Archive | June, 2013

Celebrating World Refugee Day with the IRC !

27 Jun
photo-2

One of the art displays at the IRC event recognizing the influence of how many refugees live in the United States to date

It was a great honor for EWI to be invited to this year’s World Refugee Day Celebration hosted by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) at the Silver Spring Civic Building this past Tuesday. The day consisted of celebrating the worldwide and nationwide goal of increasing advocacy for refugee survivors who seek to succeed in creating a better life. “Celebrating Resilience”  was the motto for the event, commending all efforts in the refugee cause. What better way to hear and see this than from the local refugee community through entertainment, demonstrations, arts and crafts, community information tables and art exhibitions. It was truly enlightening to see such determination, preference, and hope.

Hand-crafted art and jewelry made by participants of IRC

Hand-crafted art and jewelry made by participants of IRC

The IRC creates opportunities for refugees to prosper in America. Every year thousands of refugees are encouraged by the U.S. government through agencies like the IRC to effectively learn how to navigate in a new country and resettle. Many have created new livelihood against many challenging odds. At the IRC’s Suburban Washington Resettlement Center in Silver Spring, they help refugees rebuild their lives through critical assistance programs that focus on new life skills and experiences to rebuild their self pride. This event honored the courage and strength of the many women, men, and children who are have been forced to flee their country under threat of persecution or violence. It was through numerous interpretive and interactive presentations that showed the life of a refugee individual. As each IRC participant shared his or her personal story, powerful applause followed.

Some of the beautiful items sold to benefit the National World Refugee Fund

Some of the beautiful items sold to benefit the  World Refugee Fund

Our team was highly inspired and have great admiration for anyone who is new to this country, who discovers ways to integrate to a new home, and through perseverance and passion finds ways to thrive here. It’s a mission close to our hearts! 

We would like to give a special thanks and gratitude to the IRC for inviting us to their World Refugee Day event. Also, thank you to Julie Hyo Park, our recent spring graduate and artisan entrepreneur for participating with us at our EWI outreach table to lead the crafts demonstration!

It was such an amazing experience!

Written By Virlen Reyes, EWI Community Partnership Intern

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Coach’s Corner

26 Jun

By Howard Feinstein, EWI Board Member

Howard Feinstein

Howard Feinstein

A weekly blog for E.W.I. students and graduates, 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 periodically contribute your ideas and news to this forum, c/o khfeinstein@verizon.net.

Mon. June 24

Sincere congratulation to each and every member of our Spring 2013 E.T.S. class, who graduated on Sunday.  They join a growing group of E.W.I. alumnae who have gone forward with confidence and high expectations, not only as entrepreneurs, but as productive citizens.  The E.T.S. curriculum is a demanding one, and those who complete it have reason to be proud.  However, as every previous graduate knows well, E.T.S. is just the first step on the road to business and personal empowerment.  Today, I want to emphasize — based on considerable experience as a board member, mentor, and trainer  — that you do not have to travel that road alone.  

The E.W.I. road is a continuing, two-way street.  We understand, from our own entrepreneurial ventures, that classroom preparation is just the beginning of a lengthy learning process.  We have taken major steps to expand our original curriculum, through our new Grow Your Business program, and the establishment of business-specific working groups, spearheaded by the new EWI Writers Group.  We are regularly re-assessing and tweaking all of our programs, and we need your continuing input to be sure we are providing the most effective preparation for your careers.  Let us know how your business is progressing, what aspects of the EWI training were most helpful, and what you would change or add.  Unlike similar programs, we do not operate out of a musty, standardized manual.  We are committed to do whatever it takes to ensure that all of our graduates remain on the road to empowerment.  At EWI, we do not fear change – we welcome it.

We also know that the road you have embarked on is seldom a straight, controlled-access highway.  Any successful entrepreneur will tell you that the greatest teacher of all is trial-and-error.  Don’t be afraid to take chances, take the road less traveled, and sometimes just “trust your gut.”  You will make mistakes and have bad days, but you will learn from them.  As the E.W.I. community grows, you have at your disposal many people who started exactly where you were, and have gone through similar experiences.  Let alumnae and staff know what challenges you are facing, how you are meeting them, and whether you can use some help.  Remember:  you are not asking for favors, but rather tapping the resources of a lifelong community of support.  You are not “bothering” us — this what we do, and as in any extended family, you will have the highly–rewarding opportunity to “give back” to your sisters as well.   Keep track of what your fellow alumnae are up to:  patronize their businesses, attend their events, and spread the word to your friends and colleagues.  All for one, one for all.

Good luck; keep in touch; and in the words of our founder, “onward and upward.”

To read more about Howie, click here.

 

Meet Morella!

20 Jun
Morella Ewell

Morella Ewell

A native of Venezuela, Morella Ewell earned her first job after college at Shell Oil as an interpreter. She moved to the United States in 1995 with her two children and her husband, who was an Air Force pilot. Her professional career is lush with experiences ranging from tutoring in Spanish, to case manager and translator for Department of Disabilities Administration, to translator at an elementary school.

Fluent in Spanish, English and French, Morella’s greatest desire is to provide a trustworthy and responsible translation services for the growing Hispanic immigrant population in the U.S. As an immigrant herself, Morella believes that most immigrant require help with documentation, which means that law firms will need help with interpretation/translation as well. Morella knows she can deliver those needs through her company Ewell Interpretation Services as she can better relate to their circumstances.

Morella’s aspirations led her to Empowered Women International where she gained valuable lessons on how to put the pieces of her business together. With the knowledge she gained at EWI Morella is well on her way to opening her business. She is grateful to have had mentors, trainers and business coaches in the process to offer guidance and support.

“I have become a more organized person. Also, I am much more confident now. These two traits have helped me tremendously.”

 

Meet Odirsa!

20 Jun
Odirsa Argueta

Odirsa Argueta

Originally from El Salvador, Odirsa Argueta moved to the United States 23 years ago in search of a better life. She is a proud mother of five, although one passed away, and finds her children a strong motivation for her life’s endeavors. Odirsa’s inspiration comes from friends and the people she works with on a daily basis. She has always been convinced that she will open her own business some day.

As a responsible and very organized person with the right professional knowledge and experiences she desires to be a pioneer in the male-dominated industry of irrigation and lighting services. In fact, by founding JR Irrigation & Lighting Company Odirsa and her business partner plan to install high quality irrigation and lighting system in the yards of residential homes or commercial businesses. While her business partner will focus on the physical labor, Odirsa will be behind the promotion, monitor installations and client management. Her ultimate goal is to make customers happy as they find their yards transformed into beautiful new landscapes.

Coming to Empowered Women International has changed everything for Odirsa, as it gave her great resources and became an outlet for her passion. Through EWI she says she has benefited from quality classes, and the aid of mentors and teachers throughout the process has helped her tremendously.

“I have learned many things from the classes and I would like to say thank you to the EWI staff for changing my life.”

 

Business Plan Pitch Leaves an Outstanding Impression

18 Jun
Students Dicey Nneka Scroggins preparing for their duo presentation

Students Dicey Nneka Scroggins preparing for their duo presentation

As the mid morning approached, so did the powerful anticipation of presenting the determination, hard work, and pride that came into effect at this spring’s Business Plan Pitch.  Taking a glance around the room made it very clear that excitement and enthusiasm was just the beginning. As the guest arrive smiles began to be shared, laughs where initially introduced, and greetings give way to a great afternoon filled with powerful business plan pitches!

At the beginning, everyone was given a moment to spend time with the mentors and friends to whom the students gave aspiration to. It was more than apparent that the mentors at EWI have served as models for inspiration and influence that have touched each student in different ways. What followed were exceptional business pitches that not only centered on the idea of creating a foundation, but showcased innovation by illuminating the dedication each student originated from the very first day of classes.

