Archive | Graduate Feature RSS feed for this section

Help Odirsa Reach Her Goal!

30 Aug

Odirsa Argueta

El Salvadorian immigrant, mother, and Spring 2013 ETS graduate Odirsa Argueta has recently applied for the Kiva Zip Loan to gain the licensing and tools needed to run her business. Kiva Zip creates opportunities for business owners and potential supporters to make financial assistance more affordable and accessible. Supporters of these business owners donate their resources and are repaid upon successful payment of the initial loan.

After spending a considerable amount of time in the construction business, Odirsa fantasized about the day she would not only run her own business but also serve as a more positive role model for her family. An immigrant to this country, Ordisa wanted to show her children that with a lot of hard work and clearly defined goals they could accomplish their dreams. She also wanted to provide her family with job security, financial stability, and independence. Through business ownership, she understood the possibilities were endless.

Through Kiva Zip, her loan has already been 81% funded!  Only $910 more needs to be raised to reach her goal. Are you eager to help Odirsa succeed?

Click here to make her dreams a reality!

She has described the Kiva Zip loan process as being self assuring and invigorating. Odirsa has taken a leap of faith into a male dominated industry. Her new founded company JR Irrigation & Lighting Company  will offer services like no other. She will work exclusively with clients, both residential and commercial, to provide  consultations and plan their ideal landscaping ideas. She also prides herself on using only the finest products in her projects.


Odirsa pitches business plan to peers

With encouragement and positive feedback from previous clients, Odirsa is excited for the opportunity to provide quality and customer oriented service while inspiring others like her to challenge themselves to venture outside of their comfort zones. She advises other women that opening their own business “won’t be easy but the effort is worth it; you need to have persistence,” and assures them that “it takes time but they can make it happen.”

Odirsa is immensely grateful for EWI sharing their indispensable resources with her. With their guidance and support, she realizes that she will soon achieve her long awaited goal of being a business owner. EWI is gracious to have had the opportunity to build a strong relationship with such a remarkable woman and wishes her much success!

By LaNesha Kearse, Marketing & Communications Intern

Sushmita Opens StudioPAUSE!

27 Aug

Sushmita poses next to her art

Sushmita Mazumdar, writer, book artist, educator and ETS 2008 graduate, is opening her new studio, StudioPAUSE, thanks to her recently funded Kiva Zip loan from supporters like you!  StudioPAUSE was created to provide a safe space for local artists and clients to engage in creative projects while expressing their own personal stories and challenging their own presumptions through art.

Sushmita described the process of applying for her loan to be exhilarating and empowering. People from all over the world were invested in her idea which gave her the boosted self esteem to really stand behind her business. “For the first time in my life I feel like a real business woman. I’m not just an artist working out of my basement anymore,” exclaimed Sushmita when asked how it felt to own her own studio. She is solely responsible for obtaining signage, contacting insurance companies, and other tasks crucial to running a sustainable business and to her that is truly incredible. While a little anxious about the outcome of the loan, she encouraged other women with similar goals to not let that fear stop them from trying.


Sushmita’s art, books, and paintings are moving to a much needed bigger space!

Sushmita will be holding two open houses under the theme of “Black and White and ….” for the Grand Opening on Saturday, September 14 (4-7pm) and her first CommunityPAUSE event on Saturday, September 21, (4-7pm). The new studio is located in South Arlington near I-395 and S. Glebe Road.

There will be fun activities, engaging presentations, and even more entertaining shows. These events are designed to give attendees an idea of how the space will be used, what type of projects will be offered, and much more! Attendees are encouraged to bring an item related to the theme for an exciting demonstration led by Sushmita.


“PEACE” folded book

Look out! Sushmita may be coming to a neighborhood near you. In the future, she intends to bring art to communities with limited resources. College campuses and the downtown corporate areas can expect to see Sushmita driving around with her ingenious ideas and even brighter personality.

Thank you for all of your support in helping Sushmita’s innovative idea come to fruition. EWI is thrilled to be a trustee of Kiva Zip so we can help women entrepreneurs launch and grow their businesses. To learn more about Sushmita’s work visit Handmade Storybooks and her new studio StudioPAUSE.

See you at the open house!

