Story by Aisha Sowe, EWI Intern & Edited by Ally Jokl, EWI Intern
EWI's Entrepreneur Training for Success (ETS) program empowers women to start their dream businesses. These women each have unique stories behind their business ideas. One such woman is Monika Roberts. She started an event planning business, Monika’s Good Times Events after decades working in the school system. Her business focuses on celebrating life events and having fun.
Monika was born in Kiel, Germany in 1958 and raised by her German mother for the first three months of her life. She was then sent to an orphanage. Ongoing issues of racism at the time made adoption complicated in Germany. Fortunately, an African American military couple adopted Monika while they were in Germany. She moved with her new family to the U.S. at age three and became a citizen at age six while living in Chicago. Monika’s family, like many military families, moved often when she was young. She spent time in Ohio, Korea, and her native Germany before settling down in the Washington D.C. area.
As she moved around the world, celebrations and parties were constants in her life. Her mother held frequent social gatherings in their home as she was growing up. “My mother was an event planner before event planning was even a thing,” Monika explains. She remembers hanging coats for guests and saying grace at Thanksgiving dinners. She loved helping her mother and noticed the amount of fun the guests were having.
Monika worked for Montgomery County Public Schools for over 30 years before she started her business. She started at Walt Whitman High school, and worked at several other schools throughout her career. Monika was introduced to EWI by a friend and trainer, Laura. At the time, she had been divorced for nine years and felt stuck. She had the idea for an event planning business but did not know how to begin. She says, “I felt so inadequate in my life I figured I needed EWI to get me out of the mess I was in.” She needed a change in her life, so she attended one of EWI’s Business Pitch events.
At the Business Pitch Event, Monika listened to the women tell their stories and pitch their business ideas. It was then that she decided to apply to EWI's program and participated in the Entrepreneur Training for Success (ETS) program in 2016. Monika describes the program positively,
“ETS was life-changing for me. ETS gave me confidence to stand up and speak.”
Monika participated in showcases during the program where she networked with different people. At one showcase she met Celestial Manna, a non-profit organization that helps feed people in the DMV. This meeting was an opportunity for Monika. She now works for Celestial Manna as their Fundraising Coordinator. She uses the skills she learned at the non-profit for her event planning business.
At the start, she focused on planning events like retirement parties and wedding vow renewals for older clients. “The fun that I was having with my friends that I found at the age of 50 I wanted to make sure that everyone over the age of 50 can still have fun. You can still enjoy life.” she says. Monika now focuses on one or two big events a year and holds other smaller social gatherings for people of all ages. Some party themes that Monika holds include Oktoberfest, Halloween, and Mardi Gras.
Monika believes that the most important aspect of event planning is personal connection. “You could have the most expensive venue but if the person you have to work with and rely on is not out there with you at [the event], [the outcome of the event] is not going to be a good," she explains when describing the importance of relationships.
Monika’s Good Times Events has been in operation for four years now. The business has expanded and now offers two products called “You’ve Been Swagged” and “Party in a Box”. These products help create memories based on the theme of the event. These products are fun ways to help people continue to celebrate now in the face of COVID-19. She retired from MCPS in August of 2019 and now devotes most of her time to event planning. She ties her experience as a secretary to her work as an event planner. She says, “working in the school system gave me the ability to accept people how they come to you.” Through thick and thin her promise is to make her clients happy.
Monika believes that before starting a business, one must figure out themselves first. They need to know who they are, what they want to do, and why they want that business. She explains, “The sky is the limit...but first, learn about yourself before you learn about others.
In 2018, Monika wanted to give back to the organization that helped change her life. She became a volunteer mentor for other aspiring women entrepreneurs in the ETS program. This Fall, Monika is facilitating the Entrepreneur Training for Success (ETS) cohort for DC Residents. This will be her first time as an EWI trainer.
You can find Monika's Good Time's Events online at: