If you haven’t noticed, the news is rather grim these days. The global negative overtone makes positive events that much more important to share. Last week I had the great pleasure of watching 60 women graduate from Empowered Women International’s entrepreneurship training and business building programs.
Why is this graduation so special? EWI is a local nonprofit that uses entrepreneurship training to give immigrant, refugee, and at-risk women financial and social freedom. These 60 women spent six months honing their business plans, or overhauling their small businesses with the goal of making their lives and their families’ lives better. They are the living, breathing human embodiment of the American dream. As the keynote speaker, Julie Kantor, said, “The last piece of American is I can.” These graduates transformed from shy women to confident entrepreneurs, armed with the knowledge and framework to build profitable businesses.
According to Partnership for a New American Economy, 40% of the top Fortune 500 companies were started by immigrant entrepreneurs. Smaller businesses are heavily impacted by immigrant entrepreneurs too: 1 out of 10 immigrants own their own business. Bottom line: immigrant entrepreneurs are essential to the U.S economy. This is why so many of them come to work for businesses, with the aspiration of owning their own business. They often go through the legal process of becoming citizens filling out forms like the i129 to be sponsored workers, participating in the economy legally. After presenting a certificate of recognition to EWI, Lily Qi, the Assistant Chief Administrative Officer of the Montgomery County Office of the County Executive, shared her views on immigrants and business. She said, “Keep America alive through entrepreneurship and immigration.” Lily also mentioned that as an immigrant herself, the United States was the only country she could have the opportunity to hold her office as a non-native born citizen.
While it is impossible to teleport you back in time to share the moment, I captured some of the things the graduates got up and shared during the ceremony. I hope their quotes give you an infusion of hope and illustrate the importance of educating women entrepreneurs around the world. I believe in their programs so much that I am their spokeswoman.
“EWI provided us with the blueprint for success for our businesses and ourselves. We have been empowered to create a better future for our businesses, ourselves, and our families.” ~ Maribel Rodriguez
“We are working on one of the most important dream a woman can have… economic independence. This program opened doors to opportunities we didn’t even know existed. Our lives are made of dreams, and we cannot let them die.” ~Evelyn Molina
“EWI has added hope, self esteem, and positivity to my life. Thank you for showing us how powerful we can be in making our dreams come true.” ~Daouia Idris