Written by LaNesha Kearse, Marketing & Communications Intern

Paulette Mpouma, Following Her Passion

13 Aug

Meet Spring 2011 ETS alumni Paulette Mpouma. Paulette entered into the program with global ambitions following the invention of her African board game. Already successfully selling board games, Paulette needed organizational direction and the support of other exceptional women with similar hardships. She viewed ETS as an excellent opportunity for her to track her progress and meet influential and decisive people.


Paulette and County Executive Ike Leggett pose for photo

Moved by her desire to educate people around the world, especially her children, about the marvels of Africa, she created a game to provide the safe space for individuals to engage in healthy dialogues about controversial topics such as race and world economies. But first and foremost, this board game was intended to help expel many of the misinformed and harmful stereotypes that so many in the Western world seem to have about Africa. Noticing that school curriculums in America were devoid of diverse perspectives and voices, Paulette created a game to make learning about Africa informative, empowering, and fun.

Paulette stumbled into EWI following her exhaustive search for a women’s support group. She craved an atmosphere that encouraged the building of strong relationships amongst like-minded women, emphasized the significance of cross-cultural competency, and understood the unique experiences of women living in a foreign culture.


Paulette’s Afrique’enjeux board game

Now that she has successfully infiltrated international markets selling over 4000 board games worldwide, she is ready to take the next big step in her entrepreneurial career. Not only has she been working tirelessly to modify her existing products and introduce her new line of African inspired dolls to stores, she has enrolled in EWI’s new Grow My Business (GMB) course. She sees GMB as an opportunity to collaborate more effectively with experts who can help her focus her talents on the distribution, managing, and marketing aspects of her business. She is also extremely grateful to have a program that supports women beyond the developmental stages of their business; a program that will provide her with the knowledge on how to manage her time and resources more efficiently for her clients’ satisfaction.


Paulette showcases her dolls

When asked what advice she would give to inspiring business owners like her, she stated “When you choose your product you have to have a passion for what you’re doing. You have to be convinced by your own product because then and only then can you fight for it.” She emphasized the need to create something fulfilling a personal passion and a societal need and discussed how ETS and GMB can help phenomenal women like herself do just that.

Support Paulette’s Test Your Africa IQ campaign! Help bring her learning tool to schools and global communities. A portion of the proceeds will go to funding the Children Diabetic Center in Yaounde, Cameroon! Visit Test Your Africa IQ Campaign now to learn more!

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 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


Poetry & Prose from Graduates

3 Jul
Cleopatra with EWI Founder Marga Fripp at the Spring 2013 ETS Graduation

Cleopatra with EWI Founder Marga Fripp at the Spring 2013 ETS Graduation

Poetry & Prose from Graduates

This past June EWI had the privilege of graduating 19 women from our Spring 2013 ETS class. The multitude of talents within this group of women  were too great to not include in the ceremony. The graduation event included contributions by four of the graduates, Cleopatra MagwaroReneta Bennett, Tina, and Annette McNeil .

Cleopatra Magwaro, an international lawyer and writer from Zimabwe  is a member of the Spring 2013 graduating class. She showcased her talent for writing in piece inspired by the graduation’s theme of Metamorphosis. Here are her inspiring words:


Metamorphosis has come at the assemblage of these Seasons that bring us altogether, under one common purpose, towards a collage of new endings and infinite beginnings.  I have finally come to Beyond and arrived at Self.  I thought I had learnt new lessons for this new  age of noise and ignorance, what I found instead, was that everything was as it should be, everything which lay beneath the dust of time and doubt, is exactly as it is meant to be.    


All that was needed was to remove the filth that licks away the Shimmer.  It has been there all along, unchanged by changing time: kleopatra- she who gives shimmering glory to her father’s name.  Brighter than a thousand-daylights, hidden glory, deaf to accolade and reproach alike. 


She is looking directly at me in the mirror, speaking about her dreams, her past, how she wants to become who she Is but needs her community of women to stand besides her, like a covering during a whirlwind.  I see myself in women who have congregated at an appointed time of dearth, like the stars of the heavens, to give light to the darkness; these are the sisters of Charity and Hope who assemble in order to change the world.  They bring about the metamorphosis of the world; from within themselves.  They give birth to rain and the dawning of a new Life.  These women will not to be washed away like the sands of time. 


Like my mother says, learning new paths in life will not kill me, kuzivamasango hakukuraye.  Indeed, the beaten path is no longer sufficient; the things we Carry are far too precious to entrust to what we know will never sustain us.

 the Journey past Meta

the Path towards Meta,

the effervescent Beyond Meta

is so beautiful, it will draw

success and peace.

