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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

Marga’s First Day in Papua New Guinea

5 Nov

 “It’s a privilege to be here in the making of this historic event and work with these women to fully empower them to pursue their highest vision, aspirations and ideals,” says Marga Fripp on her first day in Papua New Guinea after meeting with the most vibrant and determined women of PNG.

Marga will have the opportunity to witness the launching of the Papua New Guinea Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PNGWCCI) on Wednesday, Nov 6th.  The First Lady of PNG, a businesswoman herself, and the most influential change maker women of the country will attend the event, and Marga will be the keynote speaker. It’s an exciting time to be there for Marga as the event symbolizes the fruition of a women-led social movement after year’s worth of struggle to achieve empowerment, political representation, financial and economic independence and much more. The organization will create an opportunity for women to voice their concerns, to engage policy makers in addressing the most volatile social and economic issues that are preventing women from achieving success and empowerment.

All women in the middle are the founders of Papua New Guinea Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Left to right Natalia (US Embassy), Theresa, Linda, Avia, Amanda, Janet, Susan (US Embassy).

Marga’s role in PNG, besides coaching and mentoring entrepreneurial skills, is to inspire and encourage women to speak up about their concerns, obstacles, drawbacks and doubts that are hindering them from achieving their goals in life. It’s conventional wisdom that change can only come when we identify our stumbling blocks and when we make the effort to address it to whoever is willing to listen, and with 20 plus years of experience under her belt Marga knows that the most important step in achieving change is to listen first. These are extraordinary women with extraordinary stories to tell and they represent not just women in PNG but women globally.

This is how Marga felt on her first few day in PNG.

“I met some of the strongest and most determined global women. I had dinner last night with the founders of the first women’s chamber of commerce in PNG. Much like at EWI we shared our stories, and how we have been helping immigrant, refugee and low-income women become self-determined and empowered entrepreneurs through our rigorous 3-month ETS programs.

The women I met are determined to change the status quo, they are women of change, they know where they came from, they sacrificed a lot to become who they are and they are now paving the way for other women and generations to come.

It’s a privilege to be here in the making of this historic event and work with these women to fully empower them to pursue their highest vision, aspirations and ideals. I am confident that their vision, courage and determination will transform both the policy agenda for women’s economic empowerment and the role and condition of women in PNG and globally.”

Written by Hanna Yamir, Program Associate

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

Be a Heroine! Become a Mentor!

22 Aug

2013 Spring ETS Mentor Orientation

Ser un héroe hoy! Be a heroine today! Join the ranks of other stellar mentors who have accompanied the women entrepreneurs of Empowered Women International (EWI) on their journey to pursue their dreams. We are an organization that channels the entrepreneurial drive and creative talents of immigrant, refugee, and low-income women, and mentors are vital to the success of our women entrepreneurs.

Be inspired working alongside women who have refused to let adversity define or limit them. Our mentors find Entrepreneur Training for Success (ETS) mentoring program extremely rewarding and a mutually beneficial commitment for them and the women they mentor. Many particularly relish the opportunity to learn about the extraordinary cultural stories of the women enrolled in the program. And many mentors discover unlocked talents and hidden strengths from within themselves!

What does it take to become a mentor?

  • Pioneering and entrepreneurial spirit
  • Demonstrated success in business and/or leadership
  • Passion for empowering women entrepreneurs
  • Cultural competency, empathy, and good mentoring abilities

Mentor Deborah Blank discusses business plan with student

ETS is an intensive three-month business start-up training program that prepares underrepresented women to launch and grow their own micro businesses, through entrepreneurship training, mentorship, and business support services. We are particularly encouraging bilingual or conversational Spanish speakers to apply! Classes are offered in Alexandria, VA and Wheaton, MD and start in mid October to early February.


2013 Spring ETS mentors, staff, and former student pose for photo (Listed from left to right Clementine Simmons, Christine Ollis, Eileen Kessler, Alexandra Standal, Charlene Gatewood, Deborah Blank, Mariam Mohamed, Marcela Kogen, and Hanna Yamir)

Excited about this opportunity? Click the links to read testimonials from former ETS mentors here: Marcela Kogan, Howard Feinstein and Christine Ollis, & Deborah Bank, Charlene Gatewood, and Clementine Simmons.

If you want to make a difference in the lives of women who strive to persevere, visit EWI’s Become a Mentor Page or call Mary Louise Marino, Outreach & Operations Manager, at 571-312-4781 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

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

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.”


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.”


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 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.