EWI founder Marga Fripp with Judges Aminta Perez Gold and Kevin Kelly

EWI founder Marga Fripp with Judges Aminta Perez Gold and Dr Jayfus Tucker Doswell

One of the first students that presented was the charming Charmelle Clark, who use her public speaking skills to make her pitch informative, concise, and meaningful to everyone in the room. Every student that preceded demonstrated strong, persuasive and heartwarming stories behind each individual business idea. The transformation happening is more than just a semester, this is a lifetime change.  The poise and eloquence that each individual student put forward gave significant reason for this year’s judges to evaluate and give constructive and positive reviews.

EWI student Cleopatra Magwaro as she presents her Writing and Publishing Company Sevices

EWI student Cleopatra Magwaro as she presents her Writing and Publishing Company Services

After each pitch it was the judges turn to make comments and ideas to enhancing the already prominent business proposals. One constant suggestion that the judges indicated was the use of social media to generate networking opportunities. Another suggestion was the projection of knowing your clientele and competitors, which reinforced to the students that in the world of business, distinction is everything. 

Biz Plan Pitch Judges focusing on the presentations

Biz Plan Pitch Judges focusing on the presentations

Reneta Bennett, founder of Pressing Through Mentoring, made her feelings well-known at the end when she said, “I am thankful for the support that the judges gave me; it helped me a lot to be able to speak about my business and hear what others think.” The judges also had a few words to mention about the experience of analyzing the presentations. Second-time judge Lloyd McCormick expressed his thoughts about the students’ work by mentioning, “This was terrific, wonderful, they were very positive about their goals and there’s a lot of talented and motivated people”.

Final remarks were made by Marga Fripp who defined how motivation and inventiveness made this day special. “After 10 years, it’s really rewarding and re-energizing to see what these women have accomplished and overcome, and this is why I keep doing it”. The overall encouragement and support that filled the air was one-of-a-kind. As graduation for these amazing women is coming into view next week, one thing is for sure… success is a journey, not a destination and the journey will continue to empower them each step of the way.

Group photo of EWI Judges, Students, Mentors, and Supporting Staff

Group photo of EWI Judges, Students, Mentors, and Supporting Staff

We are so proud of you, Spring Class of 2013!

See more photos of the event on our Flickr set here. More Photos
Special thanks and credit to Jen Cubas Photography for the taking all the awesome photos!

ByVirlen Reyes, Community Partnerships Intern

Meet Carolina!

13 Jun
Carolina Guevara

Carolina Guevara

ECO-HABITAT

My name is Carolina Guevara. I am from Nicaragua. Estelí. I am the second child of five. Since my childhood, I loved to lead the construction of playhouses made with raw materials. My sisters, friends and cousins always asked for my suggestions to build and decorate their playhouses. I am gifted with an amazing imagination able to create wonderful experiences and things.

My life and work experience as an architect and urban planner in Nicaragua has shaped my social awareness. I have engaged with passion social projects that changed social, environmental and economic conditions of people. Now, I believe in my ability to guide the creation and promotion of healthy housing conditions. The actual gaps and dissonances related to housing accessibility and environmental concerns impulse my desire to be an entrepreneur. My innovative vision, understanding of diversity, peoples’ values, environmental and social needs, is my equipment to incorporate new sustainable alternatives of living. I feel encourage to participate in the complex, interrelated flows of everyday life of dwellings to heal some of those urban, environmental and socioeconomic scars.

ECO-HABITAT is the result of the gap I identify that needs to be solve. Eco-Habitat mission is to provide affordable and environmental friendly housing designs alternatives. Improve living standards and quality of public and environmental realm of low income families, people affected by natural disasters or those who want to embrace recycling, build from scratch harmony and respect to the environment.

As a child I was surrounded by precarious housing conditions of people in Nicaragua. Years later, I realized that governments in developed countries are struggling to finding assertive alternatives for people to have accessibility to purchase or rent a place to call home.  My professional experience has been intrinsically attached with finding solutions to social problem such as housing, educational and health infrastructures to mention some. Lack of healthy living conditions have stimulated the urgency to be a proactive actor to reduce this problem. I have been cooperating with organizations and local governments in finding feasible, effective ways to improve and increment housing chances to low income families.

