has been calling DC home for almost 15 years. Yesenia has a Bachelor in Science from the University of Puerto Rico and a Law degree from the University of the District of Columbia- David A. Clarke School of Law. She joins LEDC after having worked as a Student Attorney at the Community Development Legal Clinic at the law school. It was during her time at the clinic that she witnessed the effects of the affordable housing crisis in DC, particularly in the Latino community. The clinical experience fueled her passion for community development and she is thrilled to have joined the Affordable Housing Preservation team where she can help further empower the Latino community in DC.
Katherine Canales - Housing Counselor, MD
Katherine joined LEDC in September 2014. She is of Ecuadorian and Salvadorian descent. A recent graduate of Trinity Washington University, Katherine majored in International Affairs, concentrating on global migration, and minoring in Spanish and Latin American Studies. Having demonstrated academic excellence by graduating with several honors she was inducted into three honor society chapters: Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Alpha Theta, and Sigma Iota Rho. Katherine believes that her customer service work experience and education has helped her develop outstanding interpersonal communication skills and cultural sensitivity, which aids her in helping create financial independence for LEDC's clients.
Julia Sarmiento - Housing Counselor, DC
Julia was born in El Salvador and completed most of her education in the United States. Julia obtained her Bachelors of Arts in Political Science with a Minor in Latin American Studies from the University of Maryland. Julia has six years of work experience in foreclosure, home-buyer education, financial literacy, community service and outreach work. Julia has also worked with youth and families to promote education through physical activity.
Angelica Rufino comes to LEDC with almost 7 years of nonprofit experience, having spent the last 5 years working in the housing counseling industry in Washington DC. She is a native Washingtonian of Dominican heritage. She is a certified housing counselor with experience in homebuyer education, foreclosure prevention, and credit counseling. Before becoming a housing counselor, she was an intake specialist helping the public know about the various programs available for the community in DC. She was also a former member of the LEDC family as a receptionist, where she was introduced to the housing counseling field and all the housing programs in Washington DC.
Judith Ventura - Housing Intake & Support Staff, DC
Judith was born in Los Angeles, California but move to DC when she was about five. Judith speaks both Spanish and English plus a little bit of Japanese. She has always been very passionate about her education, after she graduated from high school, she decided to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management and a minor in Psychology. Before she started working at LEDC she was working in retail with the Men’s Wearhouse in Maryland. LEDC added value to her life as soon as she started working here. It showed her that we as people can still be compassionate to those around us. Judith loves the fact that she can say that she works for a non-profit organization that helps people with housing and that we actually change lives. She is the first person of contact at LEDC, the first face that is seen. She helps counselors with anything they need, i.e. booking appointment, calling clients, organizing files, transferring calls, taking messages, etc. Judith makes sure that everything is set for both the client and counselors.
Philip Kennedy - Regional Tenant Organizing Manager
Phil (or Felipe) Kennedy is LEDC's Tenant Organizing Manager in the Housing Department. Originally from Hershey, PA, he started working at LEDC in 2013. He enjoys working with the immigrant community in DC, and especially loves being able to support DC tenants who are looking to change their city and the world. Prior to working at LEDC, Phil worked on the US/Mexico border at the Migrant Resource Center in Agua Prieta, Sonora. He has undergraduate degrees in Spanish and Peace and Conflict Studies from Guilford College, a Quaker school in Greensboro, NC.
Talia Brock - Tenant Organizing Manager
Talia joined LEDC in August of 2014. She grew up and lived in Silver Spring, MD for most of her life. As a DC metro area native, Talia has been cognizant of the many issues afflicting the DC area and its residents. Talia graduated from Denison University in 2013 with a B.A. in English Literature and Spanish, and took courses in Poverty and Development while studying abroad at Pontificia Universidad Católica de la Madre y Maestra in Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic. It was through her studies and volunteer work during her semester abroad that she solidified her interest in non-profit work. In the fall of 2013, Talia began a year of service as a Corps Member with City Year in Washington, DC, where she was placed as a tutor and mentor in an under-performing elementary school. At the conclusion of her corps year, Talia worked for a short time as an Assistant Teacher in the S.T.U.D.I.O. Rocks program at CentroNía, a bilingual school in the District. Talia is incredibly excited about working with LEDC because she has been given the opportunity to continue working alongside members of the community while exploring a new avenue of the non-profit world.
Rob Wohl - Tenant Organizer
Rob Wohl joined LEDC as a tenant organizer in 2015. Rob has 4 years of experience working on labor, environmental, and corporate accountability campaigns, including the movement against deadly sweatshops in Bangladesh, the effort to limit deforestation in the global palm oil industry, and the drive to raise wages and other labor standards at Walmart. Since coming to DC from Tucson, AZ in 2011, Rob has been involved in local activism through a variety of organizations, including Jews United for Justice, where he has served as co-chair on the affordable housing and Paid Sick Days for All campaigns.
Cecilia Behgam - Tenant Organizer
Cecilia Behgam joined LEDC as a Bilingual Tenant Organizer in 2016. She is originally from Dallas, Texas. Her mother is Mexican-American and her father is from Iran. Cecilia graduated from Brown University in 2015 with a Bachelor of Arts degree and studied abroad in Costa Rica while she was a student. From 2015-2016, Cecilia worked with the Alliance for Fair Food, the ally non-profit of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a farmworker-led human rights organization. Cecilia is now a member of the Alliance for Fair Food’s Comité, or board. Cecilia brings four years of experience in food justice, gender equality and labor organizing to LEDC. Cecilia also plays son jarocho, a style of music from Veracruz, México. She is grateful to be living in Washington, DC with family and friends and she is energized to organize alongside DC residents for affordable and just housing with LEDC.
Nikola Radovic - Tenant Organizer
Nikola Radovic Fanta joined LEDC as a Bilingual Tenant Organizer in 2016. He is originally from Chile, with a Chilean mother and Serbian father. He has traveled extensively throughout Latin America (Chile, Perú, Paraguay, Argentina, Uruguay, Dominican Republic, Haiti) and graduated in 2015 with a bachelor's degree in Journalism from Universidad Viña del Mar. Nikola worked for two years in his university's international department before moving to the United States in 2016. Nikola loves doing social work and helping others. He is an avid soccer fan, enjoys hiking and going to the movies during his time off.