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“Purpose is what drives our passion to empower women!”

27 Jan

2013 was an extraordinary year for growth, transition, learning, and finding purpose. We met new people, partnered with like minded organizations and people, shared the stage with influential change makers, organized and participated in events, opened our second office in Wheaton, MD…in a nutshell it was a rewarding and tremendously encouraging outlook for Empowered Women International and the year ahead of us.

Marga’s words in our January newsletter, The Year of Transformation and Women’s Empowerment!, captures not only where we’ve been, but where we’re going:

“Purpose is something really extraordinary. It’s something hard to find but easy to discover in times of crisis, in vulnerability… and perhaps, in the darkest corners of our existence…”

These words were part of my TEDx Talk in December, a TEDx Bethesda Women event organized by Jane Smith, our graduate entrepreneur of Class 2011.

Purpose is what drives our passion to empower women. Purpose inspires our women to find their own voice and overcome challenges.  

We help women transform crisis and challenges into opportunities, and seize their chance to blossom and thrive.

With your support, over the last years we’ve proved that when given the right educational training, mentoring and support services even the most vulnerable women can turn their lives around and transform themselves, their families and communities.

This transformation is what inspires each of us at EWI to pursue this mission and seek greater and more effective approaches to social change.

2014 was branded as the year of transformation, and we are already seeing it taking place…

Our new office in Montgomery County located in the Wheaton Plaza North Office Building is now open and our team is working with clients at this new location.

This year we see a stronger focus on partnerships and leveraging resources and community assets to create greater impact on the lives of immigrant, refugee and low-income women.

Together with our community partners and funders, we’re exploring an integrated approach to delivering comprehensive and holistic services that lead clients to full transformation and economic opportunity.

We’re excited about the possibilities ahead and look forward to working with you to create new opportunities that build resilient and fulfilling lives and livelihoods.

Onward and Upward!

Marga C. Fripp

Founder & Chief Visionary
Empowered Women International

Pricing Strategy 101: A Present from Capital One!

18 Dec

Capital One’s John Villar, Vice President of Business Banking, and Kate Marty, Manager of Business Banking, gave our entrepreneurs another reason to be grateful this holiday season. They opened up a recent ETS class with a much-appreciated presentation on pricing strategies for products and services. Professionally, their department helps small businesses grow into larger businesses, which made them ideal counselors to our aspiring entrepreneurs. They gave us an inside look into how to price products and services, understand expenses, and ultimately increase revenue.

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Cynthia King with John Villar and Kate Marty

Thanks to Capital One, our entrepreneurs had the opportunity to receive one-on-one advice from John about their businesses. For example, Cynthia King, an ETS student creating a property management business, spoke with John about her business plan. He applauded her for taking the initiative to renovate a family property that had been sitting idle. In starting her business, Cynthia considered her assets and looked for creative ways to use them to generate income. John was impressed by her initiative. Finding undiscovered areas of opportunity and capitalizing on them is, after all, the cornerstone of business success!

Receiving positive feedback from John gave Cynthia more confidence as an entrepreneur and opened up a conversation about the quantitative aspects of her business model. Already looking ahead, she estimated that she will be profitable in two years’ time and wanted to know how to use that profit to expand her business. John recommended that she first pay herself back for her initial personal investments in renovating the property. After that, she could look towards broader options such as making the property a short-term vacation rental or a bed and breakfast.

Capital One with the ETS class

Capital One with ETS Mentors, Trainers, and Students

Overall, John’s advice was to the class was:

  •  Protect yourself – Invest time in setting-up your infrastructure
  •  Understand your identity – find your niche in the market
  •  Communicate with investors quantitatively – use mathematical models
  •  Build a loyal base – focus on customer service and retention

Sharmila Karamchandani, ETS Lead Trainer, thanked John and Kate at the end:

“You both did a wonderful job in asking all the women of our businesses and pulled out some good examples to explain stuff in detail. Also, I thank you for extending your time to our women and agreeing to meet with them beyond the session tonight or ask any further questions.”

EWI appreciates Capital One’s support of local entrepreneurs. Many thanks to John Villar and Kate Marty for spending their evening with us!

Written by Kimberly Barton, a guest blogger who’s a new Alexandria resident. She recently graduated from the University of California, Berkeley and is interested in local programs that empower, educate, and support women. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

ETS Student Nicole Segovia Bridging the Gap

14 Nov

During the last Entrepreneur Training for Success class, our aspiring entrepreneurs worked with their peers and mentors to develop their business concept. Sharmela Karamchandani, the Virginia Lead Trainer, encouraged the entrepreneurs to become “Level Three” businesswomen who own a business, rather than have a hobby, and use their profits to support their lifestyle.

ETS Mentor Eileen Kessler

ETS Mentor Eileen Kessler

I sat in on a small work group led by Eileen Kessler, a returning mentor who is also president and founder of OmniStudio, Inc, a DC-based creative and web development studio (who also redesigned EWI’s new logo and upcoming website!). Initially without the help of a translator, Eileen and one of the students were having difficulty understanding each other to share business goals and feedback. To my surprise, one of the other students, Nicole Segovia, jumped into the conversation and used her Spanish language skills to bridge the gap to everyone’s relief and delight.

I had a chance to talk with Nicole later. It wasn’t the first time Nicole had provided such a valuable service. Although Nicole once felt hesitant speaking Spanish in public, she gained confidence in her abilities after happening upon a desperate situation in which she could help. In another instance she retold to me, she was the only translator available when a Spanish-speaking mother in her neighborhood needed to call emergency services for the mother’s injured son. After an ambulance arrived on scene, Nicole left feeling as if she could use her skills and abilities to make a difference.

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Nicole Segovia

Nicole is originally from Texas and learned to speak Spanish fluently while traveling through Mexico. She also picked up a passion during her journey – a love of cooking Mexican food. Already a week behind her peers, Nicole needed to formulate a business plan that featured her passion, but also addressed realistic concerns like her lifestyle and the business environment. Eileen recommended that she start by researching the industry to discover areas of opportunity. She could interview local café owners and caterers to learn more about their experiences and poll her community to learn about gaps in service she could fill.

Luckily, Nicole has an inspiring example in DC resident and fellow female entrepreneur Pati Jinich of PBS’s “Pati’s Mexican Table.” Like Pati, Nicole can begin to turn her passion into a successful business by building a strong story. She must consider her own unique background and look at her history with an eye towards her future.

For example, Nicole once worked in a  State Health Department’s food safety division. She witnessed restaurant inspections first-hand and learned how complicated health regulations apply to local businesses. This knowledge and experience may have seemed inconsequential before joining the Entrepreneur Training for Success program, but now Nicole can use it to her advantage as she builds her own business centered on her love of Mexican food. I’m looking forward to seeing how Nicole’s business plan develops throughout the semester!

A special thank you to photographer Hanadi Karara.

Written by Kimberly Barton, a guest blogger who’s a new Alexandria resident. She recently graduated from the University of California, Berkeley and is interested in local programs that empower, educate, and support women. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

Shopping & Empowering at EWI’s Holiday Gift Marketplace

12 Nov

Look who will be at EWI’s 1st Annual Holiday Gift Marketplace!

The marketplace is a unique shopping experience for holiday gifts and  a crowd-sourcing platform for engaging customers in providing ideas, connections and services that support local businesses.

Sunday, November 24th
11am-5pm
The Whittemore House
1526 New Hampshire Avenue, NW
Washington DC 20036
(near Dupont Circle)

Charmelle Clark
Creatively Charming

charmelleNo stranger to unconventional creativity, Charmelle Clark has been creating since childhood.  Using her imagination to create items ranging from scrapbooks to cross stitching, there is not a creative thought that goes undiscovered!  Charmelle has used her self-taught gift to start Creatively Charming, a customized stationary and scrapbook business.  The artistry placed into each handmade item is a gift within itself, so what is needed now is the gift of business resources to assist Charmelle with moving forward.  9319316889_b11075dda3An art studio that gives Charmelle a space to work freely and even hold workshops would be much appreciated. Assistance with marketing techniques and website development would do wonders. Or being connected with art festival organizers would put Creatively Charming on the right track! EWI’s 1st Annual Holiday Gift Marketplace is the perfect time to purchase Charmelle’s beautiful stationary and offer your resources!

Kudzai Gombakomba
KG Spotless LLC

KudzaiWith a degree in hospitality management under her belt and vast experience in the hospitality industry, Kudzai Gombakomba started a cleaning company that would challenge the standards of even the most discriminating clientele!  Kudzai has international experience from Zimbabwe to London and is excited about sharing her expertise through KG Spotless LLC.  Equipped with the basic business skills learned through EWI’s entrepreneur courses, she is ready to expand upon those skills in order to continue building a solid business.  If you could assist KG Spotless LLC with marketing endeavors such aKGSpotless logos website maintenance and designing gift vouchers, then please come out to EWI’s 1st Annual Holiday Gift Marketplace to help Kudzai further her path to financial freedom.

Caryn Reitkopp
Paws for Peace

CarynMeet Caryn Reitkopp, a lover of all living things. Not only does she love animals, but she loves children and teaching. Her desire to connect these passions in order to make the world a more humane place fueled the creation of Paws for Peace. Paws for Peace use animal themes and puppets to teach children compassion. Through the use of literature, puppets and classroom songs, Caryn has created a business that will teach kids how to appreciate and respect others in the world.  Caryn offers direct classes, parent workshops and teacher workshops and she would love to take her business to new heights with your help.  Caryn Paws for PeaceEntrepreneurial skills such as business accounting, web and blog design as well as solid marketing tracking methods can elevate Paws for Peace. EWI’s 1st Annual Holiday Gift Marketplace is a great way to connect with Caryn and find out just how useful your skills can be.

Free Admission

Let us know you’ll be there and RSVP NOW!

Written by Veronica Hughes, a freelance writer with a passion for global women’s issues and social justice. You can learn more about her over at her blog, Lifestyle and Thoughts

Marga’s First Day in Papua New Guinea

5 Nov

 “It’s a privilege to be here in the making of this historic event and work with these women to fully empower them to pursue their highest vision, aspirations and ideals,” says Marga Fripp on her first day in Papua New Guinea after meeting with the most vibrant and determined women of PNG.

Marga will have the opportunity to witness the launching of the Papua New Guinea Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PNGWCCI) on Wednesday, Nov 6th.  The First Lady of PNG, a businesswoman herself, and the most influential change maker women of the country will attend the event, and Marga will be the keynote speaker. It’s an exciting time to be there for Marga as the event symbolizes the fruition of a women-led social movement after year’s worth of struggle to achieve empowerment, political representation, financial and economic independence and much more. The organization will create an opportunity for women to voice their concerns, to engage policy makers in addressing the most volatile social and economic issues that are preventing women from achieving success and empowerment.

All women in the middle are the founders of Papua New Guinea Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Left to right Natalia (US Embassy), Theresa, Linda, Avia, Amanda, Janet, Susan (US Embassy).

Marga’s role in PNG, besides coaching and mentoring entrepreneurial skills, is to inspire and encourage women to speak up about their concerns, obstacles, drawbacks and doubts that are hindering them from achieving their goals in life. It’s conventional wisdom that change can only come when we identify our stumbling blocks and when we make the effort to address it to whoever is willing to listen, and with 20 plus years of experience under her belt Marga knows that the most important step in achieving change is to listen first. These are extraordinary women with extraordinary stories to tell and they represent not just women in PNG but women globally.

This is how Marga felt on her first few day in PNG.

“I met some of the strongest and most determined global women. I had dinner last night with the founders of the first women’s chamber of commerce in PNG. Much like at EWI we shared our stories, and how we have been helping immigrant, refugee and low-income women become self-determined and empowered entrepreneurs through our rigorous 3-month ETS programs.

The women I met are determined to change the status quo, they are women of change, they know where they came from, they sacrificed a lot to become who they are and they are now paving the way for other women and generations to come.

It’s a privilege to be here in the making of this historic event and work with these women to fully empower them to pursue their highest vision, aspirations and ideals. I am confident that their vision, courage and determination will transform both the policy agenda for women’s economic empowerment and the role and condition of women in PNG and globally.”

Written by Hanna Yamir, Program Associate

Chizoma Cluff’s Secrets to Success

4 Nov
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Chizoma Cluff, motivational speaker, self-esteem speaker, confidence speaker, style speaker, and women’s issues speaker

What do Tyra Banks, Catherine the Great, Sonia Sotomayor, and Jennifer Lopez have in common? They’re what self-confidence coach Chizoma Cluff calls TRAILBLAZERS – powerful, accomplished women who have made a name for themselves. Sitting among the Entrepreneur Training for Success participants on the first day of class, I said my own name aloud and felt far from the likes of a supermodel or a Supreme Court justice. As class wore on, though, I felt more encouraged thanks to Chizoma’s secrets to success.

The first secret: success starts with you! Self-care is essential to creation, something our 26 female entrepreneurs must listen to in order to build and maintain a fruitful business. We shared our favorites with one another: yoga, journaling, connecting with friends, listening to a favorite song, sipping tea, and walking in nature, all activities that heal the soul and allow us to give back during the day. Some classmates wondered how they could find the time. A past ETS participant, now a mentor, encouraged us to start small, five minutes even, and work up to at least twenty minutes, and before you know it you’re succeeding.

Secrets two and three are more challenging: goal-setting and time management. Chizoma encouraged us to be creative and think differently about what’s possible. She gave the example of trying to break through a piece of paper with the sheer force of one’s forehead. Needless to say, it doesn’t work! With time, tools, and a little ingenuity can we cut the paper, connect the pieces into a loop, and step right through it. Similarly, our entrepreneurs must start where they are now and remember that every step towards their future success counts!

Dressing for success and communicating effectively are the last secrets for our entrepreneurs, who must independently gain contacts and clientele. We can control how we are perceived and command attention with style. Cost can be a deterrent, but, as one participant mentioned, the wealth of thrift and consignment stores in the area that make organizing your image more affordable. A put-together ensemble is complemented by a professional way of communicating. Our participants were reminded to be precise with their language, show personality in their e-mail signature, and respond timely to all requests. Eye contact and a genuine smile never hurt, either!

At the end of the class, one student doubted that she could be as strong and confident as Chizoma. Yet, reflecting on her accomplishments, she realized she had already overcome much in her life by learning to speak English, for example. With the support of her peers and the program’s mentors, I have no doubt that in a few short weeks she will rise proudly and say her name with all its worth.

Written by Kimberly Barton, a guest blogger who’s a new Alexandria resident. She recently graduated from the University of California, Berkeley and is interested in local programs that empower, educate, and support women. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

An Inspirational Meet & Greet with New Women Entrepreneurs

21 Oct

Last Wednesday EWI held its Meet & Greet for the new incoming Entrepreneur Training for Success Fall 2013 class! It was the first time all students, interns, trainers, and staff had a chance to come together, get to know each other, and have an orientation of what’s ahead. EWI is so excited to welcome in this inspiring and diverse group of women.

Welcome the Fall 2013 Class – Aspiring & Inspiring Women Entrepreneurs!

Staff, interns, and trainers welcome the Fall 2013 Class – Aspiring & Inspiring Women Entrepreneurs!

There are 26 women from over 10 countries including Guatemala, Cameron, Somalia, Malawi, Ethiopia, and Bolivia, among others. With 26 women come 26 aspiring small businesses including a resume writing, financial services, jewelry, art, photography, child care and learning, Italian ice cream and desserts, hair styling, cleaning, clothing and textiles, and more. It’s a powerful testament to the creative ideas and drive women have all over the world.

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New students and entrepreneurs, Sonia & Macha

I asked Brenda Yoboue, Non- Profit Management Intern what her impressions were. “First of all, it was very exciting to finally meet the students. I had previously met one student when she came to interview and it was very nice to see her again. Overall, I thought that the event was very informative. Seeing so many women from different backgrounds show their entrepreneurial side was very inspirational. I will definitely attend some of the ETS classes.”

New students and entrepreneurs, Jessica & Cynthia

New students and entrepreneurs, Jessica & Cynthia

Speaking from my own personal experience, the ETS Meet & Greet really put into perspective what EWI does for the community. In talking with the other interns, meeting so many amazing, strong, and intelligent women reminds us why we were so passionate about joining EWI in the first place. It was somewhat of an emotional experience, that level of inspiration we all felt while listening to the students’ stories. We are all eager to supporting all the women as they let their ideas take flight and launch their micro-enterprises!

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EWI is incredibly grateful to all our trainers, mentors, partners and supporters for giving women the opportunity, skills and knowledge they need to launch their business. Our work with women entrepreneurs is possible because of your dedication to women’s empowerment and understanding of the power of entrepreneurship to give greater economic mobility to all women.

A big thank you to Jen Cubas for photographing the event.

Written by: Ciara Salg, Marketing & Communications Intern

Flowers of Clementine

17 Sep

Mother, grandmother, and 2012 Entrepreneur Training for Success (ETS) graduate Clementine Simmons spent numerous years dedicating her IT services to the federal government. During this time, she also began to dedicate some time in fashioning floral designs and realized she was astoundingly gifted in it!

She took her talents to market, selling her works at craft shows and churches and to private individuals. With her success, she enrolled in the ETS program where, with the help of mentors and staff, she steadily improved her business structure and focused on reconstructing her brand.

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Clementine stands near floral arrangement

Through the recommendation of a close friend, Clementine sought out EWI for support and motivation. Clementine knew that this would be a great opportunity to become more business savvy and give her old business a fresh start, especially with a gang of EWI cheerleaders rooting for her every step of the way. She needed help developing a business plan and determining her target market, and EWI had the tools for her to do just that.

Clementine knows from experience that sometimes the most difficult aspect of building your own business is that inner voice of doubt. She stressed that regardless of any shortcomings or challenges faced during your journey, people in her shoes must not give up on themselves. She even stated that, “You should continue to press forward and improve on yourself as well as the product you are selling. Believe that as you press on and the right doors will open for you.”

Beautiful addition to the entryway!

Clementine delivers one her custom floral designs to Deborah Blank.

This epiphany is ultimately the reason she enrolled in the Grow My Business program. Clementine saw this course as another stepping-stone to success. In this program, she is placed in the position to challenge herself to expand her networks and forge partnerships with fellow business owners. She is also able to get advice and expertise from like-minded individuals.

Interested to find out how you can turn your talents into a business?

Applications for Fall 2013 ETS term are being accepted now! Classes are held in Alexandria, Virginia and Wheaton, Maryland starting October 21.  Openings still available for our Alexandria class. Scholarships are also available for qualified low-income applicants. For more information, click here to find out more and apply. You can also contact our office at 571-312-4781 and speak with Alexia Muchisu Wendel, Entrepreneurship Program Manager, or email her at alexia@ewint.org.

Written by LaNesha Kearse, Social Media Writer

Help Odirsa Reach Her Goal!

30 Aug
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Odirsa Argueta

El Salvadorian immigrant, mother, and Spring 2013 ETS graduate Odirsa Argueta has recently applied for the Kiva Zip Loan to gain the licensing and tools needed to run her business. Kiva Zip creates opportunities for business owners and potential supporters to make financial assistance more affordable and accessible. Supporters of these business owners donate their resources and are repaid upon successful payment of the initial loan.