My project is directed to a population living in mobile houses with terrible physical conditions. I wish I could create a partnership with local governments or other organizations responsible or concerned for the integral well being of their citizens. I want to develop a program accessible to everybody who needs to improve or access to housing not matter their situations in this country

EWI has guided me to deliver an inspirational and real business plan. This training also has helped to improve my confidence in Eco-habitat Sustainable as a real tool to improve integrally the well-being of people and environment.

“I love the engagement and support that Empowered Women International has given to us to make our business idea real. I can say that I found another family here. The energy, guidance and encouragement that I have received from trainers, guest speakers, students, and mentors increased my self-esteem, confidence and motivation to be a fearless woman.”
 
Carolina Guevara
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Part II- Inspirations Behind ETS Training & Mentoring

13 Jun

As our ETS students make final preparation for the upcoming graduation, our mentors & trainers too have big reasons to celebrate along our students. We continued our inquiry as to : a) Why training or mentoring ETS students is important for them and  b) Has this interaction affected/impacted their lives?

As usual their responses were heartwarming and overwhelmingly encouraging.

Deborah Blank 

Advisory board & Mentor Coordinator  

Deborah Blank

Deborah Blank

I’ve been mentoring for two years now and continue to be impressed with the grit and creativity of the women in our program. I love “giving back” because now that I’m retired, I’ve found a super way to do meaningful work for brave women and the larger community. The multi-cultural population we assist keeps me learning in so many ways – not only about different ethnic products, but also about how immigrants adapt to our American system of capitalism as they strive to become entrepreneurs.

Charlene Gatewood

ETS Alumna & Mentor

Charlene Gatewood

Charlene Gatewood

“As a woman who has worked to support myself and, after a certain point, myself and my child I have finally recognized some truths about business, my strengths and limitations in business, and how to manage them successfully.  It is important to me to share what I know with women who may benefit from the lessons I learned.  The program has enhanced my life simply by affording me the opportunity to interact with so many smart, talented, and creative women.  I have always been open to speaking with women in my company who want to talk confidentially about issues they face and they know that I’ve kept their confidence.  Knowledge of my willingness to help women and involvement with ETS has spread through our small 100-person company.  I have been recognized by our CEO as a mentor to whom young women can go for counsel.  ETS has helped me recognize my gifts and vocation.

Clementine Simmons

ETS Alumna & Mentor

Clementine

Clementine Simmons

“It is a blessing to share what has been deposited in you with others to help them grow personally and develop to see their vision/dream become reality.  The impact it has made on me is that it has been a joy to help someone else to accomplish their goals.”

The journeys of each of our students have been challenging and yet transformative. For most of us here at Empowered Women International as for our mentors, trainers and everyone who worked closely with our students is truly a blessing to witness this evolution. Thank you all for the wonderful work you are doing for our graduates and EWI.

Meet Angela!

13 Jun

Angela Sargent

Angela Sargent

A.I.A.

Angela Sargents is a single mother of two sons. She started her business in 2007 after another job lay-off. She graduated from George Mason University in 2000 with a B.A. in Biology. Angela has self published two books. The first book is about her experience with domestic violence. The second book is a satire about the workplace. She is VERY passionate about raising awareness for domestic violence, parental alienation, and breast cancer.

Angela sells hand-knit scarves, hats, cell phone holders as well as greeting cards, inspirational plaques, and books. One holder she makes is a replica of one she made in honor of her friend who passed away from breast cancer. She donates part of the proceeds to the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Angela plans to re-publish her book through another venue and donate part of the proceeds to domestic violence organizations.

The vision inspiration for Angela’s business idea came from her two sons. A.I.A. stands for Angela, Isaiah, and Aaron. They inspire her to make the world better and to inspire others to do the same.

Angela says that Empowered Women International has encouraged her to raise her product prices to what they are worth. EWI has also provided support through different speakers and mentors as well as contributed to new product ideas. Most importantly Angela says she has an increased self confidence.

Angela’s favorite things from her time in the Entrepreneur Training for Success course thus far has been the credit counseling class and personal session with Hilltop Initiative. She has also enjoyed all of the different ideas and place to market her work.

By Jami McDowell, Community Partnerships Intern

Meet Charmelle!

13 Jun
Charmelle Clark

Charmelle Clark

Creatively Charming, “Your Imagination Is Our Creation!”

The oldest daughter, granddaughter and niece her life has been filled with love and support.  Charmelle is a single mother of two grown daughters and one granddaughter.  A lover of all things crafty she is certain creativity is infused in her blood.  “It is truly where I find peace and balance”.  Charmelle  has been crafting for 32 years which began with a Kermit the Frog glass and her mother who was encouraging her creativity when she was bored.  Thus began her journey to create.  Having a strong background in administrative skills has greatly assisted her in keeping her business clean and organized and also helps with the development of cards and scrapbooks. Charmelle will continue to work the business part time until her retirement from her full-time career in the administrative field for a Pension Fund.

Creatively Charming is an art and craft business that has four components — handmade cards and scrapbooks, crafting weekends, crafting workshops/training and speaking engagements.  Having provided handmade gifts to friends and family, several requests came to her to make gifts for others. “Providing the gift was a joy, but then friends and family began to pay me for my services.  Never imaging that people would pay for me to playing with paper, I began to ask if they would and the response was always the same — I wonder when you were going to start charging.  And so the journey began.”

Charmelle expressed that Empowered Women International  has provided her with the training needed to understand the entire dynamics of creating and developing a business.  When the steps and techniques taught in class are applied, you will be set up for success.

“EWI has taught me how to focus on specific pieces of my business which will generate the best revenue return while allowing me to continue to also craft other things I love as well.”

Thus far in the training course, Charmelle has enjoyed having resources available to her anywhere from finance to creative development. She also has benefited from connecting and networking with people who support her as she continues to develop and grow her passion for crafting.

By Jami McDowell, Community Partnerships Intern

Meet Annette!

11 Jun
Annette McNeil

Annette McNeil

Born in Massachusetts into a large family, Annette McNeil moved quite a bit before settling back in Virginia.  Annette’s extraordinary journey began at a production company when she started drawing cartoon characters on T-shirts to enhance the sales of the company. Because she couldn’t get the effects she wanted, Annette decided to go to the Children’s Museum and the artists there helped her create a somewhat 3D version of her character. She found her signature material (foam) at an Arts & Crafts store, which allowed her to create unique handcrafted fashionable and one of a kind framed dolls. Initially she was gifting her products to family & friends; eventually she decided to create a business out of this talent naming it Sybil Dolls of Life. The clothings are all designed and created by using foam and various materials, and the background sceneries are all done with fabric.

Annette's Framed Foam Doll

Annette’s Framed Foam Doll

Another of Annette's Framed Foam Doll

Another of Annette’s Framed Foam Doll

All of her colorful dolls are strictly handmade (including the jewelry pieces), hence adding spirit and character to each piece. Creating these unique dolls require special skills, personal approach, time and energy. For Annette  “these dolls are both captivating and exciting and will touch your heart, mind and spirit.” She is inspired by her mother and grandmother both spiritual people and prophetess, she states “I named my dolls after these women and those that have long been forgotten. Thus, Sybil Dolls of Life.”

Coming to Empowered Women International has been a life-altering journey. In her own word “I love EWI, it has been amazing!  I have been introduced to so many talented and gifted people.  They understand the obstacles that tend to get in our way and make every attempt to be there for us.  This program is awesome!  EWI has opened a whole new world of self-sufficiency by connecting everyone to each other.  I will always be a part of EWI.  They inspire me to continue no matter what obstacles get in my way.  I am truly appreciative of this program. “