You may have heard her story before; in fact it’s tucked into every one of Velma’s aprons. With Velma, when you buy an apron you don’t simply receive an apron but the creator’s narrative as well. In “The Ties That Bind” Velma allows us to accompany her on a journey through her learning experiences with her grandmother, the poor daughter of an ex-slave who taught Velma the skills she uses to create her aprons, and her personal illness which was the catalyst to her apron creating.
This past Fall Velma took on another role alongside entrepreneur, and it was mentor. Velma joined EWI’s dedicated mentoring team and worked with two students in our Fall ETS course. Velma was able to share her own entrepreneurial spirit, lessons, and successes with her mentees who were excited to start a business of their own.
At the Micro-Business Lending: Landscape for the New Economy conference, hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank in Richmond, VA on February 26th, you’ll also have the chance to learn about Velma’s passion and experiences as a businesswoman and how she has grown and flourished since the creation of Vee’s Ties that Bind.
Don’t miss this exciting opportunity to meet our dedicated graduate and EWI member, Velma Crawford, at the Micro-Business Lending conference, and be sure to register now!
Anyone interested to learn more about micro-business lending should attend, including representatives of micro lenders; small business support organizations; community and economic development and other public agencies; state and local officials.
Please click this link to learn more about the conference and register to attend. We hope to see you there!
This event is the result of a planning partnership with the Virginia Microenterprise Network, Association for Enterprise Opportunity, Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, Empowered Women International, Virginia Community Capital and On Point Services.
Irina enjoys the spiritual and metaphysical aspects of life. She has been a yogi for 15 years and a reiki practitioner for 4 years. Her business is providing Kundalini yoga classes and Reiki energy healing to clients. Kundalini Yoga is similar to other forms of yoga by its series of postures and poses, but it incorporates more dynamic motion, breathing and meditation. Reiki is a healing technique that uses light touch to various parts of the body to ease physical and emotional discomfort. Helping people feel better is very important to Irina, and if she could have it her own way, everybody would be living the best life that they possibly could, devoid of emotional and physical pain. Irina’s roots also account for her holistic and spiritual approach to life—she was brought up in an atheist family in the Soviet Union during the Communist era. Her interest in this field is a part of her own deep need to seek a part of life that she never grew up with and help those around her overcome depression and life difficulties.
Irina originally joined EWI as a mentor for other women, but soon realized that she too had a dream to start her own business and EWI’s course seemed like a comprehensive and helpful program to become involved with. Irina states that her favorite part of the program was that every week, despite the lesson plan or the chaos, there was always at least one moment when a mentor or facilitator reminded the students how much potential they had. “I have taken away that being an entrepreneur is a journey, and not an easy one. It is so much easier when I have a group of supportive fellow entrepreneurs helping me along.”
Her goal is to one day create a community wellness center that incorporates different modalities such as psychotherapy, yoga, massage, and reiki. She wants her business to be a nurturing place for both the staff and the clients. Irina’s loves the number of interesting, conscious people that she comes across in her business, who are constantly integrating more and more into the community here in the Washington, D.C area. The business speaks to Irina’s core and is a field that she wholeheartedly enjoys.
We are touched by Irina’s passion for her work, and highly recommend her to all those in need of spiritual renewal and yoga meditation.
- Mina Alemzadeh
Alexandria ETS Intern
Dinelles was born and raised in Ghana, West Africa. She came to the United States in 1996 with her siblings and stepmom. Her mother was a single mother, but she believed in giving even when things were hard. Dinelles attributes her own desire to create and give, from this generous affinity of her mother.
Growing up, her mother tried time and time again to grow a “forget-me-not” plant but for some reason, it never grew.
“I remember watering it each day hoping that one day, I will wake up and see some flowers on it but I never saw even one flower on it. So that is where I got the idea to use the forget-me-not flower as an emblem for my products”.
Dinelles’ company, UnFORgettables, is a handmade crafting business that makes cakes, but not the kind that you eat.
“I make my cakes out of diapers, towels, napkins, baby items and linen. I also make other items such as cupcakes, bouquets, bags, bassinets, rattles, guitars, motorcycles, castles, and any other custom requests”.
These beautiful arrangements resemble our favorite things in life, but are comprised of wonderful gifts.
“It means the world to me knowing that my products will bring happiness and joy to someone’s face and that they will remember it forever”.
Her inspiration for UnFORgettables came when she was pregnant with her second child in 2008, “I was put on bed rest decided to plan my own baby shower because I was tired of sitting at home with nothing to do. My cousin who was helping me told me about diaper cakes and I decided to make one for myself. It tuned out so beautiful and everyone really liked it. Ever since then, I have been making it for family and friends and truly enjoy making them”.
Soon thereafter, Dinelles decided to enroll in EWI’s ETS class, citing being “tired and frustrated of not knowing how to make any income with my products”.
“I wanted to know where and how to start my own business but all the information on the information on the internet seems to be missing something. I stayed at work late one evening researching on the internet determined to find something that will help me and that is how I ended up joining EWI.”
Now, with just a few days until graduation, Dinelles reflects on her time with EWI, and recalls what has been the most important lesson she has learned.
“What I have taken away from the training is believing that I can make it and that I have a product that will sell if I work harder and never give up. My faith and passion in my business has increased tremendously and I owe it all to the training”.
As her company grows, Dinelles aspires to become a vendor for hospital gift shops across the country, and eventually internationally. Further aspirations include starting her own line of organic baby blankets and burp clothes.
“The creativity is my favorite part. Being able to create and design new, unique, and exciting gifts out of simple everyday products is my joy. I like the uniqueness and different approach that I add to gifts so that the giver will feel a sense of pride in having presented such a unique and functional gift”.
Dinelles currently lives in upper Marlboro, MD with her “wonderfully supportive husband and three lovely children”.
Best of luck to you, Dinelles.
- Jeremy Brandt-Vorel
Media and Outreach Intern
Jennifer Smith, of Charlottesville, Virginia, has been creating art all of her life, but discovered her distinct love for oil painting ten years ago. She specializes in mostly landscapes and abstract art, and is interested in displaying her work in exhibitions, shows, commissions and also providing art lessons to others. Her favorite thing to do in her spare time is paint, claiming she can never seem to get enough of it!
Jennifer would like to showcase and sell her original artwork and designs, as well as find a way to retain rights and make them available on other media, such as fabrics, kitchenware, tiles, carpeting, wallpaper, fashion accessories, and furniture designs. Her dream is to one day open an art studio or artists co-op, with a tentative possibility to drag in a crowd or local population.
For now, Jennifer is focusing on getting her own artistic business launched and being able to support herself, as well as add value to her clients and economy in the Piedmont region. Jennifer found EWI when she began searching for programs catered towards entrepreneurs or artists to help them learn the business aspect of their work, and when she found a listing for EWI, she applied immediately and was eager to enroll in the course. She says her favorite part about the course was meeting everybody, getting to know about each of her classmates’ creative ideas and watching their dreams grow into thorough business plans. Her passion has always been painting, and she loves to connect with people through her work and share what she loves most with them. She wishes to enable local artists to gather a sense of community, further motivating them to succeed and share with other artists. With Jennifer’s bubbly and eager personality, coupled with her amazing talent, it is only a matter of time before her art business flourishes.
- Mina Alemzadeh
Alexandria ETS Intern
Rashunda is an “inspiring entrepreneur who desires to build an enterprise of various businesses”. She has been modeling for 12 years and hopes to one day open a modeling agency of her own.
Rashunda sells a new comfort-brand of women’s shoes that enhances foot health.
“My product is unique and will change the way women view footwear and their health”.
“ My favorite part about my product is the uniqueness of incorporating fashionable stylish shoes with comfort. I value the aspect of educating women on the importance of foot health”.
Rashunda cites her father as a major inspiration for her entrepreneurial pursuit.
” I decided to name my first business in honor of his memory. My family also encouraged me to launch my own shoe line. I vision that I will create a new niche in the market and leave a legacy for inspiring entrepreneurs”.
With inspiration from her family, Rashunda found her way to EWI, and decided to enroll in Entrepreneur Training For Success classes.
“I joined EWI’s Entrepreneur for Success; because it seemed like a wonderful opportunity for me to jump start my business. I prayed for God to guide me in the right direction in drafting my business plan and finalizing my market. My cousin Clem told me about the program and how it really helps you to launch your business. I decided to join and I am happy that my prayers were answered and now I can walk out on faith in pursuing my dreams”.
In reflecting upon her time in the ETS classes, Rashunda believes her most important lessons came from face-to-face time with mentors. She specifically thanks mentorship partners like Capital One, who’s “sessions were very beneficial” to help her “learn valuable information [to] apply to my business and life”.
“I am leaving inspired more than ever to start this journey in my life. I have more confidence in myself and the goals I have for the business. I can speak intelligently about my business and where I see this business going in the near future.”
Rashunda one day dreams to have a Fortune 500 company, with opportunities in retail, manufacturing, and enterprise industries.
We hope you make the cover of Forbes, Rashunda. Best of luck.
Media and Outreach Intern
Irene, a native Egyptian, has been inspired by the love of people in her life and genuinely finds joy in cooking Egyptian cuisine. Her passion for cooking began when she was 15 years old, when she started helping her grandmother in the kitchen. Now, the mother of two amazing children, Irene has lived in the U.S. for 8 years and sees herself as a happier and confident woman. Her dream is to one day be able to provide bread for as many unfortunate people as she can through her restaurant/catering business and she will be donating 10% of her sales to organizations who are committed to serve those who are in need.” She wants to use her business to help raise funds for the poor not only in the U.S., but also in her home country, Egypt. For every bag of bread that Irene sells, she pledges to donate another bag to those who are in need. When she first started the program, she had so many ideas for her business but had no clue on how and where to start. According to Irene, EWI came in the right time; it taught her to stay focused and determined to reach her goal.”
