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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

Coach’s Corner: Putting the Mouse Down for a Change

17 Oct 9908083384_c5585fc8a5_c

This week, I’d like to stress what is actually a very traditional, seemingly unsophisticated aspect of marketing: the importance of making direct, personal contact with prospective customers.

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Velma Crawford & Lyzbeth Monard practicing the art of networking

Much of the material available on marketing these days emphasizes new, innovative e-marketing techniques. Now, there is no doubt that this approach should certainly be part of your overall strategy. However, call me old-school, but I am a firm believer in the necessity of getting up from the computer and venturing out into the real, rather than virtual world, because that is how the long-term customer relationships that will eventually form 80% of your business must be cemented.

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Kate Campbell Stevenson connecting

As we have discussed previously, as a beginning, independent entrepreneur, what you are really selling is yourself, at least as much as your product or service. Your goal is to make prospective customers feel comfortable with and trust you. This will take a little time, but it will result in the bonds of loyalty that are absolutely essential for your ultimate success. You may prove me wrong, and if so, more power to you — but I don’t think this can be accomplished purely through the click of a mouse.At this point, I can envision those of you who know me thinking: “Sure Howie, your computer skills are in the lowest 1% percentile of western civilization, so of course you think this way.” And you’d be absolutely right! But I’m not advising you to forgo e-marketing, just to supplement it with a healthy dose of shoe leather. I don’t particularly like to discuss my own marketing and networking efforts at this blog, but in this case, I think a few specific examples will help clarify my point:

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Morella Ewell networking at an outreach event

1. About two months ago, I read briefly from my upcoming civil rights memoir at an open reading at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda. The center’s assistant director, who was running the session, asked me afterward to keep in touch with him. I did, and now I will be invited to present my book to the Writer’s Circle community when it is published.

2. Two weeks ago, I discussed my memoir and displayed civil rights memorabilia at an open house at Studio Pause in Alexandria, hosted by E.W.I.s own Sush Mazumdar. Less than a week later, I was offered several paid writing assignments by a photographer who discussed her work at the same open house.

3. Last weekend, I took a marketing and blogging workshop at the Writer’s Center, where I chatted and exchanged business cards with several other writers taking the class. A few days afterward, one of those students, an administrator at the Baltimore Museum of African-American History, invited me to read from and promote my book there when it is released.

Could I have secured these invaluable marketing and promotional opportunities by e-mail? I don’t think so. Was I just lucky? Perhaps, as I’ve certainly undertaken similar networking efforts which did not yield results. But get out there enough, and good things will come your way. They may not be the ones you most expected, but new horizons will open to you.

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Aida Mady networking at a benefit event

I’m no expert at literary marketing — in fact, I’ve just recently started down that path. I’m used to music marketing, which is a whole other world. Accordingly, I try to target events and venues where I figure to enjoy myself and feel comfortable. I’m not likely to attend a convention of science fiction or children’s book authors, because I won’t fit in, which will be obvious to prospective customers. I travel light — just a business card is really all you need to make your first connection. Later on, you can follow-up with more information on yourself and your business, and send out a sample of your work.You may not see yourself as a natural marketer or salesperson — I know I’m certainly not. So, as Jerry “Iceman” Butler used to sing, “Make it easy on yourself.” Bring along a friend for company and moral support, particularly if you tend to be shy among new people. Better yet: let your comrades in the EWI community know when and where you will be reading, exhibiting, cooking, dancing — whatever. We will be there to support you, so keep us informed of your appearances (by now, you may have noticed that I’m not exactly reluctant to let you know of my music and reading schedule!).

Remember: it’s Empowered Women – not Woman — International. We’re all in this together!

Take care,
Howie

By Howard Feinstein, Empowered Women International Board Member

Coach’s Corner is a bi-weekly blog for the EWI community, passing along news, events, articles of interest, and tips on growing your business.  We are all on this journey together, and no one — certainly not yours truly — has all the answers.  Accordingly, I hope you will contribute your ideas and experiences to this forum as well, c/o khfeinstein@verizon.net.

 

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.”

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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

Nishat Launches New Catering Website

14 Aug
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EWI Founder Marga and Nishat pose for photo

Meet Spring 2013 Entrepreneurship Training for Success (ETS) graduate Nishat Siddiqui. Nishat has turned her passion for cooking into a business. With thirty years of cooking experience under her belt, Nishat is sharing her family’s traditional and original Pakistani and Indian recipes. Nishat is really passionate about cooking and loves that the people she cooks for not only enjoy her food but also appreciate her hard work and effort. Prompted by her husband’s own health issues, she is now focusing her energies on using all natural ingredients in her scrumptious concoctions and providing services for her customers during the holiday seasons.

Even when faced with limited ingredients and strong dietary constraints Nishat still manages to create delectable recipes from scratch. Her private cooking lessons includes a three course meal with a dessert and wine. Coupled with a consultation, Nishat buys all of the groceries and brings them and instruction for families to enjoy.

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Nishat’s yummy Butter Prawns

Persuaded by the family-like nature of the program, Nishat dove head first into building her business plan to propel herself into the cooking industry and through the  ETS program. She was amazed by the dynamics of the program. Not only was the instruction extremely easy to follow, she felt very supported by readily available EWI staff, coaches, students, and mentors. “It’s kind of like being in a large family and I’m really happy and really thrilled that I joined EWI.”

She has recently enrolled in the Grow My Business (GMB) course seeing this new program as a great opportunity to continue networking with experts in her industry and receive stable support in the management of her business. She also mentioned how helpful her support has been from people, like Empowered Women International staff member Alexia Muchisu Wendel, who also have a background in the food industry in really helping her polish her brand.

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Nishat prepares a homemade dish

You can now learn more about her business by visiting her new website Nishat’s Kitchen or liking her Facebook page Nishat’s Kitchen Facebook Page. Have a special occasion or holiday gathering coming up? Not only can you see a preview of her delightful dishes you can also book her catering services and private cooking lessons!

Do you want to know more about our entrepreneurship programs? The Fall 2013 Entrepreneurship Training for Success (ETS) starts in mid October and we’re currently accepting applications. 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.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Written by LaNesha Kearse, Marketing & Communications Intern

Paulette Mpouma, Following Her Passion

13 Aug

Meet Spring 2011 ETS alumni Paulette Mpouma. Paulette entered into the program with global ambitions following the invention of her African board game. Already successfully selling board games, Paulette needed organizational direction and the support of other exceptional women with similar hardships. She viewed ETS as an excellent opportunity for her to track her progress and meet influential and decisive people.

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Paulette and County Executive Ike Leggett pose for photo

Moved by her desire to educate people around the world, especially her children, about the marvels of Africa, she created a game to provide the safe space for individuals to engage in healthy dialogues about controversial topics such as race and world economies. But first and foremost, this board game was intended to help expel many of the misinformed and harmful stereotypes that so many in the Western world seem to have about Africa. Noticing that school curriculums in America were devoid of diverse perspectives and voices, Paulette created a game to make learning about Africa informative, empowering, and fun.

Paulette stumbled into EWI following her exhaustive search for a women’s support group. She craved an atmosphere that encouraged the building of strong relationships amongst like-minded women, emphasized the significance of cross-cultural competency, and understood the unique experiences of women living in a foreign culture.

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Paulette’s Afrique’enjeux board game

Now that she has successfully infiltrated international markets selling over 4000 board games worldwide, she is ready to take the next big step in her entrepreneurial career. Not only has she been working tirelessly to modify her existing products and introduce her new line of African inspired dolls to stores, she has enrolled in EWI’s new Grow My Business (GMB) course. She sees GMB as an opportunity to collaborate more effectively with experts who can help her focus her talents on the distribution, managing, and marketing aspects of her business. She is also extremely grateful to have a program that supports women beyond the developmental stages of their business; a program that will provide her with the knowledge on how to manage her time and resources more efficiently for her clients’ satisfaction.

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Paulette showcases her dolls

When asked what advice she would give to inspiring business owners like her, she stated “When you choose your product you have to have a passion for what you’re doing. You have to be convinced by your own product because then and only then can you fight for it.” She emphasized the need to create something fulfilling a personal passion and a societal need and discussed how ETS and GMB can help phenomenal women like herself do just that.

