Archive | July, 2013

Meet Former Mentor Marcela Kogan

31 Jul

Meet former Entrepreneurship Training for Success (ETS) mentor and freelance writer Marcela Kogan. This bilingual mother of two saw opportunities for personal and professional growth through volunteering for EWIs mentoring program. She was also impelled to get involved with EWI due to her capacity to help individuals with language and cultural barriers.

photo for EWI

Marcela Kogan

Marcela came into the program with an open mind and an eagerness to learn how to support her mentees. Marcela expressed that it was easier for her to get acclimated to the program’s operations with the help of EWI staff and students. The clearly defined step–by–step process to initiate a business plan coupled with the enthusiasm of EWI students like Charmelle Clark motivated Marcela to continue in on the program. When Marcela entered the program she was uncertain about how she could contribute to EWI’s students development and successes. However, she found that her life experiences proved more valuable than she initially believed.

Marcela was impressed by a group of women, who despite their personal baggage, were determined to succeed and turn their dreams into a reality.  She, too, knew what it felt like to be insecure in mastering the English language and could relate to the challenges faced by mothers from diverse backgrounds. She mentioned that EWI students carry their own baggage as mothers and underserved individuals but in spite of this they are achieving their goals. “They (EWI staff and students) inspired her to have the same type of courage in her own life.”

With a commitment of three hours a week for nine months, Marcela noted that the program was intensive but extremely manageable. She was amazed how EWI helped women see the possibilities of their own talents. “We forget we have bigger dreams and goals and this is a good way to get back to those dreams and create new ones.” She also mentioned that this program is great for those people who want to be immersed in cultures from around the world while expanding their views of themselves.

To learn more about how you can become a mentor to a group of phenomenal women, please email Mary Marino at or visit EWI at

Thank you for your continued support of Empowered Women International.

By LaNesha Kearse, Marketing & Communications Intern

New Items in Etsy Shop

30 Jul

Preview of EWI’s online shop

Want to see the stunning hand crafted  products of EWI’s current and former students? Visit EWI on Etsy Shop. Etsy Shop is an internet marketplace that connects artisans and small businesses to the wider community and creates a medium for them to pitch their stories. On this site, EWI students can directly sell their products to clientele, profiting more than 95% of their product’s price.

EWI has sold items for two years with proven results. More than eighty two orders have been filled accruing revenues amounting to over $3000. EWI’s Etsy Shop includes handcrafted jewelry, clothing, and more both bought and sold on behalf of our students. Posted with every item are EWI students’ unique stories including the story of Peruvian native Evelyn Brooks who uses South American huayruro seeds as a centerpiece in her pieces. To see fifteen of EWI’s new postings, please click on the following link: Empowered Women International Etsy Shop. Among these new handcrafted items are beautifully painted and culturally inspired silk scarves and cards and much more.

Etsy Shop was created to help communities “reimagine commerce in ways that build a more fulfilling and lasting world.” Etsy Shop aligns nicely with EWI’s mission because of its global focus on sharing products and cultural stories from around the world.

Thank you for your continued support of Empowered Women International.

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.”


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

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.


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

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.


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.”


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.


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

EWI Featured in The Huffington Post…Again!

16 Jul
Paulette Mpouma holding her African Memory Game

Paulette Mpouma holding her African Memory Game

After being featured on July 3rd via an interview with its founder Marga Fripp, Empowered Women International is once again in the Huffington Post. Published on July 15th, the piece focuses on the program as a whole, and specifically the Entrepreneurship program , ETS. It also highlights our inspiring graduates’ stories. We are very proud of what we are able to accomplish and the ability to transform women’s lives, and it’s exciting to see the accomplishments of EWI women written about. Both Marga Fripp and Paulette Mpouma, an ETS graduate and creator of the African Memory game are acknowledged in the story. Check out the article  HERE

EWI would like to send a special Thank You to Sabrina Siddiqu for writing the article, and Arianna Huffington for the tweet!

Please share this exciting news with your networks by copying and pasting the link to Facebook or Twitter!

Written by Tess Stansbury, Non-Profit Management Intern

The EWI Writers Group is here!

11 Jul

“And for me, the unexpected is always the best. With it comes unlimited opportunity to grow, learn, and live. I am invigorated and the words flow.”

dicey_amoy_sushmitawritersgroupThat was written during the warm-up exercise at Tuesday evening’s inaugural meeting of EWI’s Writers Group. The Writers Group is a program organized by EWI Mentor and Board Member  Howard Feinstein, although it has been made clear that the group has no one in particular in charge and will be self-run. It was formed in order to invigorate the EWI community and create a space for all the talented and passionate writers that help make up EWI. It is for those wanting to be in the company of other writers, learn more about both the art and business of writing, and engage with other members of the ‘Empowered’ family.  The group is run by the people in it and will include discussions and teachings of a variety of topics to be decided upon by the group. This will include concepts such as free-writing, self-publishing, and incorporating story-telling and individual cultures into writing.

EWI’s founder, Marga Fripp was present at the meeting and gave the welcoming address. She touched upon her personal background in writing; a journalist and producer in Romania, she wrote pieces on women’s rights among other topics. She read one of her own stories entitled “The Brink of the River” to kick off the meeting.

IMG_0014The members discussed why they wrote, what began their experience with writing, and what they hoped to get out of the group. They emphasized the fact that every writer is different and each person has their own story to tell, so encouragement and positive energy is key. In a group with such a large range of cultures and languages, as is the essence of EWI, this became an important point of the night. The group hopes to provide support for each member’s unique writing style, story, and encourage one another to grow in all areas of life.

The EWI Writers Group will plan to meet once a month and will include an online component.

If you are a member of EWI and would like more information about the Writers Group please contact Alexia at

Written by Tess Stansbury, Non-Profit Management Intern


EWI Asks, “What Empowers You?”

10 Jul

EWI Asks, “What Empowers You?”

Empowered Women International sent a team to the World Refugee Day celebration in Silver Spring, MD after being invited by the International Rescue Committee, the host of the event. Represented by staff members Jami McDowell, Virlen Reyes, and ETS graduate Julie Hyo Park, EWI set up a booth and interacted with the individuals at the event.

We asked each person that visited the EWI table, “What makes you feel empowered?” We were surprised and inspired by the responses we received. Here are a few of our favorites:

“The awareness that I have a mind”


“My voice”

Here are some others we received:


What Empowers You?


One visitor to the EWI table says that “God” and “good people” make them feel empowered.

The table was visited by people of all ages and walks of life and EWI was impressed with the variety of things that people draw from to feel empowered, from music, to faith, to family.

While at our table visitors had the chance to engage with one of our recent Spring 2013 graduates and artisan entrepreneur, Julie Hyo Park. She taught how to make crocheted bracelets. When they were done, they were all given a small token, an empowerment stone. Upon receiving her empowerment stone, one little girl was curious (and serious) enough to ask staff member Jami if it really worked. Jami assured her that the stone would work if she believed hard enough.


We agree with Jami’s notion that if you believe in yourself you can accomplish anything, and with that self-belief you begin to adapt a feeling of empowerment. We want to thank that little girl for her courage and hope that one day all women will feel that sense of empowerment (whether they have an empowerment stone or not).

Written by Tess Stansbury, Non-Profit Management Intern