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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.

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

She Did It! Charlene Tells Her Story of the Marine Corps Marathon

30 Oct
This past Sunday, October 27th was the BIG DAY. Charlene Gatewood, our very own and very dedicated ETS mentor, ran the 38th Annual Marine Corps Marathon to support the professional and educational goals of women with her fundraising campaign, Charlene’s Race to Empower Women. We are so proud of her and enormously grateful! In her own words, she shares her story of that day:
Dear Friends and Family,
Well, it’s over and this is my last email on the subject, so forgive me if it’s a bit long.  Yesterday started off very cold.  When I picked up my race packet at the Expo, I received the official marathon shirt, a long sleeved gray shirt with lots of emblems and the MCM logo commemorating the occasion.  I layered that shirt under my light-weight jacket to ensure that I stayed warm.  I had gloves and wore some panty hose under my yoga pants.  My fanny pack was loaded with paper towels for my runny nose and Clif Mocha Gel Shots for energy – I was ready.
We got to the Crystal City parking garage about 6:50 am and the line of runners and their families waiting for the shuttle buses was already down the sidewalk and wrapped around the circumference of the garage.  We parked and got in line.  The buses were taking runners first and when enough family members were gathered, they would get on a separate bus.  Walter was 2 buses behind me.
When we got to the Pentagon parking lot, I immediately started walking toward the starting line.  As I walked, I saw 4 parachutes floating down – 2 with humans and 2 with the U.S. flag.  It was quite a sight to see the flag unfurled and blowing in the wind and floating down to earth.
There were so many people and many of them were skimpily dressed, some with plastic bags over them to keep them warm.  I was very comfortable. There was music blaring and camera panning the crowd. The gun went off for the wheelchair racers and a few minutes later for the runners.  It took over 3 minutes for me to cross the start line.  As we ran up Lee Highway, I took off my gloves.  I could see that runners were discarding clothes in the street, but I was determined not to leave anything I brought with me.  Just as we were climbing the hill toward Spout Run, I realized I had on too much.  I tried to unzip my jacket, but the zipper got stuck and wouldn’t move no matter how hard I tried.  I was less than 3 miles in and knew that I couldn’t run the whole race that way.  So, I stopped, pulled the jacket over my head and pulled the shirt over my head.  At that point I’m standing in the street with only my sports bra, but I really didn’t care.  I put the jacket back on and tied my MCM shirt around my waist and ran the hill.
The spectators had some very interesting signs.  Most stated that we were “running better than Congress” but my favorites said that “this was the worst parade ever”!
The course turned right at West Potomac Park.  By mile 12 I felt my bladder would burst, but every porta-john I passed had long lines and I couldn’t waste time or slow my momentum.  As I entered the West Potomac Park, I saw a large tree with branches and leaves all the way to the ground. I ran over, went into the seclusion of the leaves and came out relieved. The shoulder of West Potomac Park was lined with the photographs of fallen Marines who died between 2011 and 2013. It was very sobering and sad.
I continued running nonstop and got to mile 17 in 3 hours and 30 minutes. I knew that I was doing well.  I walked about half of the next 3 miles but got to mile 20 (on the 14th Street Bridge) at 12:35, still not bad.  I anticipated finishing in another hour and a half.  However, that’s when I decided to stretch – bad idea.  I must have pulled something because when I started to walk I had pain in my right hip.  It was less painful when I ran but I was so tired by then my running was sporadic.
When I finally made it to the finish line, I reacted the same way that I did 11 years ago.  When the young female marine put the medal around my neck I burst into tears.   When I looked up, a woman at the end of the lane took my picture – it was of my ugly cry face, not the pretty one, but I really didn’t care.  It as over, I was done, mission accomplished!
I would like to thank all of you who contributed your financial support to Empowered Women International and those of you who supported me emotionally. God bless you!  A very special thank you to my love, Walter, who singlehandedly raised $2,460 though his Masonic affiliations and my beloved daughter, Saronda, who gave $325. My total is now $3,870, only $130 shy of my goal.
My biggest contributors:
Columbia Commandry Knights Templar $2000 (Walter’s affiliation)
Lafayette Dupont Lodge $460 (Walter’s affiliation)
Saronda Gatewood-Royster $325 (my lovely daughter)
There is still time to give.  Empowered Women International operates 12 months out of the year serving women in need.  Please consider supporting this organization in the future.  You can mail your contribution to Empowered Women International at 320 S Henry Street, Alexandria, VA, 22314.  Don’t wait for my next marathon, because there won’t be one; I’m done! 
By the way, I beat my 2002 time by 3 minutes and 50 seconds!
Love you all and thank you,

Charlene’s Run to Empower Women!

6 Sep

Grab your signs and high spirits! On October 27, cheer on Entrepreneur Training for Success (ETS) mentor Charlene Gatewood as she goes the distance to support the professional and educational goals of women in the program. Driven to uplift the courage and aspirations of all women, Charlene will run at the Marine Corps Marathon while concurrently raising funds for Empowered Women International (EWI).

photo 3

Charlene is empowered to empower more women!

