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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

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

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

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

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 Nishat!

6 Jun
Nishat Siddiqui

Nishat Siddiqui

For Nishat Siddiqui, it all began in the kitchen. She spent years in sales and marketing roles and wasn’t feeling fulfilled. She eventually found her fulfillment in food, Pakistani and Indian food specifically. This change came about as she cooked food for fundraising events and received many compliments on her cuisine. People even approached her asking for lessons on how to cook her dishes. As this is a part of her heritage, she began to realize her passion in creating and presenting Pakistani and Indian dishes and founded her own business, Nishat’s Kitchen.

Nishat’s Kitchen offers in-home cooking lessons and will expand to offer catering for small parties and events. Through this company, Ms. Siddiqui finds fulfillment in owning her own business and following her passion of food creation.

However, this entrepreneurial experience has had its own challenges and obstacles. Thankfully, Empowered Women International provided a platform for Ms. Siddiqui to regain her confidence, bounce business ideas off her classmates, and build her independence. She will cherish these moments and friendships and looks forward to her future growth!

– By Chelsea Collier, EWI Volunteer

Meet Gabriela!

4 Jun
Gabriela Garza

Gabriela Garza

Gabriela Garza’s motivation behind Omani Holistic Healing came from her transformative journey through Peru.  Focused on inspiring change and encouraging mindful practices, she returned home to develop a business that would provide holistic services to help individuals release tension, find tranquility, improve their health and increase happiness and balance in their lives.

Currently, Gabriela offers guidance on health and wellness and private sessions in Yoga and Reiki, a unique type of energy healing. These are not her only services, however. She is also known for her jewelry and plans to enroll in massage therapy school to expand her business.

EWI allows Gabriela to gain clarity on how to truly create a successful and thriving business. Gabriela was especially inspired by the team from Capital One, during the Business Plan review session: “It was incredibly insightful to hear their feedback on how to improve our business plans.”

By Sarah Weber, EWI Volunteer


Mariana Alvarado: My experience as a Graphic Designer Volunteer at EWI

27 Feb

Here with Mary, Alexandra, Marga, Perry, and one of the interns.

Mariana Alvarado: My experience as a Graphic Designer Volunteer at EWI

When I decided to go back to the work force after being a stay at home mom for 6 years, my strategy was to go back to school and update my design knowledge and technical skills. I gained a lot more than that: self confidence.

Ian y yo

My son Ian Emiliano is going to turn 8 in April.

After finishing a certificate program in Web Design in The Corcoran College of Art and Design in DC I felt prepared, but then realized that I needed to prove that I can be a valuable asset to any company, and decided to volunteer.

I found EWI by coincidence, or destiny. I come from an artisan family. My  father learned a solder technique from an Hungarian artist when he was 17 years old and worked for him making sculpture and jewelry for a couple of years before starting his own business. I have respect for artisans and appreciation for their work. I understand the challenges that immigrant woman, like myself, have to face in order to succeed in this country. I feel I found the right place for me to develop more skills and feel productive.


2012 Fall Graduation

I visited an ETS class in November and was pleasantly surprised by the energy of the ladies and advisors. Seeing the graduates so proud of themselves on their big graduation day was an inspiring experience for me.

I think empowering women to reach their full potential is a noble cause. I found working with Marga’s team of women very inspiring and empowering!

Where in the World is Shannon? She Takes Business and Travel to Another Level…

21 Feb

Shannon & Marga

Many of you know Shannon as our amazing former Program Manager. About 9 month ago Shannon and her fiancee decided to travel the world, teaching English as a second language and pursue many of their passions.

But traveling was not enough for Shannon. She wanted to travel and make a living while inspiring others to pursue their own passion for travel. So The Life Aventurista was created… We’re so proud of you, Shannon!

“I started The Life Adventurista in November 2012, because when Eric and I were first making our plans over a year ago, so many people contacted me and told me they wished they could live life the way we are. They just didn’t know how or think it was possible. I’ve spent the last six years teaching women how to start things – grassroots campaigns, nonprofits, and businesses, so I thought why not help more women start a business doing what they love so they can live life with more adventure and freedom. I love this work because it combines all my greatest passions and I love being able to work with so many incredible women.” Read more…

Chithra Jeyaram Selected with her Film Mijo to enter in PBS Online Film Festival

19 Feb
8201137230_3a0516c018Chithra Jeyaram is the founder and creative director of Real Talkies, and a graduate of our Entrepreneur Training for Success, Class 2012. She is an award winning documentary filmmaker who communicates the realities of life as it unfolds, focusing on nuances that cannot be dwelled upon or deliberated in mass media. Through her films she breaks societal barriers, builds bridges, changes attitudes and takes risks.


One of her amazing films, Mijo, an evocative portrayal of a mother and child’s intimate relationship in the midst of life altering medical events, was selected in the PBS Online Film Festival. Watch and vote for her film from March 4 through March 22; the film with the most votes will receive the People’s Choice Award. Congratulations, Chithra!!!