A Mother’s Journey: The gentrification exasperation

Editor’s note: Since September 2015, Worcester Sun has chronicled the trials and triumphs of Sun contributor Giselle Rivera-Flores as she explores ways to help her daughter and other Worcester families find affordable educational support and assistance. We used to describe her as an aspiring business owner; now, she’s an inspiring one. During her journey to establish and grow her nonprofit tutoring collaborative she has, you could say, stepped beyond the walls of her dream.

Giselle Rivera-Flores

It seems obvious to me that when a city clusters industry-specific small businesses into an area of close proximity, the community experiences growth at a faster rate. It is the underlying strategy for increasing productivity, innovation and success.

Small businesses benefit from their neighbors in a relationship that promotes the exchange and sharing of marketing, skilled workforce and technologies. As cities grow, there should be an integrated strategy for the development of small businesses and not just an emphasis on larger developments, brands and infrastructure buildout.

In December 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a report, “Smart Growth and Economic Success: Benefits for Real Estate Developers, Investors, Businesses, and Local Governments,” outlining the importance of smart growth development. The concept integrates “compact and walkable” with providing “a diverse range of choices in land uses, building types, transportation, homes, workplace locations and stores.”

The report states that “by locating businesses closer together, compact development can create a density of employment that increases economic productivity and attracts additional investment.” And of course, it makes logical sense to do so.

When I drive through high-density small-business areas, like those in Main South, I do not see the implementation of logical strategies such as that of compact development from city investment, but instead, I see it through the relationships among the existing businesses.

Read Giselle’s previous chapter, The gauntlet of transitions, or scroll down to explore more of her story.

The Muse is inspired to remain a part of Worcester’s downtown revival

Upon opening its doors two years ago, The Muse, 536 Main St., across the street from Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts, intended to build upon the momentum of the city’s revitalization plans.

Coming to Federal Square during the much-ballyhooed “downtown renaissance,” The Muse owners John Rinaldo and Matt Kingman set forth to be a part of the bigger picture. Cultivating a brand based on the anticipated vibes of new visitors and returning friends with hip cocktails and craft beer, The Muse has added something flagrantly unique to the urban lifestyle trend in Worcester.

Coupled with its tight embrace of the city’s flourishing arts scene, The Muse quickly set itself apart from the typical Worcester bar.

With more than 30 years of hospitality experience and a hearty helping of inspiration from other forward-thinking business owners like Alec Lopez, owner of Armsby Abbey and The Dive, Rinaldo saw Worcester for what it truly is: a blank canvas.

A Mother’s Journey: The gauntlet of transitions

Editor’s note: Since September 2015, Worcester Sun has chronicled the trials and triumphs of Sun contributor Giselle Rivera-Flores as she explores ways to help her daughter and other Worcester families find affordable educational support and assistance. We used to describe her as an aspiring business owner; now, she’s an inspiring one. During her journey to establish and grow her nonprofit tutoring collaborative she has, you could say, stepped beyond the walls of her dream.

Giselle Rivera-Flores

“It’s in transition.” That phrase has become the (mostly) unwritten slogan of my life – both personally and professionally.

Buried in every crevice of growth is the undertone of transition. Its double-sided presence adheres to us as both confidence and anxiety — all while promising a better tomorrow.

Transition is the “process or a period of changing from one state to another,” and while the definition portrays an image of physical change, transition, for me, is truly internal. And it happens every second of the day.

It happens in the depths of chaos and in the bliss of growth. It happens through each human interaction, and lack thereof. Transition is a thin line in the world of entrepreneurship that makes us tiptoe across the tightrope of obstacles while juggling the rest of our lives and carrying what feels like the weight of the world on our shoulders.

As we approach our second year of homeschooling our daughters Brooklyn and Evian, we are accompanied by many transitions: new grade levels, new expectations, new schedules and new changes. Transition is the shadow that never leaves. Unless you have given up on the path of life you’ve chosen – and we have no intention of doing so.

Read Giselle’s previous chapter, The ‘Mini’ Series, or scroll down to explore more of her story.

Little Free Libraries

A Mother’s Journey: The ‘Mini’ Series

Editor’s note: Since September 2015, Worcester Sun has chronicled the trials and triumphs of Sun contributor Giselle Rivera-Flores as she explores ways to help her daughter and other Worcester families find affordable educational support and assistance. We used to describe her as an aspiring business owner; now, she’s an inspiring one. During her journey to establish and grow her nonprofit tutoring collaborative she has, you could say, stepped beyond the walls of her dream.

Giselle Rivera-Flores

Last Sunday, Aug. 13, The Learning Hub, in partnership with Action! Worcester, launched a much-requested campaign: Little Free Libraries.

One of the most successful ways to improve the reading achievement of children is to increase their access to books, especially at home, according to a 2010 study from University of Tennessee, Knoxville, faculty members Richard Allington and Anne McGill-Franzen. However, according to the U.S. Department of Education, up to 61 percent of low-income families do not have books for children at home.

In Massachusetts, where 43 percent of children are not reading where they should be by the third grade, the concept of literacy accessibility should be a priority. This is especially true in Worcester, where a lack of proficiency in literacy is coupled with financial hardship, language barriers and a lack of cultural services.

Read Giselle’s previous chapter, The sincerest form of thievery, or scroll down to explore more of her story.

