Tag Archives: Sharmila

An Evening of Inspiration…

5 Dec

The Magic of EWI’s 10th Anniversary

  • Raised $84,000
  • Celebrated with 200 Fans and Supporters
  • Inspired Leadership and Entrepreneurship


An Evening of Inspiration…

” The EWI 10th anniversary celebration was beyond impressive.

You have created a place where the American Dream can actually be achieved.

 You have transformed lives and enabled immigrant women (and others) to break barriers and discover their unique potential

in ways that most could never have believed possible. “

–    Meryl Levine


The artfully crafted and donated cake by EWI entrepreneur graduates, Elda and Lyzbeth, owners of D’Ellizia


The special EWI team at work…


Dianne Lorenz, Board of Directors, and Paul Miller – Proud EWI supporters


Jan Piercy and Marty Cordes sharing an exciting moment in the program


Marga Fripp, Congresswoman Connie Morella, and Kate Campbell Stevenson


Larry and Deborah Blank, EWI supporters and Advisory Board members


Ron and Marty Cordes, Marga Fripp, Kate Campbell Stevenson, and Jan Piercy


EWI entrepreneur graduates, Alison Sigethy, Rabia Pervez, and Sharmila Karamchandani, sharing their stories…


The amazing members of the Giving Circle of Hope Reston


EWI family who made everything magic…

Want to be part of the EWI movement?

Join in with us to make a year-end tax deductible donation and support our work


Mason Hirst Foundation has joined us as Benefactor and will support EWI’s Grow My Business Program with a gift of $20,000. Magaly and Tom Hirst are dedicated EWI supporters and generous donors of EWI, and their investment helped EWI grow its programs and services across the region.


Capital One Bank has joined us as Patron and will support EWI’s Grow My Business Program with a gift of $10,000. Capital One bankers work closely with EWI to provide financial mentoring to students in the Entrepreneur Incubator. Below is a picture of EWI women entrepreneurs and Capital One Bankers.



Flory Jagoda, Jewish-American and Bosnian guitarist, composer and singer, a lifelong supporter of the EWI will be part of the celebration with 2 of her wonderful musicians. Read Flory’s Story


Andy Shallal, Washington’s most successful entrepreneur-artist-activist and the owner of Busboys and Poets will be part of our 10th Anniversary Benefit. Read Andy’s Story


Joanne Clark, EWI Board of Directors, Andy Shallal and Marga Fripp


Diana Katz and Joan Kasprovicz, Founders of the Giving Circle of Hope and lifelong EWI supporters. We’re so grateful for all the support provided by the members of the Giving Circle of Hope over the years.


Symphonic Strategies and A. J. Robinson, Jr., Ph.D., Chairman and CEO of the company will be joining us a Table Sponsor. Symphonic Strategies works with people from all walks of life to help them harmoniously use all of the forces and talents available to them to accomplish something once thought impossible. We work in both the public and private sectors, paying particular attention to human and organizational development strategies that elevate the impact and effectiveness of change agents.


US Chamber Chamber of Commerce and Taryn Bird, Manager, Global Corporate Citizenship of the company will be attending our event as a Table Sponsor. US Chamber of Commerce is a business federation representing companies, business associations, state and local chambers in the U.S., and American Chambers of Commerce abroad.1368



Did anyone forget a pair of glasses at our event?  We have them!




Artist Success Story of the Week: Sharmila

15 Mar

Written by Kaylee Kobert

Sharmila Khushalani Karamchandani calls herself “the survivor.” Sharmila – a native of Mumbai (formerly Bombay), India – struggled for years to overcome post-Sept. 11 prejudices and find her niche in American society. Salvation finally came in an unexpected form: a craigslist advertisement.

Empowered Women International (EWI) was looking for someone who could create handmade cards, and Sharmila responded. What she didn’t know, however, was that she was about to begin a complete transformation as an artist – and as a person.

Of course, her journey began long before her craigslist job hunt. A member of a very artistic family, Sharmila had always been more an observer of art than an artist herself. But then high school charcoal and oil painting classes awakened in Sharmila a passion for the arts. She went on to earn an undergraduate degree in advertising in Bombay, then traveled to the United States to visit her brother, Sunil Khushalani, in 1998.

While staying with Sunil in Georgia, Sharmila became interested in the graphic design program at the Savannah College of Art and Design. “I’ve always been a knowledge seeker,” she said, “and I wanted to get a higher degree.” So Sharmila converted her tourist visa to a student visa and started work on her master’s degree – which Sunil was kind enough to help finance – in January 1999.

Though Sharmila “naturally blended” with the school’s diverse student population, the treatment she experienced changed dramatically after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11. “There was a lot of prejudice against people who looked like me,” Sharmila said. “I used to be stopped on the streets and asked if I was from Afghanistan. I could feel the hatred. That was very, very disturbing.” This change in attitude hurt Sharmila professionally as well – she said that though she went to thousands of interviews, five years passed without any opportunities in her field.

Sharmila finally discovered the craiglist advertisement in 2006 while living in Virginia with her husband, Girish Karamchandani. Her subsequent involvement with EWI did in fact begin with card making, but EWI staff members suggested Sharmila complete the “Training for Success” entrepre-neurial program once they saw her portfolio.

Sharmila said she was skeptical in the beginning – she wasn’t earning an income and the program’s $150 cost seemed too steep. “But something said that I should do it,” she said. “And ever since I took that program, my life completely changed.” Sharmila cultivated a more professional approach to her art and also learned to work under pressure, schedule her time and promote herself and her work. Sharmila now sees her training as a finishing school of sorts. “I had the talent, but didn’t do anything about it,” she said. “But now with the combination of this training, I feel more complete.”

EWI continued to provide Sharmila with opportunities even after she completed the program. She began doing graphic design work for the organization and was eventually introduced to others who could also use her services. She got involved with EWI’s microenterprises, and began creating and selling jewelry.

In addition to her passion for art, Sharmila’s interest in teaching has also been satisfied by her involvement with EWI. She worked in an after-school program at Mount Vernon Elementary, and eventually received a teaching position at Westwood College after learning about the opening from another EWI artist.

Sharmila said she is very grateful to have the opportunity to hone so many of her abilities through just one organization. “I have a personality where I dabble in many things,” she said. “So a place like this – where we’re also evolving, trying to figure out how to fundraise, how to make money – has tapped most of my potential. It has pushed me and made me excel in all of those things that I love.”

While she is happy to have learned so much about her craft, the most important lessons Sharmila has learned are more universal. “No matter where you come from, you’re going to have these patches in your life that are going to be a struggle. But how do you overcome it? You do whatever it takes,” she said. “Have that faith in yourself. That is the main lesson that EWI – and this country – has taught me.”

Though Sharmila said she is finally comfortable in her own skin, she plans to continue her evolution as an artist and as a person. She would like to nurture her interest in fine art and continue to teach. She also hopes to give back to others who may be struggling as she once was. Fortunately, the hard times that Sharmila and others at EWI have endured allow them to do just that. “All of us who work here are very intuitive and experienced, and we’ve gone through a lot,” she said. “So we have the ability to lift a soul. It gives others a lot of strength. Like, ‘OK, if you can do it, I can do it too.’”

Sharmila especially encourages female artists and immigrants to check out EWI, but said the organization has something for everyone – including Americans and non-artists. “Not everyone who works for EWI is an artist,” she said. “We utilize all kinds of talents. Whoever comes here will get something out of it, whether a contact number or a new way of life [through the completion of training]. We’ve never turned anyone away.” Sharmila certainly has no regrets about her own involvement with EWI. “It has made me very grounded and stable,” she said. “It has nurtured my soul. Really, as the name suggests, I feel empowered. I feel like there’s nothing I cannot do.”

Sharmila’s earrings are available for sale in our Etsy Shop!
Other Success Stories can be read on our website
Examples of Sharmila’s graphic design work
One example of graphic design work Sharmila has done for our organization

Kaylee Kebort is originally from Conneaut Lake, Pennsylvania. She graduated from Gannon University in Erie, PA in 2009 with a degree in Criminal Justice and minors in Spanish and Forensics. Kaylee then moved to the DC area, after procuring a job with the federal government. She currently lives in Arlington with her one-eyed rescued cat, Sammi.

Changing Lives: Empowered Women International

7 Nov

Sharmila Khushalani Karamchandani, a native of Mumbai, India, said that her “life completely changed” after completing Empowered Women International’s (EWI) Entrepreneurship Training for Success (ETS) class. She learned how to promote herself and her work (jewelry and henna designs), and has since also become a professor of graphic design at the Art Institute of Washington. “[The program] has nurtured my soul. Really, as the name suggests, I feel empowered.” Sharmila pointed out EWI’s uniqueness: the opportunity to hone so many of her skills through one organization.

Sharmila selling her jewelry at an EWI event

In today’s economy, loans and financial backing for entrepreneurial businesses are increasingly scarce – especially for women. For entrepreneurs with little or no training in how to run a business, just getting off the ground can be difficult. EWI offers students programs in entrepreneurship, multicultural arts, and financial empowerment, providing immigrant, refugee, and other women in need tools to create and market successful businesses in the arts and mentoring to make wise financial decisions.

Within the entrepreneurship program, the women have access to EWI’s ETS class, micro-enterprise program, and marketing coaching. These classes and seminars teach essential skills for successfully starting and running businesses without relying on loans and other forms of outside financial backing.

I participated in a social media marketing and promotion workshop offered by EWI. Around twelve media and communications students met with nine women to set up blogs, Facebook pages, and websites for their businesses. It was truly amazing to hear the creative ideas these women have and to see the opportunity they have to make their dreams a reality because of EWI. These inspiring women found a way to participate in and offer their unique talents to American society. EWI has many success stories from women who have already completed the program.

Mekbib and Meseret are husband-and-wife professional artists from Ethiopia. Not only did they learn the skills needed to grow a successful business through the business incubator program, but they continue to be supported by EWI by using its gallery space service to display and sell their art. Of selling art with EWI, Meseret said, “This was the first time we sold our work to customers in a professional business setting. That was the moment we really knew that we could make it here in America as artists.”

EWI’s support doesn’t end with the wonderful programs they offer. For those with an EWI membership (cost depends on household income and other financial factors), services available include free listing in EWI’s Online Member Directory, space to sell their goods, discounted advertising, and free coaching and consultation.

EWI strives to offer any woman the opportunity to support herself and become empowered, which means EWI often accepts half or even none of the tuition for their programs. Please help EWI continue their important work by sponsoring a student or just making a donation. You have the opportunity to change a woman’s life.

by Cara Gluck

Cara Gluck is a senior marketing communications major and business minor at Emerson College. Through The Washington Center, she is a marketing intern at Keppler Speakers. Cara chose EWI as her civic engagement project because she believed in the organization, and wanted to use her knowledge to help women succeed.

Raising Support for Immigrant Women in Montgomery County

9 Jun

Originally Posted on November 17th, 2009

A wonderful group of community members and new friends attended Empowered Women International’s (EWI) kickoff event in Silver Spring, Maryland on November 7 at the house of EWI’s generous supporters, Synthia and George Dang. The guests welcomed EWI’s immigrant and refugee women artists to Montgomery County and embraced the expansion of the organization’s entrepreneurial programs and support services for artistically talented immigrant women.

George and Synthia Dang, Our Supporters and Event Host

Marga Fripp and Artist, Sheldon Reiffenstein

Attendees included Maryland State Senator Jennie Forehand, Maryland State Delegate Susan Lee, Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett, Montgomery County Councilmember Nancy Floreen, Mark Puryear, Suzan Jenkins CEO of the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County, as well as special friends and supporters including Merle and Steven Steiner, Tom Block, and Vera Vandendries .

John Stevenson and Kate Campbell Stevenson

EWI Artists: Sharmila, Rolyn and Naomie

Ten immigrant and refugee artist graduates of EWI’s entrepreneur center exhibited and sold one-of-a-kind art during the event and shared the stories of their personal journeys as newcomers, artists and entrepreneurs. Fatana Arifi, a talented American-Afghani artist, and her younger sister Fariba talked about their experience fleeing Afghanistan as refugees, first to Pakistan and then to the US. Fatana shared how difficult it was to find a community like EWI that nurtures the artist and the woman within and infuses career and business knowledge to help women participate in the community and the economy.

EWI Artists: Meseret, Fatana, Fariba and Mekbib

Long time supporters and Volunteers Laura Nally and Steven

Even though Fatana has a degree in Fine Arts from the University of Kabul, Afghanistan and over 20 years experience exhibiting and teaching art across Afghanistan and Pakistan, she has been struggling ever since she left Afghanistan. She has encountered difficulties securing a job, promoting herself as a working artist and making ends meet. In addition, Fariba recently lost her job, which has added a new layer of stress for the whole family.

EWI Artists: Rabia Naeem Pervez and Valentina Dimilo

The sisters found new hope, guidance and an opportunity to earn income from their art through EWI’s micro-enterprise program. With the help of EWI’s talented staff and artists, the sisters design, produce and market their jewelry, fine art ornaments, note cards, prints and paintings.

Ann Stone, EWI Chair Emeritus, Kate Campbell Stevenson, EWI Chair of the Board, Sheldon, Marga and Rabia

EWI is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that helps artistically talented immigrant and refugee women like Fatana and Fariba gain confidence, marketing experience and business skills, which helps them take their product to the market. EWI has established a strong record of empowering immigrant and refugee women in the Greater Washington area from culturally diverse backgrounds to become working artists, educators, community leaders and entrepreneurs.

Every year, Empowered Women International trains, presents and gives access to the market to more than 200 immigrant and refugee women. Artists teach and present art in schools and various community organizations.

In 2008, 235 immigrant women benefited from our services and more than 1,500 people participated in our culturally diverse arts programs. More than 120 volunteers donated 12,000 hours in service valued at $90,000.