There has never been a time in Claudia Herrera’s life that where she could not imagine being successful, prosperous or making a name for herself. The businesswoman and native Washingtonian pursues her goals while residing in her Fort Dupont/Greenway community in southeast.
She was pointed in the right direction by her father, an immigrant from El Salvador, who told her that if she ever left their U Street, NW home, she could not go and rent. She had to buy something and own it. Thus, the enterprising Latina made the unconventional commitment to become a homeowner at a young age, unlike most of her peers. She did the necessary research, employed a real estate agent and, taking advantage of first-time homebuyer initiatives and other DC programs, became a homeowner at age 25. Herrera, now 32, has never regretted the decision to buy or to move to her southeast neighborhood.
“I knew [positive] change was coming to the Minnesota and Benning Road corridor before I moved around there. I was impressed by the neighborhood development and the fact that the price of the house fit my budget,” said Herrera on why she bought her first and current home in Ward 7 East of the River. “This area is accessible to downtown, 695 and practically everywhere.”
Buying a house is perhaps the biggest investment a person will make in their lifetime. For Herrera, purchasing her house proved to her that she had a business acumen.
Today, Herrera works an employee at the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) and serves as a Program Analyst within the local government agency’s Small Business Resource Center. She meets one-on-one with customers to advise, navigate and, occasionally, motivate them through DCRA’s regulatory process. Herrera is also assigned to outside speaking ventures and developing web and paper content to share with residents coming to the government agency or via social media. In the past she has been feted with the distinction of being the DCRA Employee of the Month.
Herrera has received notable recognition from the mayor’s office and various civic/community associations for being an upcoming business leader. The native and fluent Spanish speaker, who has a passionate love for go-go music, has a few business aspirations that may include investing in commercial ventures with two other individuals and one day become a restauranteur “of an American restaurant with a Latin twist.”
Herrera was an honoree in May 2019 at the Lit in DC Awards and recognized for being an influential person in the business arena. The Lit in DC Awards is a multicultural event that celebrates all walks of life in the District of Columbia, southern Maryland and northern Virginia region. The annual event, which was partnered with DC Natives, also includes a spectacular after-party and was organized by Ronald Moten, a long-time community activist known for his prior work with Peaceoholics.
Herrera graduated from Trinity Washington University after earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Communication and Media. Herrera has never fallen short of confidence, said alumna and friend Collete Winston who obtained her graduate degree with Herrera 10 years ago. According to Winston, Herrera’s position at DCRA gives her a unique platform to help a myriad of people now and post COVID-19.
“She is very business savvy. She is knowledgeable about local business and how to help someone get started whether for profit or non-profit. Claudia will steer you in the right direction and have the information for you without having to read it from a book,” said Robert Manley a one-time co-worker of Herrera who has known her for 12 years.
Herrera continues to represent DCRA and work remotely from home while still serving the community. Like most people, the travel enthusiast has had to put travel plans on hold during this COVID-19 pandemic, as well as her fitness training at Kenilworth Recreational Center.
As for the future, Herrera envisions herself being a great wife, mother and entrepreneur and sharing her favorite cuisine with her family—Buffalo chicken wings and pupusas—a Salvadorean staple of cornmeal griddle cakes stuffed with cheese or meat. She says she looks forward to cutting her own lawn, a happy domestic life, having children and fulfilling her dreams.