Meta is the Journey to self-




Meta is a Journey worth taking.

the Shimmer of wisdom needs only a hand

to wipe away the film of doubt that clouds tomorrow.

welcome the Dawn, your season when you allow yourself to succeed.

Journey, Path, Beyond, Self, Shimmer, the Dawn…. Metamorphosis.

 © June 18, 2013 “Metamorphosis” by Cleopatra Magwaro



Reneta reciting her spoken word during the Spring 2013 ETS Graduation

Reneta Bennett, a spoken word artist and the youngest of our ETS graduates this Spring performed her spoken word during the ceremony.  It was written as a response to her experience with EWI and how her and her classmates had been transformed because of the program. With a tone of empowerment, Renetta entitled her poem, Women of Certainty.

Women of Certainty

When you gathered your bags
And walked a mile?
When you bottled your burdens like fruit
In a jar?
You were women who walked behind the sun…
Waiting to soar, waiting to run.
Praying for change
And seeking the truth…
Hoping for a miracle that seemed

God has restored
The strength in women,
Making it possible for us [women] to be winners.

Unpack your crown
Those bags were heavy…
I’m glad you’ve realized they
Shouldn’t be carried.
Let your dreams relieve the weights
On your back
And trust the process,
No looking back!

A recent blessing truly adored
Because EWI has opened their doors.
Supporting visions from seamstress to lyricist
When it was deemed worthless.

Stride with your shoulders straight
And head held high.
A Queen on the rise.

© 2013 “Women of Certainty” by Reneta Bennett


Lastly, the EWI celebration of achievements and transformations included a collaboration between graduates Tina and Annette . Tina, a music lyricist, decided to write a song for the ceremony that would capture the feeling that EWI had given to her. Keeping it in the EWI family, the song was sung by another ETS graduate, Annette McNeil.

Annette singing Tina's 'Ode to EWI' at the 2013 Spring ETS Graduation

Annette singing Tina’s ‘Ode to EWI’ at the 2013 Spring ETS Graduation

Ode to EWI

Sometimes we need a helping hand
and someone to tell us that we can.

When you are down and
seems all hope is gone
what remains is your dream
that dream is restless because it’s not done
that dream is your passion and desire
that burns like a flaming fire,

Then comes EWI
to help your dream be realized
and give you a reason why
you can aim high and touch the sky,

Yes, that’s EWI

EWI will give you knowledge to grow
and support and a spotlight
where you will shine and glow
and let your talents show,

Yes that’s EWI

Sometimes we need a helping hand
and someone to tell us that we can.

Often we feel lost in the midst of this world
and become a disillusioned girl,

EWI help you put the pieces back together
to complete God’s purpose and plan
and inspire you to give yourself a name in this
glorious land
because sometimes we need a helping hand
and someone to tell us that we can.

You are not alone
EWI is a place to belong
EWI keep sharing
EWI keep caring

We all love you EWI
Thank you EWI!

© 2013 “Ode to EWI”


Empowered Women International would like to say a huge Thank You to the graduates who thoughtfully prepared and contributed their work to the graduation program. It was great to see everyone perform and we are proud of our Spring 2013 class. Way to go empowered women!

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.”


Meet Angela!

13 Jun

Angela Sargent

Angela Sargent


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 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. “


Meet Julie!

11 Jun
Julie Park

Julie Park

How does one turn a childhood hobby into a business? Just ask Julie Park, owner of Julie & Rockstar Design: a knitting and crochet company. Julie’s unique clothing makes the perfect gift for family and friends, but she knows that there is more she can do with her talent. “Because this was my passion and something that came naturally to me,” she says, “I wanted to pursue it as a business.”

Julie makes a wide variety of items for women, children, and babies. Now, with the help of Empowered Women International, she is turning her handmade sweaters, hats, scarves, and other accessories into merchandise. “They are very resourceful with many talented individuals,” Julie says of her teachers. “This class is giving me the knowledge and the resources to apply it to my business so that I can be successful.”

In addition to lessons on how to be a thriving entrepreneur, Julie also gains connections and close-knit friendships with her classmates. “I enjoy all the women that are in the class who have their own talents and how we all support one another in our endeavors. My favorite thing is the support from everyone, from the office staff to the women in the class; it’s been really fun learning!”

By Sarah Webber EWI Volunteer