Support Paulette’s Test Your Africa IQ campaign! Help bring her learning tool to schools and global communities. A portion of the proceeds will go to funding the Children Diabetic Center in Yaounde, Cameroon! Visit Test Your Africa IQ Campaign now to learn more!

Want to know more about our entrepreneurship programs? The Fall 2013 Entrepreneurship Training for Success (ETS) starts in mid October and we’re currently accepting applications. 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.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Written by LaNesha Kearse, Marketing & Communications Intern

EWI participates in Women and Wine

30 Jul

On Wednesday July 17th, EWI participated in the Women and Wine of Alexandria event in Alexandria, Virginia. Women and Wine is an organization that facilitates meetings with the larger community to discuss various contributions of local women to their communities over wine tasting. This event afforded EWI the opportunity to socialize, network with, and recruit like minded women to their Business Corps Volunteer Team.

Women from different arrays of businesses,  got together for a fun evening of networking amongst themselves as well as with a charity that serves the Alexandria area. EWI was the charity of their choice this month.  Recent alumna Charmelle Clark was able to showcase her work, network with potential clients and partners, and share her personal experience in the EWI program. For EWI’s Community Partnerships intern Virlen Reyes the experience was eye opening. “It really showed how versatile an individual becomes after putting our (EWI’s) skill set and life skills model into practice.”

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Charmelle showcases her work

EWI Staff member Alexia Muchisu Wendel expressed satisfaction in seeing how, empowered, confident and successful of one of the  Entrepreneurs for Success graduate, Charmelle was at networking, presenting her business and selling her products at this event.  EWI is extremely thankful for their alumni’s investment in the program even after graduation. Their testimonial truly highlights the powerful and positive ways in which EWI has impacted their lives and ours.

EWI had an amazing experience at Women and Wine of Alexandria event and looks forward to participating in future events hosted by this organization.

Thank you for supporting Empowered Women International.

By LaNesha Kearse, Marketing & Communications Intern

Our First Kiva Zip Loan with Sushmita Mazumdar

24 Jul
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Sushmita shows off her art

Meet 2007 ETS graduate Sushmita Mazumdar, EWI’s first Kiva Zip Loan borrower. Kiva Zip is an organization that creates opportunities for business owners and potential supporters to make financial assistance more affordable and accessible. Those that want to support business owners can contribute their resources and expect to get them back upon successful payment of the initial loan.

Sushmita left the advertising industry upon discovering her passion for hand crafted illustrative storybooks and uniting people from illustrious cultures around the world. When asked how she intended to teach people about cultures different from her own, Sushmita amicably responded, “You don’t have to be from the culture to help people learn about their heritage. You just have to help people appreciate and celebrate their differences.” Propelled by her desire to teach her son about his heritage, her country’s festivals, rituals, and history are brought to life through her story telling.

Two of her signatures include making books into objects and making words graphic. On display in her current workspace is “Looking for Presidents,” a book about an immigrant woman who has never taken an America class. Tied together by a U.S. flag concept, each element of the book has significance. Whether its Roosevelt’s conservationism prompting her to print the book on recycled paper or leaving empty pages for readers to tell their own stories, Sushmita makes books engaging and interactive.

Sushmita’s goal is to raise $5,000 to open her own Studio PAUSE. Here, individuals will have the space to be creative while exploring art and writing and celebrating community. Classes are designed to be affordable for diverse populations.  Local artists will have an outlet to communicate about their art as well.

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Sushmita displays her story book

Sushmita has taken on numerous projects, including her work with the Refugee Youth Project and her “Tell Your Story Make Your Book” class series that she performs in schools, community centers, and the Smithsonian museums. We can also look forward to “Books Around the World,” a series that exposes children in the D.C. metropolitan area to book making and story sharing techniques from around the world.

Sushmita showed her immense gratitude for EWI explaining that without their support and  understanding of her complex identities as an immigrant and a mother, her dreams of opening her own business may not have come to fruition. We are truly enthused to support such an exceptional woman who has really exceled in her trade.

Are you excited about Sushmita’s goal to open her own studio? Help Sushmita get her Kiva Zip Loan by visiting Sushmita’s Kiva Zip Loan!

Thank you for your continued support of Empowered Women International.

By LaNesha Kearse, Marketing & Communications Intern

Briggs Chaney Community Day 2013

23 Jul
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Paulette Mpouma displays her products

On Saturday July 13th, EWI had the privilege of participating in the Second Annual Briggs Chaney Community Day Event in Silver Spring, Maryland. This event catered to vendors and non profit organizations allowing them to showcase their services, products, and public contributions. The event created numerous opportunities for community cohesiveness by stimulating future partnerships, broadening networks, and inviting local businesses and the community to come together to speak about pressing issues.

Community Partnership Intern Virlen Reyes was grateful to see open dialogues about the challenges faced by refugees trying to reconstruct their lives in the United States and how the future of services provided for them by the government, local vendors, and non profit organizations may look. Virlen noticed how dedicated the county government was to the commitment of being present in the community as well as providing better services. Of course this event wouldn’t be complete without some EWI Alumni, Paulette Mpouma and Mariam Mohammed were on hand to sell their products, share their personal stories and their EWI stories. “This event was really impressive. It really gave me an appreciation of the organization (EWI) and how they help students market their businesses.”

EWI is delighted to be a part of such a great event that emphasizes community outreach and hopes to continue their participation with this event in the future.

Thank you for your continued support of Empowered Women International.

By LaNesha Kearse, Marketing & Communications Intern

EWI Launches Grow My Business course

22 Jul

EWI is proud to announce the launch of its  new Grow My Business (GMB) course. This 9- month course is intended to assist Entrepreneur Training for Success (ETS) graduates and other  small business owners to continue building sustainable businesses and tackle the unique challenges faced during the early stages of their businesses. In person classes tailored to cover common issues that students require aid confronting are held once a month.

Students in this course receive individualized support and industry specific coaching from experts in their field. Once in the course, they can expect to receive feedback, advice, and guidance from facilitators, mentors, and classmates that have faced similar adversities. These students are also given the opportunity to set sales goals, track their financial progress, and give presentations about their journeys.

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GWB participants note taking

Co-Leaders Deborah Blank and Alexia Muchisu Wendel described the importance of having a class that emphasizes the marketing and sales aspect of a business. This course will give students the opportunity to “test a lot of assumptions in their business plans, test markets, and test themselves” all while defining a business plan and bringing it into alignment with reality.

Blank explained the program was created for (business) women who have faced obstacles above and beyond normal circumstances but “if they’re serious about improving their financial status and living out their passions, then this is a good place for them.”

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EWI Students discuss in class topics

Thank you for your continued support of Empowered Women International.

By LaNesha Kearse, Marketing & Communications Intern

Summer Picnic Sensation

18 Jul

EWI Student shows off face design

Infused with fun and a bit of casual mingling, EWI kicked off its first annual summer picnic this past Sunday with a kid-friendly picnic at Valley Mill Park in Colesvile, Maryland. The event was indistinguishable from your typical family reunion as alumni, board, staff, and their families and friends shared hugs and laughs. Everyone had stories about their lives and gave updates on their businesses.

A lot of people voiced the power of word of mouth marketing to their awareness and successful recruitment into the program. It was amazing to see the strong connection that alumni have to the program and the emphasis they and staff put on making sure that invaluable resources are shared with other women.

Some, like Mariam Mohamed, who specializes in custom made handbags even took advantage of the opportunity to promote her new handcrafted natural soap by offering free samples and asking for customer feedback. Others leaped back into childhood getting their faces and bodies painted with intricate patterns, flowers, and pretty convincing animal designs led by Sharmila Karamchandani and Marga Fripp.

Founder Marga Fripp indicated that at events we always get so caught up in catching up, that at the end we forget to take group pictures. Thankfully this time around, our wonderful photographer, Jen Cubas, was able to change that and capture one essence of what EWI stands for: family.

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EWI Staff and Students pose for group photo

Thanks to everyone who came to our first annual picnic and contributed to making it a delightful afternoon with great stories and super cookout food!

By LaNesha Kearse, Marketing & Communications Intern

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