New Year, New Legal Protections

29 Jan

Our ETS class started off the New Year learning about taxes and legal protections from the area’s finest lawyers and certified public accountants. Our expert panel covered establishing a business entity, drawing up contacts, protecting intellectual property and paying taxes.

 Pantae Stevenson of The Law Firm of Pantae Stevenson explained business entity options such as a sole proprietorship, a limited liability company, and S and C corporations.  She encouraged two of our students, cousins starting a cupcake business, to have a detailed partnership agreement. Ginny Cascio of McMillan Metro, P.C. also provided a list of possible contract terms for our entrepreneurs to consider such as termination, confidential information, and dispute resolution. For example, she stressed the importance of stipulating when the business will be paid in contracts with clients. Doing so sets a solid payment expectation, ensures the business’s sound financial operation, and prevents future misunderstandings.


Thank you to all our legal experts who provided invaluable insight and information to our students!

 Ruth Mae Finch of Finch & Associates, LLC and Harold L. Novick of Novick, Kim, and Lee, PLLC discussed protecting intellectual property. They explained how our entrepreneurs could obtain trademarks, copyrights, patents, and trade secrets and encouraged them to choose unique business names. I was surprised to learn protecting intellectual property is affordable. For example, you can register a copyright online for $35.00 and the protection lasts throughout your lifetime plus 70 years.

 Rosemary McMahon of McMahon & Company, P.C. and Tariq Shafi of Shafi & Company provided information about federal, state, and local taxes. Because business is often conducted across state lines in the DMV area, our entrepreneurs must pay close attention to each state’s registration rules and regulations.  If you are unsure about whether you need a certified public accountant, know that may local representative offer free consultations.

 Although legal protections can be confusing, our panel really helped outline the important topics to keep in mind. Here’s to hoping our entrepreneurs took good notes!

 Many thanks to our panel for volunteering their time!

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.

“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

Searching “Women’s Empowerment” & Finding Inspiration

27 Jan


It was a late night, around midnight, when I was partaking in one of my favorite pastimes: deciding how I could contribute to the betterment of the world. That night, I was dwelling on the gender gap, both domestic and abroad. The subject is one that has perturbed me for as long as I can remember. I decided to Google “women’s empowerment” and came across Empowered Women International’s website. After reading the mission statement, I was hooked. I immediately emailed to inquire about volunteer opportunities. Two weeks later, I found myself at the First Annual Holiday Gift Marketplace. It was my first exposure to the organization and I loved every minute of it.

Recently, I attended the “Financing Your Business” class in Silver Spring, Maryland. Laura Levengard, a certified personal trainer who has started five businesses herself, is the mentor for the Maryland cohort. She began the class with an introduction to different ways of financing and some ideas for crowdsourcing to fund businesses, such as Kiva and Kickstarter. A group of three from The Hilltop Microfinance Initiative (HFMI) was then introduced. They covered a few sources to raise capital to get one’s business off the ground. After an overview on financing options, the group broke into two smaller ones to handle individual questions. Questions posed to the representatives from HFMI included which loans would be best for an individual to take depending on the type of business they had.

At the start of the class, the ladies went around and gave a brief introduction of their name and business venture. Amongst the group were a tutor, a fashion designer, a photographer, a gluten-free baker, a property manager, and an import/export businesswoman. I had the pleasure of speaking to some of these inspirational entrepreneurial women before and after the class.

Kim Graden, whose company Real Financial Freedom aims to help with money managing, says that the EWI classes have been very intense, but very helpful and invaluable in networking. Yasmin Abdi, a young Somalian woman who moved from Saudi Arabia a year ago, spoke about the impact that the organization, instructors, and speakers had on her believing in herself.


Yasmin Abdi, ETS Fall 2013 Student

Yasmin had all of the know-how about photography- the correct camera, lenses, lights- but lacked faith in her ability. EWI gave her the push, the motivation that she needed to take the next step in growing her business. The encouragement from the organization struck such a chordwith her, “EWI truly helps from the heart”, and she hopes to help other young women that are similarly told by their communities that they cannot have their own business and be on their own. The classes are the only reason she is staying in the area and she hopes to join her brother in California once she has completed the course. Yasmin had booked her first wedding for that weekend.

Since I was young, I’ve been exposed to a number of volunteer and non-profit organizations. This one in particular resonated with me the most. Some of these ladies have seen hard times and struggles that most of us cannot fathom, yet every single one of them had a lively spirit about them. In that room was without a doubt the most incredible and inspirational group of women I have ever met. I was honored to even be a fly on the wall in that room on that night.

