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Jacqueline Escobar of Wilkes University Small Business Development Center -- Why NEPA? image
April 09, 2024
Jacqueline Escobar of Wilkes University Small Business Development Center -- Why NEPA?

“Si sera con Dios, sera para mi.”

Jacqueline Escobar was born and raised in Manahawkin. It’s a tiny bedroom community in southeastern New Jersey, or “Down the Shore” as they say. She grew up hanging at the beach, playing soccer, avoiding “shoobies” and spending summers with extended family in Bogotá.

One day, during senior year, Jacqueline found herself the lone entry on a visitation day list for a small Pennsylvania college. It just happened to be Wilkes University. In a matter of weeks, she was checking out the campus – you know, the late-19th century Victorian Gothic mansions, cherry blossoms, rolling mountains in the background, a little springtime frisbee in the quad (probably). And… it worked. By the fall, she was enrolled as a Marketing/Management major.

Right away, Jacqueline started making her mark. She founded the Multicultural Student Coalition, got involved in extra curriculars, and, at the urging of her professors, began to put herself out there. Through school, work, graduate school, networking and ditching a clearly misguided NY/NJ pizza bias, NEPA eventually began to feel like home. It’s also where, only a few years into her young career, she had to perform a “pandemic pivot.” She made the move from hospitality management to economic development. And there’s a long list of local small businesses still thriving because of it.

We caught up with Jacqueline at the Wilkes University Small Business Development Center in Downtown Wilkes-Barre. We got into it all including pizza, her rescue pup, Rooney Toons, her love for guiding small businesses and NEPA’s electric pink sunsets. And I’m pretty sure, along the way, someone remembered to ask – Why NEPA?

How long have you lived in NEPA?

Not counting the four years as an undergrad, but starting with graduate school, it’s about eight years. If we add those four years, then it’s over ten.

What do you love about your town?

I live in Mountain Top. I’ve lived there since graduate school and I love it. It’s quiet. It’s a little bit secluded, but I like that, you know? And if we’re talking more just NEPA in general, I love the nature and the scenery. We have a cute, little porch and I just love sitting out there and watching the sunsets with the pups and those cotton candy skies. It’s so beautiful.

What’s your favorite NEPA restaurant?

I think NEPA pizza is unmatched. And that’s coming from someone who grew up on New York and New Jersey pizza. I’ve tried so many NEPA pizza places, but I’d still like to do some kind of pizza tour. If anybody’s interested in doing that with me, I would love that (laughs). But seriously, King’s Pizza up in Mountain Top (claps hands) – best pizza. Now, when I’m down here at the office, Circles on the Square – great lunch, great sandwich shop. Love it. It’s one of our favorites. And then there’s Margarita Azul. Birthdays, graduations, promotions, awards – I think I’ve had every major celebration there. I just love it. I love the vibes. They have great food and drinks. And I’ve been going there since they were just a small place without the beautiful patio. It’s been so cool seeing their journey throughout the years. In the summertime, Margarita Azul is THE spot.

What’s your favorite thing to do in NEPA?

I really like hanging out with my friends and my dog. I’m very much a homebody when I’m not working. I love being outside and taking walks with my dog. We go on hikes. And I love taking him to local vendor fairs and community events especially when I have clients attending. I love to get out to support those small businesses. I love watching those gorgeous sunsets in Mountain Top. I travel back home to New Jersey at least once a month to see family. So, I also really like driving and seeing NEPA through all the seasons.

What’s next for you?

I want to continue growing professionally, keep stepping outside my comfort zone – doing things like this (laughs). I want to continue guiding my clients and continue to help them grow. And, of course, I’d love to start working more with the community. I realize that I’ve made an impact here and a name for myself in terms of my expertise and what I can provide for businesses and small business owners. And I’d like to keep going in that direction. I’ve also realized that the roles that NEPA, through SBDC network and Wilkes University, has continued to show me are definitely worth pursuing. And I really am grateful for that.

Of course, the universe has its own plans, you know? We always had a saying in my family: Si sera con Dios, sera para mi. And to roughly translate that, it’s: If it is with God, it is within my means. So, I’m kind of open to anything right now.

Where do you see NEPA heading in the future?

I see NEPA continuing to grow. At least that’s my hope. We see a lot of new ideas and new perspectives and aspirations coming from both individuals and small business owners. We’re seeing so many new residents coming from places like New York and New Jersey and wanting to contribute in positive ways to the community here. They want to share their new ideas and perspectives, or their unique service or product. And this really goes a long way toward helping grow that revitalization we’re seeing within our community.

I started in this position during the pandemic. We had so many small businesses taking a major hit during that time, and they’re still fighting their way back. So, what I would hope to see in our community is all these businesses continuing to thrive, but also learning from that moment in our history and becoming stronger from it. You know – putting contingency plans in place, developing processes or some type of business model structure, even compiling checklists to be prepared for if something like that happens again. I want to see our local businesses be ready for that next event. And my little plug for that (laughs) is having someone in your network know of all the free business resources that are available to you within SBDC’s economic development sector and region. We have two SBDC networks within NEPA – one is right here at Wilkes University. We cover Luzerne, Columbia, Carbon, Schuylkill and Sullivan Counties. And then we have the University of Scranton SBDC, which covers Lackawanna, Monroe, Pike, Wayne, Susquehanna and Wyoming Counties. We’re an extremely important resource for businesses and we’re always here to help.


NEPA became my home. Honesty, I spent my college years here. I grew up here, professionally speaking. I’ve built a great network of amazing people here. I met my chosen family here – people who surround me with comfort, strength, happiness, opportunities, mentorship. So, I moved to NEPA having no one here — no family or friends. And I feel like I’ve really built something. And it’s been really good to me. So, I want to continue that.