In Episode #4 of the EWI Legacy Stories project, we meet founder Marga Fripp. Marga is a Romanian American humanitarian entrepreneur, artist, and holistic wellbeing coach. Watch this episode to learn about Marga's journalism career in Romania, her challenging immigration to the US, and EWI's early years before joining LEDC as one of its Small Business Programs!
Marga's childhood in eastern Romania near the Russian border was complicated. She learned resourcefulness and developed a passion for women's empowerment: "It was beautiful and magical because I was a child with a very large imagination. It was challenging because we lived under communism, so a lot was restricted in our lives. And it was painful because my family had a difficult experience…I [grew up in] a domestic violence family."
Marga became a journalist and produced programs about women's equality, human rights, and orphans and street children until she was banned from broadcasting when she was 21. She founded and developed a successful women's service and advocacy organization two years later.
Also, Marga produced and hosted a talk show about women's rights in Romania with an advocacy organization and led a team that drafted a domestic violence bill in 2003. She started her family with her American husband, Jesse, amidst her humanitarian work.
Marga and her family left Romania in 2001 after her son suffered an infection and stroke within days of his birth. Marga's husband continued his work in international development as Marga supported their daughter, who did not speak English, and son with his medical needs. Marga was frustrated as she struggled with English, integration, and leaving behind her career.
Marga found the soul of Empowered Women International in English classes at Montgomery College. She found a community of immigrant women facing familiar challenges and frustrations. In May 2002, Marga created Empowered Women International (EWI) to give voice and create entrepreneurial opportunities for immigrants, refugees, and marginalized women. She served as CEO of the organization for 14 years.
She envisioned EWI as a community space where immigrant women could share their artwork, connect with others, and learn their skills to thrive in the US.
Twenty-five women graduated from the Entrepreneur Training for Success (ETS) program in 2006 and found its first physical location. By 2010, EWI had grown to have three staff members, including Marga, and had operated out of multiple physical locations.
In 2015, Marga left EWI and moved to Switzerland with her family. She spent five years in Switzerland, where she grew as an artist and a holistic wellness coach. Her newest venture, Marga Fripp Studio, offers expressive art therapy, one-on-one coaching and development, QiGong classes, workshops, and retreats. She continues her work in holistic empowerment.
EWI has grown and changed since Marga left, but the heart of LEDC's program remains the same. "I'm very proud of the people of EWI… I'm deeply grateful that our staff and board members have moved in the direction they did. I know it was a challenging process; it wasn't easy to find where we need to be today, and I'm grateful that we continue the work that we do…and see how the EWI community is blooming and blossoming; in so many ways."
We are excited to share Marga's journey with the first few chapters of EWI's story and beyond.
Where to find Marga: