Empowered Women International (EWI), based in Alexandria, Virginia, held its graduation for the Spring Entrepreneurship Training for Success program on June 23rd.
The organization aims to provide in-need immigrant, refugee and other women business skills necessary to launch their own small businesses. By teaching each participant how to best market and capitalize on their skills and talents, EWI offers programs to prepare them for turning a special skill into a career.
EWI’s founder, Marga Fripp, a native of Romania came to the United States in 2001. Leaving her successful journalism career behind and learned first-hand of the struggles of immigrant life in America. While taking English classes at Montgomery College in Takoma Park, Maryland, Fripp met others like herself, immigrant women who were well educated and successful back home but found countless barriers to success in the United States and subsequently suffered financially and emotionally.
Fripp founded Empowered Women International in hopes of giving women, like herself, the opportunity to reinvent themselves and become confident, contributing members of society.
The entrepreneurial program focused particularly on that goal. After completing the program, graduates are required to provide twenty hours of services to other women within and outside the program. Instead of learning and leaving, EWI wants their graduates to be “agents of change” in their local community.
It’s not all business though. Shannon Lynberg, EWI’s Program Manager, said that the four month intensive entrepreneurship program is also meant to provide women with other tools as well.
“In order for them to become engaged community leaders and give back they have to become empowered as individuals,” said Lynberg. “By the time they graduate, they feel like their self confidence has increased and that they have a place in society.”
Lynberg said that though the program is based on entrepreneurship, it works toward giving women a comprehensive set of skills that they can take outside of their business as well. The feeling of being a productive, contributing member of society encourages women who may have had limitations in their community involvement back home, the motivation to pursue opportunities they may have never pursued before.
While many women come into the program with a particular skill or talent that they wish to turn into a profitable business, some find their way to even bigger dreams.
“Not only do they start a business but by going through the training and realizing their self worth, [some] have gone on to get masters degrees or higher paying jobs outside of their business,” said Lynberg. “They do various things that they wouldn’t have done if they didn’t go through the program.”
Lynberg recounted the story of one immigrant woman from Pakistan who came into the program hoping to expand on a business she ran in her home country, making scarves. By the end of the program she was pursuing a Masters degree to teach English as a second language. She is now a teacher, able to support her family and has the skill set to help her husband manage his business.
Through EWI, a profitable business that helps women live well and contribute to society is the end goal, but the journey is one based on the development of confidence.
EWI is now accepting applications for their fall programs beginning in September.