Sidetracked by injury, Charlene discovered a path beyond this barrier. Shortly after, Charlene would find herself inspired by and energizing the women who, like herself, have an appetite for success. Charlene personifies perseverance and ambition. For her, no obstacle is too frightening without an end goal nor is there failure in honest effort. “I am living proof that, if you set goals for yourself and you make an effort to move even one inch in that direction every day, you can achieve the impossible.”

Support Charlene as she runs for a cause “to empower and transform the lives and livelihoods of many immigrant and low-income women and their families.”

Click here for Charlene’s fundraising page and help her reach her goal of raising $4,000 before the marathon on October 27th!

Thank you Charlene for your ongoing support of EWI and the women in the program. Your dedication, passion and generosity is an inspiration to all of us, and we are honored you chose to join forces with EWI and empower more women.

Written by LaNesha Kearse, Marketing & Communications Intern

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

Meet Former Mentor Marcela Kogan

31 Jul

Meet former Entrepreneurship Training for Success (ETS) mentor and freelance writer Marcela Kogan. This bilingual mother of two saw opportunities for personal and professional growth through volunteering for EWIs mentoring program. She was also impelled to get involved with EWI due to her capacity to help individuals with language and cultural barriers.

photo for EWI

Marcela Kogan

Marcela came into the program with an open mind and an eagerness to learn how to support her mentees. Marcela expressed that it was easier for her to get acclimated to the program’s operations with the help of EWI staff and students. The clearly defined step–by–step process to initiate a business plan coupled with the enthusiasm of EWI students like Charmelle Clark motivated Marcela to continue in on the program. When Marcela entered the program she was uncertain about how she could contribute to EWI’s students development and successes. However, she found that her life experiences proved more valuable than she initially believed.

Marcela was impressed by a group of women, who despite their personal baggage, were determined to succeed and turn their dreams into a reality.  She, too, knew what it felt like to be insecure in mastering the English language and could relate to the challenges faced by mothers from diverse backgrounds. She mentioned that EWI students carry their own baggage as mothers and underserved individuals but in spite of this they are achieving their goals. “They (EWI staff and students) inspired her to have the same type of courage in her own life.”

With a commitment of three hours a week for nine months, Marcela noted that the program was intensive but extremely manageable. She was amazed how EWI helped women see the possibilities of their own talents. “We forget we have bigger dreams and goals and this is a good way to get back to those dreams and create new ones.” She also mentioned that this program is great for those people who want to be immersed in cultures from around the world while expanding their views of themselves.

To learn more about how you can become a mentor to a group of phenomenal women, please email Mary Marino at or visit EWI at

Thank you for your continued support of Empowered Women International.

By LaNesha Kearse, Marketing & Communications Intern

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.

Special Thanks to Capital One For Their Help With The Biz Plan Review!

11 Jun

Spring 2013 students with Capital One advisors

With graduation for this semester’s students quickly approaching and business development plan pitch sent for this coming Saturday June 15th from 11:30am-2pm at Bethesda Regional Services Center we here at EWI would like to give a great thanks to our friends at Capital One. As students prepared their final presentations to their business plan propositions, a helping element was given to the participants of EWI. That element was provided by the financial advisors from Capital One who devoted their time by sitting down individually with the students to discuss and contribute feedback into the financial outlook of each business proposal.

Capital One Advisor sharing ideas with students

Capital One advisor sharing ideas with floralba and Jane


Capital One advisor with Reneta and Gabriela

The components that the students possessed during the session from finalized one-year and three-year P&L plans to having profit margins calculations ready for evaluation. As the session proceeded students were able to talk about the nature of their business and present the reasons as to which aspects of their development plans needed assistance, while other parts of their plans were already taken underway.

Financial awareness and organization is a significant component to not only the participants of EWI, but for any and every up-and-coming business. A clear methodology is key when establishing an business and a great way to do so is with the assistance of professional financial advisors. Advocacy for financial stability at the launching of a new business takes time and effort, but most importantly it requires a relatively fresh perspective from others who understand the advancement and growth of a business. With great appreciation, EWI wishes to thank all the business advisors from Capital One for their time to consult and their informational outlook as the  prepare for their amazing Business Plan Pitches this coming Saturday.

Written By Virlen Reyes, EWI Community Partnership Intern

Inspirations Behind ETS Training & Mentoring

6 Jun

With graduation day approaching, we were curious to know from our mentors, trainers and business coaches: a) Why training or mentoring ETS students is important for them and  b) Has this interaction affected/impacted their lives?

The responses we received were heartwarming; it is encouraging to know that we are surrounded by people that are willing to sacrifice their precious time and energy to Empowered Women International and the cause it stands for.

The first response came from Howard Feinstein our Business Coach & Legal Adviser:

Howard Feinstein

Howard Feinstein

“I have spent most of my life, professionally and personally, in the civil rights arena, trying to make equal opportunity a reality for all in American, regardless of race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, gender, orientation, or other discriminatory classifications.  Working with immigrant and low-income women at Empowered Women International for the past couple of years has given me the most meaningful experience with regard to this cause since I was a civil rights attorney in the South, many years ago.  One reason for this is that, while our “official” mission at EWI is to train and prepare women to become successful entrepreneurs, we go the extra mile and stay involved in their lives for as long as it takes, dealing with whatever issues present themselves in their lives.