For Live Action Escapes, unlocking success is no longer a mystery

“Coming from a background of redesigning homes, co-owner Michael Paquin had a clear vision of what this business could become. When he opened Live Action Escapes at 1 Exchange St. in the heart of downtown with daughter Amanda last year, he knew this was a perfect fit for him as a creative artist.” Find out about the family business’ expansion plans and more from Giselle Rivera-Flores.

A Mother’s Journey: The sincerest form of thievery

Editor’s note: Since September 2015, Worcester Sun has chronicled the trials and triumphs of Sun contributor Giselle Rivera-Flores as she explores ways to help her daughter and other Worcester families find affordable educational support and assistance. We used to describe her as an aspiring business owner; now, she’s an inspiring one. During her journey to establish and grow her nonprofit tutoring collaborative she has, you could say, stepped beyond the walls of her dream.

Giselle Rivera-Flores

“There is no such thing as a new idea,” Mark Twain famously wrote in his 1907 autobiography. “It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.”

He couldn’t have said it better.

Originality is an ambiguous concept, it seems, leading many of us to believe the thoughts and ideas we create are somehow impartial, uninfluenced by the world around us. It leads us to believe creativity is somehow only sparked from within and not an element molded by the experiences and lessons from life.

The world around us is a bottomless pit of discovery, with every new encounter leaving us a new impression and a fresh outlook. Yet, entrepreneurs and business owners tend to forget that their “creative spark” was ignited by their environment — by the people and conversations around them — and not from some untouched segment of their brain.

Read Giselle’s previous chapter, The inner-city detour, or scroll down to explore more of her story.

A Mother’s Journey: The inner-city detour

Editor’s note: Since September 2015, Worcester Sun has chronicled the trials and triumphs of Sun contributor Giselle Rivera-Flores as she explores ways to help her daughter and other Worcester families find affordable educational support and assistance. We used to describe her as an aspiring business owner; now, she’s an inspiring one. During her journey to establish and grow her nonprofit tutoring collaborative she has, you could say, stepped beyond the walls of her dream.

Giselle Rivera-Flores

The gap between rich and the poor affects all aspects of American life. While it should never impact a child’s chance to receive a good education, there remains an obvious schism at the center of many a school-related controversy.

A pronounced funding rift is often cited as the main reason behind failing or underperforming schools, and more and more seems to be among the top determinants — along with parent engagement, which also lags in lower-income areas — of whether a child will excel in school or fall into the cracks of the nation’s achievement gap.

Founding The Learning Hub was an attempt to break through the barriers of financial disadvantages and shine a light on a group of students in inner cities that otherwise lack key supportive academic services.

From personal experience, I learned higher-income cities and towns equal more academic support services and better schools, while low-income towns and cities like Worcester consistently lack similar supports and struggling students are shuffled up through the ranks of what I see as a failing school system.

Last August, The Atlantic published, “Good School, Rich School; Bad School, Poor School,” and it remains one of my consistent motivators since launching The Hub. The article looks at the state of Connecticut and breaks down the school system based on location. It ultimately leads to an unsurprising finding: schools in better neighborhoods receive better access to wraparound services while schools in poor neighborhoods are left wanting.

Read Giselle’s previous chapter, The look of leadership, or scroll down to explore more of her story.

Recalde’s Sidewalk Café is an unexpected slice of home

The name Recalde’s Sidewalk Café gives off a sense of ambiguity — especially for a place known as much for its tostones as its coffee. Its presence, with eye-catching full-length windows and a newly installed awning, is satisfying enough to ask the question, “What is Recalde’s all about?”

Nestled on the corner of Pleasant and Abbott streets, not far from Park Avenue, Recalde’s Sidewalk Café is a transformative experience of authentic Spanish cuisine.

With salsa music playing in the background, the sounds of the Spanish language lingering in the air and the open-arms welcome from their employees, Recalde’s Sidewalk Café, open since February, is all about the Spanish culture. It’s an effort embracing and elevating the feeling of eating at abuela’s house.

A Mother’s Journey [Part 48]: The look of leadership

Editor’s note: Since September 2015, Worcester Sun has chronicled the trials and triumphs of Sun contributor Giselle Rivera-Flores as she explores ways to help her daughter and other Worcester families find affordable educational support and assistance. We used to describe her as an aspiring business owner; now, she’s an inspiring one. During her journey to establish and grow her nonprofit tutoring collaborative she has, you could say, stepped beyond the walls of her dream.

Giselle Rivera-Flores

In the past I rarely found myself looking at the participants in a meeting and questioning the balance of ethnicity and gender in the room. But nowadays, it seems that is all I can focus on.

Raised by a strong woman, I never paid close attention to the roles Latinas played in my environment. I never doubted my abilities to accomplish things, because I was raised to view myself as a capable human being and not a statistical figure in society.

As I get older, though, and more involved in the community, more vocal about how I envision my future, I can’t help but realize how concerned I should be with the lack of diverse representation in my entrepreneurial community.

While my inner feminist is thrilled to read statistics from a recent Harvard Business School study, “Diversity in Innovation,” which claims that the “female labor market participation in the United States has nearly doubled from 1950, going from 33 percent to 57 percent in 2016,” my inner Latina is crushed by the same study.

Read Giselle’s previous chapter, The new home frame of mind, or scroll down to explore more of her story.