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SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. /California Newswire/ — The San Francisco Chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier International (LDEI-SF) is thrilled to announce the grant winners of their inaugural 2023 Female Entrepreneurship Grant and Mentorship program: Stephanie de la Cruz of De La Creamery in Oakland and Wendy Lieu of Socola Chocolatier in San Francisco.

The mission of the LDEI-SF Female Entrepreneur Grant and Mentorship program is to support SF Bay Area female-owned businesses in the food, culinary and hospitality industry with cash awards of $5,000 to help them expand and enhance their business. This is an exciting opportunity to help advance the grant winner’s businesses through financial support and ongoing mentorship.

Grant Winners Andrea Arevalo and Wendy Lieu
Grant Winners Andrea Arevalo and Wendy Lieu

The grant recipients will receive benefit from a full year of mentoring meetings amongst fellow accomplished business owners, entrepreneurs, and members of the LDEI-SF Business Grant Committee: Mary Gassen, Emily Luchetti, Maryam Ahmed, Linda Carucci, Sue Conley, Duskie Estes, Janet Griggs, Marsha McBride, and Dominica Rice-Cisneros. In addition, they will receive access to relationship-building and networking as part of LDEI-SF’s extensive and thriving membership.

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“The LDEI Grant committee was honored to receive more than 20 applications in our inaugural year from very qualified woman-owned food businesses in the Bay Area,” said co-chair of LDEI-SF’s Business Grant Committee Mary Gassen, who created the concept. “The financial award is important to both businesses, but we feel that the year-long mentorship these businesses will receive from our chapter will be invaluable.”

The Grant Recipients

Stephanie De La Cruz worked in events and hospitality for many years, but upon losing her job during the COVID-19 pandemic, started making ice cream. Stephanie decided to take on the challenge of making horchata ice cream; a prominent flavor in many taquerias and Mexican homes. Once the recipe was mastered, she started developing a line of ice cream flavors dedicated to her Mexican heritage and culture. Shortly after, De La Creamery was born. In 2023, she took out her first business loan, and looks forward to eventually expanding her business into a brick-and-mortar location.

“I am looking forward to learning and being connected to the talented creators of the Bay Area, many of which are household names for our community,” stated De La Cruz. “We will be able to pave the steps to following in their footsteps.”

Wendy Lieu has been making handmade chocolates and confections that reflect the diverse flavors of her Vietnamese heritage for over 22 years. A self-taught Chocolatier, Wendy also attended classes at the Culinary Institute of America and evening classes at Pastry School at Tante Marie Cooking School in San Francisco, and took the plunge into full business ownership through a Business Planning Course at Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center. She also holds a degree in Managerial Economics from UC Davis.

Timing of the award is particularly advantageous for Lieu, who will celebrate the store’s 10-year anniversary next February. “I am so excited to be able to refresh the store with new signage and updates to make it an even more inviting space for our customers. I also look forward to the mentorship to grow my business.”

This year’s awards were made possible due to the generous support of Mijenta Tequila and the fundraising efforts of the San Francisco chapter of LDEI-SF, as well as the commitment of mentoring time and talent of the chapter’s Dames. A gathering to celebrate the award winners will be held in the Bay Area in early 2024.

About Les Dames d’Escoffier International

LDEI is an international organization of women leaders who create a supportive culture in their communities to achieve excellence in the food, beverage and hospitality fields. To do this, 2,500 members in 43 chapters worldwide provide leadership, educational opportunities and philanthropy within their communities.

For more information, visit and follow us on Facebook, Instagram @lesdamesintl, LinkedIn and Twitter @lesdamesintl. More information on The San Francisco chapter of LDEI, which will celebrate 35 years in 2024, can be accessed at Follow our chapter activities on Instagram @lesdamessf.

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