Archive | January, 2014

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