During difficult economic times, it is challenging enough to navigate the business world, particularly in an area as competitive as the capital region. Add to that factors such as language and cultural unfamiliarity; lack of access to start-up capital; limited educational background; and/or a history of oppression by husbands or partners, and it becomes clear that EWI’s clients need more than the standard classroom approach.  Unlike other well-meaning non profits, EWI will do whatever it takes to ensure that our students succeed.  If this means hanging in there with a woman for several years, we’ll do it.  If it means bringing in an attorney, a social worker, a financial adviser, or other outside assistance, that’s no problem.  If it means setting up a “buddy” system, in which a former student or mentor works one-on-one with an EWI graduate while a business is growing, we will make that happen.  This holistic approach is geared to ultimately equip our students with confidence they need to succeed not just as businesswomen, but as empowered individuals. – Howard Feinstein, EWI Board Member, Mentor, Trainer, Attorney, Musician, etc.”

The second response came from our  Mentor Christine Ollis:

Christine Ollis

Christine Ollis

“I have had the privilege of being a mentor to four amazing women participating in the Entrepreneur Training for Success (ETS) program:  Dicey and Nneka Scroggins, Gabriela Garza and Nishat Siddiqui.  I was familiar with EWI and it’s great work, but I had never worked as a mentor before, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  The experience was so fulfilling for me!!  I witnessed the determination of the students who have faced serious struggles, but remain committed to achieving their dreams.  The passion each woman has for their respective business goals was truly an inspiration to me.  The EWI curriculum is so well thought out, it made this very complex process of starting a business seem totally doable.  The women were also provided with the very best instructor, Sharmila Karamchandani, who guided us through the intense material with ease and wit.  I know these woman will succeed and I look forward to continuing to be a part of their journey.”

Thank you all for the wonderful work you are doing for EWI.

The inspiring and motivating effect of ETS: Networking and Power Coaching Class

14 May

On Monday, May 6th the ETS class was about Networking and Power Coaching. A very special thanks goes out to our guest speaker, Hope Katz Gibbs of Inkandescent PR and a big shout out to our board members Kate Campbell Stevenson, Shirah Cohen, and Joanne Clark for making it an insightful evening.

All participants introducing themselves in the beginning.

All participants introducing themselves in the beginning.

The ETS Networking and Power Coaching Class is designed to show students the personal and professional journeys of successful women entrepreneurs. The session was formatted to address topics ranging from successful careers and businesses, to networking strategies, sales strategies, effective leadership, and overcoming fear and developing confidence.

ETS participants listening attentively to our four panelists

ETS participants listening attentively to our four panelists

The first part of the session included a panel discussion with each panelist talking about their own strategies, drawbacks, and the secret ingredients they used to become successful. The women also addressed candidly the financial strategies they used to get where they are today. From knowing how to fund their businesses, to getting loans, to using savings, all were important and required savvy and quick thinking to launching their business.

All our Panelists. Shirah inspiring our students with sharing her personal story. She said she became an entrepreneur the day she declared to herself and the world that she was an Independent Consultant.

All our panelists (starting second from left) Hope, Kate, Shirah, and Joanne. Shirah inspired students by sharing her personal story. She said she became an entrepreneur the day she declared to herself and the world that she was an Independent Consultant.

The second part of the session consisted of a small group activity in which students had to interact and ask questions to guest speakers and their peers. They spoke of networking, marketing, being effective personally and professionally, overcoming barriers, and most importantly, being an active member of the community at large.

Joanne Power Coaching a group from left to right Julie, Joanne, Gabriela, Angela and Sarah's back.

Joanne, power coaching a small group (from left to right), Julie, Joanne, Gabriela, Angela and Sarah.

The last part was exchanging ideas, learning from each other, and reporting back to the rest of the class about what they learned, sharing handouts, teaching tools and resources. The greatest inspiration was the welcoming embrace of the guest speakers and their stories.’ A growing sense of motivation was apparent, to walk the line and reach that end zone, regardless of any drawbacks and barriers.

Kate intently listening and Power Coaching Tyesha, Charmelle, Annette, Tenisha and Kira.

Kate (second from left) intently listening and power coaching (from left) Tyesha, Annette, Tenisha, and Kira.

Again, thank you Hope Katz Gibbs of Inkandescent PR and board members Kate Campbell Stevenson, Shirah Cohen, and Joanne Clark, who tirelessly galvanize the entrepreneur spirit of our ETS students. Also a huge shout out to our Entrepreneur Coach and Program Manager Alexia Muchisu ,who spices up our ETS classrooms, and our instructor Sharmila Karamachandani, who is constantly sowing the seed of knowledge to our ETS students and beyond. Much love to all of you from the EWI Team!

By Hanna Yamir, Program Associate Intern