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“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

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.

ETS Student Nicole Segovia Bridging the Gap

14 Nov

During the last Entrepreneur Training for Success class, our aspiring entrepreneurs worked with their peers and mentors to develop their business concept. Sharmela Karamchandani, the Virginia Lead Trainer, encouraged the entrepreneurs to become “Level Three” businesswomen who own a business, rather than have a hobby, and use their profits to support their lifestyle.

ETS Mentor Eileen Kessler

ETS Mentor Eileen Kessler

I sat in on a small work group led by Eileen Kessler, a returning mentor who is also president and founder of OmniStudio, Inc, a DC-based creative and web development studio (who also redesigned EWI’s new logo and upcoming website!). Initially without the help of a translator, Eileen and one of the students were having difficulty understanding each other to share business goals and feedback. To my surprise, one of the other students, Nicole Segovia, jumped into the conversation and used her Spanish language skills to bridge the gap to everyone’s relief and delight.

I had a chance to talk with Nicole later. It wasn’t the first time Nicole had provided such a valuable service. Although Nicole once felt hesitant speaking Spanish in public, she gained confidence in her abilities after happening upon a desperate situation in which she could help. In another instance she retold to me, she was the only translator available when a Spanish-speaking mother in her neighborhood needed to call emergency services for the mother’s injured son. After an ambulance arrived on scene, Nicole left feeling as if she could use her skills and abilities to make a difference.


Nicole Segovia

Nicole is originally from Texas and learned to speak Spanish fluently while traveling through Mexico. She also picked up a passion during her journey – a love of cooking Mexican food. Already a week behind her peers, Nicole needed to formulate a business plan that featured her passion, but also addressed realistic concerns like her lifestyle and the business environment. Eileen recommended that she start by researching the industry to discover areas of opportunity. She could interview local café owners and caterers to learn more about their experiences and poll her community to learn about gaps in service she could fill.

Luckily, Nicole has an inspiring example in DC resident and fellow female entrepreneur Pati Jinich of PBS’s “Pati’s Mexican Table.” Like Pati, Nicole can begin to turn her passion into a successful business by building a strong story. She must consider her own unique background and look at her history with an eye towards her future.

For example, Nicole once worked in a  State Health Department’s food safety division. She witnessed restaurant inspections first-hand and learned how complicated health regulations apply to local businesses. This knowledge and experience may have seemed inconsequential before joining the Entrepreneur Training for Success program, but now Nicole can use it to her advantage as she builds her own business centered on her love of Mexican food. I’m looking forward to seeing how Nicole’s business plan develops throughout the semester!

A special thank you to photographer Hanadi Karara.

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.

Chizoma Cluff’s Secrets to Success

4 Nov

Chizoma Cluff, motivational speaker, self-esteem speaker, confidence speaker, style speaker, and women’s issues speaker

What do Tyra Banks, Catherine the Great, Sonia Sotomayor, and Jennifer Lopez have in common? They’re what self-confidence coach Chizoma Cluff calls TRAILBLAZERS – powerful, accomplished women who have made a name for themselves. Sitting among the Entrepreneur Training for Success participants on the first day of class, I said my own name aloud and felt far from the likes of a supermodel or a Supreme Court justice. As class wore on, though, I felt more encouraged thanks to Chizoma’s secrets to success.

The first secret: success starts with you! Self-care is essential to creation, something our 26 female entrepreneurs must listen to in order to build and maintain a fruitful business. We shared our favorites with one another: yoga, journaling, connecting with friends, listening to a favorite song, sipping tea, and walking in nature, all activities that heal the soul and allow us to give back during the day. Some classmates wondered how they could find the time. A past ETS participant, now a mentor, encouraged us to start small, five minutes even, and work up to at least twenty minutes, and before you know it you’re succeeding.

Secrets two and three are more challenging: goal-setting and time management. Chizoma encouraged us to be creative and think differently about what’s possible. She gave the example of trying to break through a piece of paper with the sheer force of one’s forehead. Needless to say, it doesn’t work! With time, tools, and a little ingenuity can we cut the paper, connect the pieces into a loop, and step right through it. Similarly, our entrepreneurs must start where they are now and remember that every step towards their future success counts!

Dressing for success and communicating effectively are the last secrets for our entrepreneurs, who must independently gain contacts and clientele. We can control how we are perceived and command attention with style. Cost can be a deterrent, but, as one participant mentioned, the wealth of thrift and consignment stores in the area that make organizing your image more affordable. A put-together ensemble is complemented by a professional way of communicating. Our participants were reminded to be precise with their language, show personality in their e-mail signature, and respond timely to all requests. Eye contact and a genuine smile never hurt, either!

At the end of the class, one student doubted that she could be as strong and confident as Chizoma. Yet, reflecting on her accomplishments, she realized she had already overcome much in her life by learning to speak English, for example. With the support of her peers and the program’s mentors, I have no doubt that in a few short weeks she will rise proudly and say her name with all its worth.

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.

Flowers of Clementine

17 Sep

Mother, grandmother, and 2012 Entrepreneur Training for Success (ETS) graduate Clementine Simmons spent numerous years dedicating her IT services to the federal government. During this time, she also began to dedicate some time in fashioning floral designs and realized she was astoundingly gifted in it!

She took her talents to market, selling her works at craft shows and churches and to private individuals. With her success, she enrolled in the ETS program where, with the help of mentors and staff, she steadily improved her business structure and focused on reconstructing her brand.


Clementine stands near floral arrangement

Through the recommendation of a close friend, Clementine sought out EWI for support and motivation. Clementine knew that this would be a great opportunity to become more business savvy and give her old business a fresh start, especially with a gang of EWI cheerleaders rooting for her every step of the way. She needed help developing a business plan and determining her target market, and EWI had the tools for her to do just that.

Clementine knows from experience that sometimes the most difficult aspect of building your own business is that inner voice of doubt. She stressed that regardless of any shortcomings or challenges faced during your journey, people in her shoes must not give up on themselves. She even stated that, “You should continue to press forward and improve on yourself as well as the product you are selling. Believe that as you press on and the right doors will open for you.”

Beautiful addition to the entryway!

Clementine delivers one her custom floral designs to Deborah Blank.

This epiphany is ultimately the reason she enrolled in the Grow My Business program. Clementine saw this course as another stepping-stone to success. In this program, she is placed in the position to challenge herself to expand her networks and forge partnerships with fellow business owners. She is also able to get advice and expertise from like-minded individuals.

Interested to find out how you can turn your talents into a business?

Applications for Fall 2013 ETS term are being accepted now! Classes are held in Alexandria, Virginia and Wheaton, Maryland starting October 21.  Openings still available for our Alexandria class. Scholarships are also available for qualified low-income applicants. For more information, click here to find out more and apply. You can also contact our office at 571-312-4781 and speak with Alexia Muchisu Wendel, Entrepreneurship Program Manager, or email her at

Written by LaNesha Kearse, Social Media Writer

Apply Now for EWI’s Business Training Course!

20 Aug

Tenisha Campbell and Jane Mwinuku, Spring 2013 ETS graduates.

Have a business concept that you need help getting off the ground? Want to channel  and transform your talents into a sustainable, income-generating business? Don’t have the tools or know where to start?

Empowered Women International (EWI), an organization that channels the entrepreneurial drive and creative talents of immigrant, refugee, and low-income women, may have just what you need! Join the long-standing legacy of women who have enrolled in EWI’s Entrepreneur Training For Success (ETS) course.

ETS is an intensive three-month business start-up training program that helps prepare women like you to launch and grow their own micro businesses, through entrepreneurship training, mentorship, and business support services. Here, women receive individualized support from successful mentors and experts in their respective fields. They also have the opportunity to build life-long relationships and strong friendships with women with similar backgrounds while sharing their unique stories in a positive and encouraging atmosphere.


ETS students discuss their businesses

Applications for Fall 2013 ETS term are being accepted now! Classes are held in Alexandria, Virginia and Wheaton, Maryland starting in mid October.  Scholarships are also available for qualified low-income applicants. For more information, click here to find out more and apply. You can also contact our office at 571-312-4781 and speak with Alexia Muchisu Wendel, Entrepreneurship Program Manager, or email her at

We look forward to hearing from you!

Written by LaNesha Kearse, Marketing & Communications Intern

Nishat Launches New Catering Website

14 Aug

EWI Founder Marga and Nishat pose for photo

Meet Spring 2013 Entrepreneurship Training for Success (ETS) graduate Nishat Siddiqui. Nishat has turned her passion for cooking into a business. With thirty years of cooking experience under her belt, Nishat is sharing her family’s traditional and original Pakistani and Indian recipes. Nishat is really passionate about cooking and loves that the people she cooks for not only enjoy her food but also appreciate her hard work and effort. Prompted by her husband’s own health issues, she is now focusing her energies on using all natural ingredients in her scrumptious concoctions and providing services for her customers during the holiday seasons.

Even when faced with limited ingredients and strong dietary constraints Nishat still manages to create delectable recipes from scratch. Her private cooking lessons includes a three course meal with a dessert and wine. Coupled with a consultation, Nishat buys all of the groceries and brings them and instruction for families to enjoy.


Nishat’s yummy Butter Prawns

Persuaded by the family-like nature of the program, Nishat dove head first into building her business plan to propel herself into the cooking industry and through the  ETS program. She was amazed by the dynamics of the program. Not only was the instruction extremely easy to follow, she felt very supported by readily available EWI staff, coaches, students, and mentors. “It’s kind of like being in a large family and I’m really happy and really thrilled that I joined EWI.”

She has recently enrolled in the Grow My Business (GMB) course seeing this new program as a great opportunity to continue networking with experts in her industry and receive stable support in the management of her business. She also mentioned how helpful her support has been from people, like Empowered Women International staff member Alexia Muchisu Wendel, who also have a background in the food industry in really helping her polish her brand.


Nishat prepares a homemade dish

You can now learn more about her business by visiting her new website Nishat’s Kitchen or liking her Facebook page Nishat’s Kitchen Facebook Page. Have a special occasion or holiday gathering coming up? Not only can you see a preview of her delightful dishes you can also book her catering services and private cooking lessons!

Do you want to know more about our entrepreneurship programs? The Fall 2013 Entrepreneurship Training for Success (ETS) starts in mid October and we’re currently accepting applications. Click here to find out more and apply. You can also contact our office at 571-312-4781 and speak with Alexia Muchisu Wendel, Entrepreneurship Program Manager or email her at

We look forward to hearing from you!

Written 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

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

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.”