Simran Behniwal is an aspiring medical student who graduated from the University of California, San Diego, I currently work at Children’s National Medical Center, and am interested in social justice and women’s issues.

Our Sincere Appreciation to EWI’s Generous Donors & Supporters of 2013

22 Jan

Our work is possible because of your dedication to women’s empowerment and the power of entrepreneurship to create opportunity and changes lives.


Coach’s Corner: One Day at a Time

7 Jan


Best wishes to all in the EWI community for a most bountiful New Year! As an organization, we made unprecedented strides in 2013. We established exciting new programs (including Grow My Business, our Writers Circle, and many others); brought on highly-motivated additions to our board and staff; developed key partnerships in the greater community; opened new facilities; received prestigious awards and grants, organizationally and for our students and alumnae; and drew considerable public recognition for our achievements. However, it would be way out of character for E.W.I. to rest on its laurels.

Accordingly, 2014 will feature major new initiatives, which you will be hearing about shortly. EWI never sleeps; in the words of our founder, onward and upward.But on this first day of the New Year, let’s focus on what each of us as individuals can do in 2014 to move further along the path toward empowerment and entrepreneurial success. Yes, I suppose I’m talking about New Year’s Resolutions, but with a different focus. Let’s put aside grand, general goals like lose weight and get in shape; get my family and relationships in a better place; become a successful businesswoman; gross $100,000 in sales; or even become the hottest music act on the East Coast (I guess that one didn’t quite work out for yours truly). There’s nothing wrong with this type of resolution in theory; but that’s what they are: general theories. They don’t provide us with a practical roadmap for daily life. They may be admirable visions (or in my case, fantasy). However, as Woody Allen once said: “reality sucks, but it’s the only place you can get a good steak.”

I’ve already set forth a number of time-tested, concrete steps we can take that will lead to real progress toward empowered entrepreneurship. Take a look at my previous blogposts (archived at for a refresher. Some will be more appropriate for each of you than others, depending upon your particular business. Many of you will have come up with better suggestions – please feel free to post them at this site.

Going forward in the New Year, here’s the key: take it one day at a time, but do something every day. Each day, go to sleep knowing you have done something – no matter how small – to advance your business career. It certainly doesn’t hurt to reduce this to writing – write down your daily goal when you wake up; cross it off your list and /or write it down at day’s end; the format doesn’t matter, but developing this daily habit of making progress does. This will inevitably strengthen your business bit by bit, and also continually add to your self-confidence – trust me, as one who no longer sets generalized goals, but makes sure I do something to empower myself and my business

Think about it: Writing a novel seems like a daunting task, but writing a page takes little time, especially when it involves your passion. Do this daily, and voila: you have a 365-page book! Acquiring 50 new customers for your sales business sounds like an awful lot; but sending out a group e-mail; distributing a flier; taking a marketing seminar; attending a networking event; meeting a colleague for brainstorming over coffee; sending thank-you notes to existing customers; deciding on a new discount, bonus, or giveaway promotion; trying out a new or revised product for sale – all these will eventually land you those new prospects, and increase your business knowledge and savvy as well.

And again: you don’t have to do this alone. We are a community of like-minded people, pledged to support each other. We’ve all been where you are, in one way or another, and sharing and learning from that common experience is the most important thing we can do. Take it one day at a time and rely on each other, and we can’t help but make 2014 a year to remember for all of us.

Best wishes and keep the faith,

By Howard Feinstein, Author of  Fire on the Bayou: True Tales From The Civil Rights Batt , Empowered Women International Board Member

A bi-weekly blog for the E.W.I. 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

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.


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.

Creatively Charming Goes to Kansas!

10 Dec

Charmelle with new friends and future entrepreneurs

In early October, Charmelle Clark, founder of Creatively Charming, and her mother set out on an ambitious five day road trip to Wichita, Kansas. As one of two speakers, Charmelle was invited by Agape Ministries at Grace Presbyterian Church to address issues of domestic violence. The mission was not only directed at survivors of domestic abuse but also at young women around the age of 18 to raise awareness in order to prevent more victims of domestic abuse.

When Agape Ministries reached out to EWI asking for a women to speak about overcoming domestic violence through entrepreneurship, Charmelle proved to be the perfect candidate. Charmelle jumped at the opportunity to share her experiences and empower others. This gave her the motivation to drive 19 hours to Wichita (but a drive she is likely to never want to do again)!

While at the event,  Charmelle met with several women and spoke to them about her journey to entrepreneurship and inspiring a new partnership. “We created a connection between women in both areas”, says Charmelle. “We talked about ideas to implement a program similar to EWI’s in Kansas to help empower women in the area.” Charmelle spoke about the desire to create an annual conferences between women here and in Kansas to promote empowerment and entrepreneurship.


Charmelle in front of Grace Presbyterian Church

When asked if she found the trip successful she replied, “If you reach one, you make one achieve.” Charmelle and EWI hope to continue reaching women nationally and internationally to continue empowering women.

Charmelle also explained how important it is for alumni and current members to use the EWI’s resources and network. “People need to maintain that connection because it is an active, growing network and EWI is behind you 100% to make sure you succeed.”

Thank you, Charmelle! We wish all women entrepreneurs, here and in Kansas, inspiration for continued empowerment and the means for overcoming domestic abuse.

By Ciara Salg, Marketing & Communications Intern

Coach’s Corner: ‘Tis the Season on Tips for Success

4 Dec

Continue reading

Life is a Gift. A Story of Courage and Transformation…

21 Nov

Amanda is a survivor of  labor-trafficking, a jewelry-designer, an Empowered Woman International entrepreneur graduate, and this is her story…

Every necklace, pair of earrings and bracelet that Amanda advertises in Etsy is accompanied by a story or poem—captions that describe her childhood in Trinidad, her commitment to help victims of abuse, her dreams of a better world.

The caption under a photo of daisy-shaped earrings reads: “Do not go where the path may lead. Go

"You are beautiful just the way you are" The purpose of life is a life of purpose. Everything around us is made up of energy.To attract positive things in your life, start by giving off positive energy.Your life has purpose. Your story is important. Your dreams count. Your voice matters. You were born to make an impact. Life is a gift. Live it and let go of everything negative that holds you back. You are beautiful in every single way. Live beautifully. Dream passionately. Love completely.

“You are beautiful just the way you are”
The purpose of life is a life of purpose. Everything around us is made up of energy.To attract positive things in your life, start by giving off positive energy.Your life has purpose. Your story is important. Your dreams count. Your voice matters. You were born to make an impact. Life is a gift. Live it and let go of everything negative that holds you back. You are beautiful in every single way. Live beautifully. Dream passionately. Love completely.

instead where there is no path and leave a trail. A poem accompanying a photo of another piece of jewelry starts with: “Life is a gift. Live it and let go of everything negative that holds you back.”

Amanda started marketing her jewelry in Etsy after successfully completing the fall 2012 semester of Entrepreneur Training for Success (ETS), a program offered by Empowered Women International (EWI) to help low-income, refuge and immigrant women launch their own business.

She is one of 152 women who’ve overcome major obstacles and enrolled in this program to change the course of their lives. Many now run successful businesses in catering, painting, fashion and jewelry designs, wellness, cleaning and other service businesses.

Amanda survived the underground world of labor trafficking, freeing her from an abuser who treated her like a slave and routinely threatened, blackmailed and isolated her.

Three years ago, Amanda was brought to the US. The abuse continued as she was forced to work without pay, allowed out only to attend classes to earn a GED. After showing up to many study sessions wearing scarves and layers to cover up bruises, program staff suspected she was being abused. They urged her to leave her abuser and go into a shelter for safety.

At the shelter, Amanda told her story and felt free for the first time. Within a few months, she contacted FAIR Girls, an organization that strives to help keep young adults safe from human trafficking. She enrolled in Jewel Girls, a program that offers classes in financial management and jewelry-making, and was determined to become more independent.

"As a young child, the movie Aladdin was one of my favorite stories. The colorful images, culture, and vibrant friendship between Jasmine and Aladdin inspired me to create this necklace. The horn pendant has great meaning and symbolizes friendship and loving oneself."

“I decided that maybe I can make my very own jewelry and name the jewelry to speak on the behalf of someone who is being human trafficked or is at high risk of being exploited,” she said.

She wanted to start a jewelry business—but didn’t know how. She searched for programs that would teach her business skills and stumbled upon Empowered Women International (EWI). Eager to forge ahead, Amanda enrolled in the Entrepreneur Training for Success (ETS). Within three months, she learned to develop a business plan, market her services, get loans and do budgets.

Studying with women eager to leave their destitute past behind, Amanda felt inspired. Her confidence grew as she formed a strong bond with Joanne Clark, the mentor EWI matched her up with at the start of the program. The two met for dinner, naturally connected, went to jewelry-making classes and attended bead shows. “Joanne is very helpful to me both in my business and personally,” Amanda says. “She helps me to uncover and develop the “diamonds” within me. She thinks that my jewelry designs are challenging her to become more creative.”

Amanda graduated from ETS in 2012. A few months later, she served as Keynote Speaker at the ETS

Spring 2013 Graduation. She is now enrolled in EWI’s new program, Grow My Business (GMB), and in

The world is yours. Live the wonderful life that is inside you. Let nothing be lost upon you. Be always searching for new sensations. Be afraid of nothing. Life is not about finding yourself. It is about creating yourself.

The world is yours. Live the wonderful life that is inside you. Let nothing be lost upon you. Be always searching for new sensations. Be afraid of nothing. Life is not about finding yourself. It is about creating yourself.

art education workshops.

When she looks in the mirror every morning, Amanda says she still sees her scars, remnants from her past, but “as a young black woman who has survived many challenges,” she professes, “I am particularly determined to accomplish my life goals.”

Amanda has transformed herself from feeling helpless to being empowered.

Amanda is an EWI Member Entrepreneur, a Survivor Advocate and Mentor at FAIR Girls; she plans to officially launch her business Amanda’s Jewelry Corner. And you can currently find and purchase her jewelry here

Gifts & Giving for a Cause at the Holiday Gift Marketplace

20 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
The Whittemore House
1526 New Hampshire Avenue, NW
Washington DC 20036
(near Dupont Circle)


Ansen & Elsa
Elsen Oils

With modern products full of damaging chemicals that affect hair and skin, Elsa and Ansen longed to find safe products for their children. While researching products and ways to protect their children from these products, they discovered the many health benefits of oils in their natural form. Their love for their children inspired themto search for healthier options and their love for people inspired them to turn their new passion into a business.

Screen shot 2013-11-14 at 12.17.53 PM

As Elsen Oils grows larger, Ansen & Elsa are looking to meet some of their needs. Do you know any retail buyersor chains? Can you or someone you know provide training and advice for contacts retailers? Come to EWI’s 1st Annual Holiday Gift Market and buy some all-natural oils while also helping to continue the empowerment.


Clementine Simmons:
Clems Floral Design Gallery, LLC

Clemz Floral1

While Clem was growing up, she remembers her mother holding a very special love for flowers. Her mother always had flowers around and outside their home. The love for flowers held a special bond between her mother and her. Clem never realized how deep her passions for flowers went until she helped a friend create a floral arrangement. After realizing the true strength of her passion, her dream became to launch her own business. As Clem grows her business she is searching for connections and partners to take her company to the next level. Do you have a referral for someone in the hotel industry that can help Clem’s business get hired? Do you know a manufacturer who can help mass produce Clem’s gift cards and wall art to include in her packaging? Can you assist Clem in getting her Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) certificate? Come to the EWI Holiday Gift Market and meet with Clem while picking up a beautiful bouquet.


Cleopatra Magwaro:
A Season’s Assemblage


While growing up in Zimbabwe, Cleo constantly listened to stories told by her father and grandfather. While listening to these stories, Cleo was captivated and was left with a deep passion for literature. Her desire to recapture glimpses of her childhood and bring to life images and human connections led her to write her own anthology, A Season’s Assemblage.  Her goal is to educate people of the African experience. She is inspired by the people around her and hopes to reach as many people as possible through her stories. Want to help Cleo achieve her goal? Do you know and agent or a publisher who could help Cleo? Know anyone who could provide a grant to a way Cleo could gain funds to scan her books to publish onAmazon? Know potential clients interested in the African market? Do you know any other networks or NGO’s with an African focus? Come to EWI’s 1st Annual Holiday Marketplace and learn about another culture while making a change.


Rabia Pervez:

Silk’ n Paint

Rabia Pervez

Rabia Pervez

Growing up, Rabia recalls her constant fascination with colors and fabrics. While at home, she decided to start experimenting with various dyes and silk.This experimentation led her to creating an elegant yet striking garment that led her to learn and experiment with her art even more. Since this break through, Rabia has created a line of products ranging for cosmetic bags to pillowcases to jewelry leading to the creation of her line Silk’n paint. As Silk’ n Paint grows, Rabia has needsthat need to be met. Do you know somewhere or someone who can help Rabia sell her products in gift shops, gift galleries, corporate gift shows, and boutiques? Come to EWI’s 1st Holiday Gift Place and give the gift of empowerment this holiday season.

Free Admission

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

Written by Ciara Salg, Marketing & Communications Intern