Sandwiches, kabobs, and doughy bread are a few of her favorite dishes to make. Irene is in the process of planning her own restaurant, called Taste of the Nile, which is inspired by the river that flows throughout Egypt; her homeland and the place where all of her recipes come from. The food will be traditional, authentic and very similar to food that is locally produced in the Egyptian market. Irene prides her food on their healthy components. Her passion is to see satisfaction on her customer’s faces, and she strives to make an affordable, healthy, delicious meal that is the perfect portion serving size for a healthy diet. Her food will be available for anybody from the ages of 1-100 years, or as she says, “whoever likes to enjoy and try good food.” Her food will also be catered to all kinds of needs, including vegetarian, vegan and diabetic. Irene plans to open her family-oriented and affordable business hopefully in Northern Arlington or the downtown D.C. area. With her culinary talent and heartwarming demeanor, we cannot wait to see Irene’s business prosper and delight the residents of the D.C. metro area.
A very special and heartfelt thank you goes to Irene for all the wonderful help at the 10 Year Anniversary Benefit with Aida Mady’s Egyptian cuisine! Thank you, Irene!
- Mina Alemzadeh
Alexandria ETS Intern
Trinidad Coopman is from Santiago, Chile and her home-catering business “La Serena” is named after her hometown of Serena, where her entire family comes from as well as many of her timeless recipes. Serena translates to “calm” in Spanish, which is exactly how Trinidad wants her clients to feel when they hire her to cater for home parties and everyday household food.
Trinidad is not only a self-taught chef, but also a visual artist, who enjoys cooking and sees it as an art. Her food products are diverse, ranging from savory entrees and appetizers to sweet cakes and chocolates. Her dishes are made with all natural ingredients and more importantly, a lot of heart. The most popular feature items have been the Chilean style cheese or spinach and ricotta empanadas and the Tres Leches Cake.
Trinidad wants to eventually expand her talents and open a business where she can sell her sweets, wraps, and hang her art pieces on the wall and put them for sale. Trinidad has used the EWI course to help her structure her business. She has now set goals that are completely realistic and is working towards reaching them. She claims that she has also learned that she has a special talent for marketing and really enjoys talking to people, networking and selling directly to the public.
EWI has had a great impact on Trinidad’s business vision. According to Trinidad, “Every class was very educational, but it was also fun. We would share personal experiences and it was nice to hear that other women are going through similar situations. I gained a lot of confidence in myself and my business thanks to all the knowledge that I acquired in the ETS class.”
With her extroverted personality, Trinidad not only wants to deliver a good, but also provide a service—making her customers happy and full of delicious and gourmet food.
A very special and heartfelt thank you goes to Trinidad for her generous contribution of 100 fortune cupcakes for the 10 Year Anniversary Benefit! Her cupcakes were a delight to all our guests and received with rave reviews. Thank you, Trinidad!
- Mina Alemzadeh
Alexandria ETS Intern
Chithra Jeyaram is an award winning documentary filmmaker. She feels compelled to communicate the realities of life as it unfolds, focusing on nuances that cannot be dwelled upon or deliberated in mass media. Through her films she hopes to break societal barriers, build bridges, change attitudes and take risks. Life is full of challenges and it is these challenges that validate life. Some people inhabit the stories and Chithra feels honored to share these compelling stories with the rest of the world through her films.
Chithra’s first exposure to filmmaking began in 2004 with a failed attempt to fund a film about an explosive water-sharing dispute between two southern states in India. Deeply affected by that experience, she quit a decade-long career as a Physical Therapist and plunged herself into the world of filmmaking. Shortly thereafter, she received a Master of Fine Arts in Film Production from University of Texas.
Chithra is the founder and creative director of Real Talkies, a boutique production house in the Washington DC metropolitan area. “Real Talkies” creates fresh and meaningful films to inform, inspire and educate people about issues that shape our lives and contemporary culture.She joined EWI to establish the business side of her film production. Real stories…Lasting impressions!” Chithra’s tagline truly encompasses her work as a filmmaker. “People crave authentic stories and we deliver it. We make real and impactful films for a global community of citizens, activists, non-profits, organizations and socially-conscious businesses,” said Chithra.
Her favorite moment in the course was the business plan pitch. “It was amazing seeing the clarity and specificity in all of our business ideas and the confidence in our delivery.”
Chithra loves meeting new people and learning about new cultures, practices and paradigms. We are so glad that she enjoyed her experience with EWI and we and we can’t to see her achieve her dream of making ground-breaking films that will become a part of the social fabric of our society!
- Charlia Acree
Rockville ETS Intern