After spending a considerable amount of time in the construction business, Odirsa fantasized about the day she would not only run her own business but also serve as a more positive role model for her family. An immigrant to this country, Ordisa wanted to show her children that with a lot of hard work and clearly defined goals they could accomplish their dreams. She also wanted to provide her family with job security, financial stability, and independence. Through business ownership, she understood the possibilities were endless.

Through Kiva Zip, her loan has already been 81% funded!  Only $910 more needs to be raised to reach her goal. Are you eager to help Odirsa succeed?

Click here to make her dreams a reality!

She has described the Kiva Zip loan process as being self assuring and invigorating. Odirsa has taken a leap of faith into a male dominated industry. Her new founded company JR Irrigation & Lighting Company  will offer services like no other. She will work exclusively with clients, both residential and commercial, to provide  consultations and plan their ideal landscaping ideas. She also prides herself on using only the finest products in her projects.

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Odirsa pitches business plan to peers

With encouragement and positive feedback from previous clients, Odirsa is excited for the opportunity to provide quality and customer oriented service while inspiring others like her to challenge themselves to venture outside of their comfort zones. She advises other women that opening their own business “won’t be easy but the effort is worth it; you need to have persistence,” and assures them that “it takes time but they can make it happen.”

Odirsa is immensely grateful for EWI sharing their indispensable resources with her. With their guidance and support, she realizes that she will soon achieve her long awaited goal of being a business owner. EWI is gracious to have had the opportunity to build a strong relationship with such a remarkable woman and wishes her much success!

By LaNesha Kearse, Marketing & Communications Intern

Be a Heroine! Become a Mentor!

22 Aug
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2013 Spring ETS Mentor Orientation

Ser un héroe hoy! Be a heroine today! Join the ranks of other stellar mentors who have accompanied the women entrepreneurs of Empowered Women International (EWI) on their journey to pursue their dreams. We are an organization that channels the entrepreneurial drive and creative talents of immigrant, refugee, and low-income women, and mentors are vital to the success of our women entrepreneurs.

Be inspired working alongside women who have refused to let adversity define or limit them. Our mentors find Entrepreneur Training for Success (ETS) mentoring program extremely rewarding and a mutually beneficial commitment for them and the women they mentor. Many particularly relish the opportunity to learn about the extraordinary cultural stories of the women enrolled in the program. And many mentors discover unlocked talents and hidden strengths from within themselves!

What does it take to become a mentor?

  • Pioneering and entrepreneurial spirit
  • Demonstrated success in business and/or leadership
  • Passion for empowering women entrepreneurs
  • Cultural competency, empathy, and good mentoring abilities
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Mentor Deborah Blank discusses business plan with student

ETS is an intensive three-month business start-up training program that prepares underrepresented women to launch and grow their own micro businesses, through entrepreneurship training, mentorship, and business support services. We are particularly encouraging bilingual or conversational Spanish speakers to apply! Classes are offered in Alexandria, VA and Wheaton, MD and start in mid October to early February.

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2013 Spring ETS mentors, staff, and former student pose for photo (Listed from left to right Clementine Simmons, Christine Ollis, Eileen Kessler, Alexandra Standal, Charlene Gatewood, Deborah Blank, Mariam Mohamed, Marcela Kogen, and Hanna Yamir)

Excited about this opportunity? Click the links to read testimonials from former ETS mentors here: Marcela Kogan, Howard Feinstein and Christine Ollis, & Deborah Bank, Charlene Gatewood, and Clementine Simmons.

If you want to make a difference in the lives of women who strive to persevere, visit EWI’s Become a Mentor Page or call Mary Louise Marino, Outreach & Operations Manager, at 571-312-4781 or email her at mary@ewint.org.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Written by LaNesha Kearse, Marketing & Communications Intern

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