Nobody would hire me for six hours in a day. I needed to make money


As a single mother of five children, Maria Escalada struggled to support her family and grew increasingly frustrated by limited job prospects.

“Handylady,” Maria Escalada, with her sons Elijah, left, and Quadry, right. (Matt Hollinshead/Observer)

“Nobody would hire me for six hours in a day. I needed to make money,” she said.

She took time to learn various trades, from painting to electrical and tile work. She then taught her children, including now-grown sons Quadry and Elijah, more than just those trades. She taught them work ethic and grit.

Now as a self-proclaimed “Handylady” in Rio Rancho and the Albuquerque metro area, she answers service calls for anyone needing a quick coat of paint, to changing a building’s flood lights, just to name a couple services. Her company’s offices are in Rio Rancho.

After spending four years as an electrical work apprentice, and picking up painting as another trade more than seven years ago, Escalada launched her business in 2020. She goes all over the metro area, from Rio Rancho and Bernalillo to Corrales, northwest Albuquerque and Albuquerque’s South Valley.

Her sons are part of the team.

“I like helping my mom out,” Elijah said. “I’m always interested about this type of work… You never learn too much… It’s always going to be something different. There’s always an aspect you have to learn.”

During the pandemic, Maria Escalada, now a grandmother, thrived because people started selling their homes during that period and needed to complete improvement projects.

“The second year, (business) increased a lot,” she said.

Brighter days to come?

Aside from adding at least three custom-designed trucks to continue service calls across the area, she hopes to coordinate with local colleges to start an internship program for women, including single moms, to learn trades.

“I see my mom working hard doing all this stuff, and I think other women can do the same thing. She’s a great role model, and she could encourage other women to do these kind of jobs,” Quadry said.

Assuming everything goes according to plan, she wants to hire at least four female employees before this year ends and keep adding female employees in 2023.

“I want to build a dynasty,” Maria Escalada said, adding she wants to provide female employees the same freedom she gets from her line of work.

“I want to be able to provide more service to more people. There’s a lot of service that needs to be done. Sometimes, the prices out here are just too expensive. Being a single mom, I want to be able to help people that need it.”

The sacrifices

She worked four jobs at one point, and needed family members to help take care of her children.

“Was I raising my children? No. I was supporting my children, but I was not there to raise them,” she said.

The more trades she learned as her kids grew older, the more time with them opened up. She also enjoyed the perks of self-employment.

“Learning all this has helped me be with my kids… When I started doing my own work, my own schedules, I paid myself accordingly,” she said. “As a single mom, you work and you work and you work and you work to take care of the bills, take care of your family. Maybe had I started this way sooner, maybe I would’ve had more freedom.”

And despite the physical strain of some of the work involved, her kids remain mindful of her sacrifices and wanted to give back.

“I wanted to help her with everything I could. I know she’s worked hard all her life, multiple jobs doing this and that,” Quadry said. “Working with my mom has been a really good introduction to construction for me. I feel like she could help a lot of people doing that.”

Elijah Escalada, one of Maria Escalada’s sons, drills in a light fixture on the side of a building on Monday, April 25, 2022, in Rio Rancho.  (Matt Hollinshead/Observer)