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Pricing Strategy 101: A Present from Capital One!

18 Dec

Capital One’s John Villar, Vice President of Business Banking, and Kate Marty, Manager of Business Banking, gave our entrepreneurs another reason to be grateful this holiday season. They opened up a recent ETS class with a much-appreciated presentation on pricing strategies for products and services. Professionally, their department helps small businesses grow into larger businesses, which made them ideal counselors to our aspiring entrepreneurs. They gave us an inside look into how to price products and services, understand expenses, and ultimately increase revenue.


Cynthia King with John Villar and Kate Marty

Thanks to Capital One, our entrepreneurs had the opportunity to receive one-on-one advice from John about their businesses. For example, Cynthia King, an ETS student creating a property management business, spoke with John about her business plan. He applauded her for taking the initiative to renovate a family property that had been sitting idle. In starting her business, Cynthia considered her assets and looked for creative ways to use them to generate income. John was impressed by her initiative. Finding undiscovered areas of opportunity and capitalizing on them is, after all, the cornerstone of business success!

Receiving positive feedback from John gave Cynthia more confidence as an entrepreneur and opened up a conversation about the quantitative aspects of her business model. Already looking ahead, she estimated that she will be profitable in two years’ time and wanted to know how to use that profit to expand her business. John recommended that she first pay herself back for her initial personal investments in renovating the property. After that, she could look towards broader options such as making the property a short-term vacation rental or a bed and breakfast.

Capital One with the ETS class

Capital One with ETS Mentors, Trainers, and Students

Overall, John’s advice was to the class was:

  •  Protect yourself – Invest time in setting-up your infrastructure
  •  Understand your identity – find your niche in the market
  •  Communicate with investors quantitatively – use mathematical models
  •  Build a loyal base – focus on customer service and retention

Sharmila Karamchandani, ETS Lead Trainer, thanked John and Kate at the end:

“You both did a wonderful job in asking all the women of our businesses and pulled out some good examples to explain stuff in detail. Also, I thank you for extending your time to our women and agreeing to meet with them beyond the session tonight or ask any further questions.”

EWI appreciates Capital One’s support of local entrepreneurs. Many thanks to John Villar and Kate Marty for spending their evening with us!

Written by Kimberly Barton, a guest blogger who’s a new Alexandria resident. She recently graduated from the University of California, Berkeley and is interested in local programs that empower, educate, and support women. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

Chizoma Cluff’s Secrets to Success

4 Nov

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Kimberly Barton, a guest blogger who’s a new Alexandria resident. She recently graduated from the University of California, Berkeley and is interested in local programs that empower, educate, and support women. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

Four New Faces: Meet EWI’s New Interns!

4 Oct

From left to right: Ciara Salg- Marketing & Communications Intern, Kim Booher- Program Associate Intern, Brenda Yoboue- Non-Profit Management Intern, and Tatiana Sandoval- Community Partnership Intern.

This fall, EWI is powering forward with the dedicated support of four new amazing stars: Kim Booher – Program Associate Intern, Tatiana Sandoval– Community Partnership Intern, Brenda Yoboue– Non-Profit Management Intern, and myself, Ciara Salg– Marketing & Communications Intern.

The interns have attended the University of Minnesota, Lock Haven University of PA, George Mason University, and American University. They come from three different continents and have lived in over 10 countries collectively. They hold a variety of knowledge and experience that they are excited to bring to EWI. Above all, the interns have a passion for giving back to the community and making a difference in the lives of women.

When I asked the other interns how their time at EWI has been so far I heard “challenging and intense but exciting and interesting” over and over again. Brenda, our Non-Profit Management Intern, elaborated that although challenging, it’s a great learning experience and is definitely not your average internship. I completely understood what Brenda meant by this. EWI allows you to learn and develop new skills, but also leverages all our strengths. Working with EWI is by no means your stereotypical coffee and copy making internship. The experience is hands on, challenging, and rewarding. When talking to Kim, our Program Associate Intern, she explained how nice it was to come into such a welcoming community. She continued with, “I appreciate the people I work with, am passionate about the EWI mission statement, and love the work I do.”  Tatiana, our Community Partnership Intern, continued by saying “My favorite part of the internship so far is the interaction I get to have with all the entrepreneurs. They are such a great group of women who all have amazing stories. It’s by far my favorite part of the job.”

Speaking on behalf of all the new interns, we are so excited to be working at Empowered Women International. We are all passionate about the work we are doing here and hope to assist EWI in continuing to empower women and making a difference in their lives.

 Written by Ciara Salg, 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


EWI Asks, “What Empowers You?”

10 Jul

EWI Asks, “What Empowers You?”

Empowered Women International sent a team to the World Refugee Day celebration in Silver Spring, MD after being invited by the International Rescue Committee, the host of the event. Represented by staff members Jami McDowell, Virlen Reyes, and ETS graduate Julie Hyo Park, EWI set up a booth and interacted with the individuals at the event.

We asked each person that visited the EWI table, “What makes you feel empowered?” We were surprised and inspired by the responses we received. Here are a few of our favorites:

“The awareness that I have a mind”


“My voice”

Here are some others we received:


What Empowers You?


One visitor to the EWI table says that “God” and “good people” make them feel empowered.

The table was visited by people of all ages and walks of life and EWI was impressed with the variety of things that people draw from to feel empowered, from music, to faith, to family.

While at our table visitors had the chance to engage with one of our recent Spring 2013 graduates and artisan entrepreneur, Julie Hyo Park. She taught how to make crocheted bracelets. When they were done, they were all given a small token, an empowerment stone. Upon receiving her empowerment stone, one little girl was curious (and serious) enough to ask staff member Jami if it really worked. Jami assured her that the stone would work if she believed hard enough.


We agree with Jami’s notion that if you believe in yourself you can accomplish anything, and with that self-belief you begin to adapt a feeling of empowerment. We want to thank that little girl for her courage and hope that one day all women will feel that sense of empowerment (whether they have an empowerment stone or not).

Written by Tess Stansbury, Non-Profit Management Intern

A Summer Picnic with Empowered Women International!

9 Jul

Dear All,

You are invited to

A Summer Picnic with

Empowered Women International

Sunday, July 14, 1 – 5 pm

Valley Mill Park
1620 Randolph Rd.
Colesville, MD 20904
Join us for a Family-Friendly Afternoon with the EWI Friends, Entrepreneur Alumni and Supporters!
 Homemade Food from Around the World
 Family-Fun Games
Children (and Adults) Face Painting
Balloon Animals
and above all…
a Memorable Time with an Amazing Community.
Got some time to help out?
We’re looking for volunteers to
contribute a dish, desserts or drinks, serve food,
plan arts and crafts projects, and teach games for the whole family.

*This is a shine only event. If it rains we have to cancel and you will be immediately notified.

Advantages In Using Social Media For Businesses Take Center Stage!

7 Jun
Sharmila Karmachandani

EWI’s  ETS Trainer, and previous Graphic Design Volunteer,  Sharmila Karmachandani, (Right) with guest speaker Hollyn Randolph.

Last Friday (May 31st), I had the opportunity to attend one of EWI’s ETS classes held in Bethesda, MD. It was a very interesting class as we had the privilege of learning from two guest speakers (Keasha Lee and Hollyn Randolph); both of whom shared with us the nuts and bolts of Social Media Marketing Strategies and how they can be used effectively to give a boost to our businesses. The class discussed about some of the well-known and widely used social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Flickr, etc.) and some of the students also talked about their experiences in creating Facebook business page or using or WordPress to build beautiful websites of their own.


EWI’s Entrepreneurship Coach & Program Manager, Alexia Muchisu Wendel (Left) with Guest Speaker Keasha Lee 

In a world where information is at your fingertips, in which a touch or a swipe of an icon on the screen can easily and quickly retrieve information for you, you might be building a wall between your business and potential income if you are not using and participating in some form of social media platform to promote your business. I was quite astonished to learn about how important and significant “Yelp” plays in promoting one’s business. One student said her friend’s business is enjoying the benefits of a reputable Yelp business page as it is bursting with great customer reviews and comments, beautiful photos of the restaurant and other useful information for a potential customer who is viewing the page. As people become more connected via the web, it is equally important to have the right representation of yourself and of your company online. As one of the speakers mentioned,“content”is very important when you are building your own website.You want to make it “fresh”and have it “up-to-date”.

Students following social media presentation

EWI students engaged and following social media presentation

Viewers want to connect, engage and learn from another human being who is professional and can be related to. What I can take with me from this class was that there are many different forms of social media platforms and that they all work differently to enhance our visibility online. As a business owner, we need to be selective and informative about which ones we adopt as some are more preferably than others. Please find below are some of the websites and blogs shared during the class so that you can further equip yourself with more social media news and gigs.

Website:Entrepreneur, Mashable and Huffingtonpost

Blogs: Social Media Examiner, Heyo and Jeffbullas

By Su Hlaing Win Nu, EWI Volunteer

Meet Sarah!

3 Jun
Sarah Folts

Sarah Folts

Sarah Folts: entrepreneur, artist, and survivor. Her career started off after an unlikely experience. She grew up an active young adult as a competitive gymnast. During her teenage years she was diagnosed with Deep Vein Thrombosis, which became critical. After a multitude of surgeries,  she hit tremendous low points in her life.  But somehow she lifted herself out of it by developing a deep connection with nature, appreciating its simplicity and beauty in a way that she never saw before. She found refuge and happiness in her creativity and art. From this passion and artistic view of nature flourished a specific interest in butterflies and the freedom and beauty they represent.

Ms. Folts currently mounts and frames real butterflies, which she purchases from various butterfly sanctuaries. She also creates unique jewelry out of their wings, which she then sells on her website Flights of Fancy,” and also takes photographs of their natural existence in the wild. Her ultimate goal is to preserve nature’s greatest masterpiece through art while increasing awareness of the harm afflicted by humans on this species. To do so, she aspires to open her own shop and butterfly sanctuary in which she teaches people the importance of ecological stewardship.

EWI has provided her with a unique opportunity for growth. She entered the program struggling with plateaued growth and now understands her goals and how to accomplish them. The support and creative thinking from her mentors and fellow entrepreneurs in the class has given her a renewed sense of hope and vigor.

– By Chelsea Collier EWI Volunteer

ETS Business Plan Pitch Contest – 3 minutes to win a prize!

3 Jun

With graduation day approaching, Empowered Women International is proud to present the “Business Plan Pitch Contest.” The contest will be held on Saturday, June 15 at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center from 11:30am-2pm in the presence of select judges in the banking, financial, and business industries. This is the occasion when the Spring ETS class will show their business ideas in three minutes.

ETS Spring 2013 Class

ETS Spring 2013 Class with Capital One volunteer business bankers and marketing analysts

There are five prizes, which are sponsored by EWI contributing companies or individuals who donated the cash prize for the business pitch contest:

  • $1,000 1st Prize
  • $500 2nd Prize
  • $250 3rd Prize
  • Two $125 Runner Up

The winners will receive their prizes during our Graduation Reception & Business Showcase on Sunday, June 23 in the Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center. All winners will also be provided access to EWI advisory services and KIVA ZIP micro-loan program to support entrepreneurs in their launch of the business idea. Past Biz Pitch contestants have received pro bono financial services, legal services, business advice from professionals and entrepreneurs.

Sara Folts, Charmelle Clark & Nishat Siddiqui

Sara Folts, Charmelle Clark & Nishat Siddiqui

As EWI students prepare to pitch the business plans they built for their start up following their three-month intensive ETS training, the contest will essentially be the report containing their finalized business plans. Some of the topics they have to address are:

  • What is your product or service?  Very simply describe what it is you sell. Be clear, but do not go into excruciating detail.
  • What need does it address? What problem do you solve? What is the compelling need?
  • Who is your customer and how big is the market? Briefly discuss who you are selling the product or service to. How will they buy it and how large of a market does it represent?
  • Who is your competition? Don’t have any? Think again. Briefly discuss who they are and what they have accomplished. Successful competition can be proof that a market exists. 
  • What is your competitive advantage? Clearly communicate how your product/service is superior/different and why you have an advantage over the competition.
  • What is your business model? How do you expect to generate revenue and make money? What is your profit margin?
  • Who will run the company? Tell them a little about you and your team’s capabilities and why you can capture this opportunity.

Our Business Pitch judges are volunteer entrepreneurs – business experts or investors who will score the business plan pitch, provide feedback, advice, and mentorship to EWI student entrepreneurs. Based on the judges’ score and recommendations, EWI will select 5 winners to receive cash prizes.

This is a great opportunity for our ETS students and a good way of witnessing the full evolution of our women entrepreneurs who have transformed their ideas into viable businesses! We’re so excited for them and can’t wait for this incredibly powerful day.


Welcome The New ETS Spring Class!

27 Mar

The New ETS Spring Class of Entrepreneurs!

On Saturday, March 23, Empowered Women International hosted a Meet & Greet, the first session of the Entrepreneurship Training for Success (ETS) class. ETS is a series of 23 classes, including business and financial literacy labs, a business plan pitch, and final graduation, which are a part of a three-month intensive entrepreneurship program.

The range of businesses in this class include arts, crafts, apparel, writing, publishing, jewelry, consulting, organizing, cleaning, film, translating, health, child care, cooking, sustainable housing, and irrigation systems.


Marga Fripp, President, discussing the finer points of the ETS program, with Sharmila Karamchandani, Lead Trainer, on the right.

The focus for the Meet & Greet session was on getting to know everyone, as well discuss the program itself, and on spiritual transformations as the beginning of the empowering process. Founder Marga Fripp shared a powerful TED Talk by Ric Elias, a passenger of Flight 1549: the plane that crash-landed in the Hudson River in New York in January 2009, at the beginning of afternoon session.


Following this video, the ETS students shared with the group their transforming moments, which got them to this point in their life and why they wanted to be a part of ETS. It is only when a person is ready to make a change in their life that they are really able to change and become empowered.  This time for self-reflection and introspection was a wonderful way for the women to bond together.


Mentor Marcela Kogan and ETS student Kira Washington


ETS students Charmelle Clark and Jane Mwinuka, Mentor Chris Ollis, and ETS student Cleopatra Magwaro

We are so excited to welcome the new class of entrepreneurs. Onward and Upward Spring ETS class!

By Sara Seavey, Monitoring & Evaluation Intern