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Venezuelan Engineers become Greenbelt Entrepreneurs

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Maria Gutierrez and Hector Prieto
Maria Gutierrez and Hector Prieto

I’m fascinated by the stories of people who move to the U.S., especially curious to know why they left home and how they managed to get here.

I’ll plead ignorance and admit to just having learned why Venezuelans are fleeing their country because of the economic and political chaos its dictatorial leader is inflicting on the country. According to one report,

They are fleeing dangerous shortages of food, water, electricity and medicine, as well as the government’s political crackdowns, in which more than 40 people have been killed in the last few weeks alone.

While news reports focus on the many poor people fleeing Venezuela, the situation for Greenbelt Station residents Maria Gutierrez and Hector Prieto was fortunately much better. Hector was born in the U.S. while his parents were studying in the U.S. before they returned to Venezuela, where he was raised and met Maria in college.

That enabled the couple to pursue their MBA degrees in industrial engineering at the University of Maryland, where they both now work. (Maria in procurement and risk management and Hector in environmental safety.)

An Entrepreneurial Family

With an itch to put their education and skills to work creatively, Maria and Hector launched an online dry cleaning service called Wylo, which is how I learned about them.

(I’m fascinated by entrepreneurs, too, and love hearing their stories on podcasts like “How I Built That” and “Don’t Keep Your Day Job.”)

Over coffee with Maria, I learned that online dry cleaners is becoming a big thing nationally, but locally there are just two, both in D.C. They offer the convenience of pickup and delivery, and Maria’s vision for the company is for even greater convenience, next-day service, and their own plant that they want to engineer themselves!

In the meantime, the dry cleaning plant in Arlington that Wylo uses is organic and “eco-friendly,” Maria tells me, and has nothing but good reviews for the quality of their work so far. Currently Wylo’s service area is within 5 miles of Greenbelt.

Maria with father- and mother-in-law, the Prietos wearing Wylo shirts
Maria with father- and mother-in-law, the Prietos.

Wylo is more than a new local company; it’s a total family affair. Maria does marketing, operations, and development of their website and app. Hector is in charge of all the finances, accounting and billing, and Hector’s parents are both drivers.

Maria tells me that sadly, her own parents, grandparents and sister still live in Caracas, one of the must dangerous cities in the world, where there are food and medicine shortage and where the majority of companies have and there are no opportunities for young professional like Maria and Hector to work. She says it’s a “daily struggle worrying about them and their safety. We help them as much as we can, and actually we are so blessed to have the opportunity to be here and be able to support them financially. Otherwise, I do not know how we all could have survived in Venezuela.”

How does Wylo work? Watch the video!

Follow Susan Harris:
Susan started blogging about Greenbelt soon after moving here in 2012, and that first blog has grown into this nonprofit community website. She also created and curates the Greenbelt Maryland YouTube channel. In 2021 Susan joined the Board of Directors of Greenbelt Access TV. Retired from garden writing and teaching, she continues to blog at GardenRant.com.

  1. John
    | Reply

    Dry-cleaning is by definition organic. If you are not using water as a solvent, the alternatives are all organic (that is, carbon-based) compounds, including “standard” dry-cleaning solvents such as tetrachloroethlyene. If you want to identify the process as “environmentally friendly” you need a different term.

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