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Reunion: Soul Sisters Gather in Alexandria Recalling How Business Incubator Program Launched Success

Artists Sushmita (Sush) Mazumdar, Sharmila Karamchandani and Nina Tisara Gather to Reminisce

Artists Sushmita (Sush) Mazumdar, Sharmila Karamchandani and Nina Tisara in October 2021. (Photo: Sush Mazumdar)
Artists Sushmita (Sush) Mazumdar, Sharmila Karamchandani and Nina Tisara in October 2021. (Photo: Sush Mazumdar)

ALEXANDRIA, VA – Artists Sushmita (Sush) Mazumdar, Sharmila Karamchandani and Nina Tisara gathered at Nina’s home on a sparkling day in late October. The women originally met through Empowered Women International (EWI), an organization founded by 2015 Living Legend of Alexandria Marga Fripp.

EWI makes a wide range of services and support available to immigrants, low-income women and women of color. The curriculum emphasizes entrepreneurship and business education with the goal of helping them become financially self-sufficient.

The gathering was originally arranged as a “soul sister reunion” by Marga. The goal was for the women to share a meal and stories in a welcoming space — stories from their hearts — across generations and cultures. It turned out that Marga, who now lives in western North Carolina couldn’t make it nor could another who had planned to attend.

Sharmila recalled meeting Nina, Sush and others  — forming a wide circle of soul sisters — through EWI. “Nina and I were classmates in 2006 when we were in a business incubator program and it was there that Nina solidified her idea about the Living Legends of Alexandria program which became a nonprofit in 2007.

I was in the program to learn how to market myself as an artist and become an art educator. By 2008, I took over facilitating and teaching the business incubator course, freeing Marga to focus on growing the organization. Besides continuing to teach at EWI, I also now teach Graphic Design at the Corcoran School of Art and Design.

Sush was my student in the same business incubator program in 2008 and created her social enterprise, Studio Pause, in 2013. In 2019 Sush was appointed commissioner for the Virginia Commission for the Arts, representing the 8th Congressional District.”

Describing the beautiful fall afternoon, Sush wrote, “The tree branches made music on the metal roof of the sun porch …. The sun created dancing shadows on the crape myrtles …. Clouds chased each other across a blue sky … as we talked of art, food, and imagined future projects.”

Story by by Sharmila Karamchandani, Sushmita Mazumdar and Nina Tisara

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