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Jessi Calzado-Esponda    

Former US Congress Staff Assistant, Travel Agent, Cuban Relations Advocate

alzado-Esponda and her fiance opened Cuba Inspires in May, in response to the U.S. restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba. While the country isn't completely open to tourism, access to Cuba is worlds better than it was several years ago.

A Cuban-American, Calzado-Esponda wants to immerse her clients in Cuba's music, culture, food and communities.

"To me, Cuba Inpires is a social enterprise," Calzado-Esponda, 27, said. "I want to take students, nonprofits, athletes, celebrities, choir groups and host them in Cuba. I want their trip to be a cultural experience."

She was born in Havana, Cuba. When she was 7, she was accidentally separated from her family and placed in a makeshift raft headed for America.

It was at one of the shelters that a teacher noticed her love of music and gave her a guitar. That ultimately helped her earn a high school scholarship.

She moved to Washington D.C. after graduating from high school and in 2009 landed an internship with Florida Representative Kathy Castor.

It gave her a better understanding of Cuba-related issues, and she eventually landed a job working for Congress. She left the job to fully focus on her startup.

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