Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in personal and business development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Dr. Madeline Ann Lewis, CEO of Executive Women's Success Institute, located in Upper Marlboro, MD, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

The Executive Women’s Success Institute (EXWS) provides personal and professional development training and career coaching (group/one-on-one) to individuals (primarily women & veterans), human services agencies, Federal, state, local government, educational institutions, corporate and private industry in the areas of leadership, executive development, new business development, diversity, women’s issues, professional image, motivation, life skills, and self-esteem.

We are a woman-owned/veteran-owned consulting and professional development and training company. We offer cost-effective, enterprise-wide professional development solutions delivered by experienced professionals with many years of business, government, industry, and human resources knowledge and expertise.

Tell us about yourself

I am the President/CEO of the Executive Women’s Success Institute, International TEDx Speaker, International Bestselling Author, and creator of the online course “Crack The Career Code: Unlock The Amazing Power Within To Lead With Confidence, Charisma, and Credibility.” I am also the host of the Success 4 Women Radio/TV Show, Career Strategist, Trainer, Speaker, and Business Consultant. I started my business because, during my career and before becoming a business owner, I realized there were not enough women out there helping other women to excel. There were not enough women pulling other women up. The old saying, “you never know whose watching you,” is very true.

Because of my career progression in the military, civilian government, and corporate positions, I had women coming to me for advice about how they could get promoted, wanting me to review their promotion packets, and wanting me to do mock interviews with them. Because of these requests, I decided I could better help more women if I started my own business. I started the EXWSI so women would have a formal environment where they are able to share their thoughts, their joys, their weaknesses, and in some cases share, their success.

I did lots of research and was able to put together programs, training, and seminars that deal with life issues as they relate to women and what they go through in the workplace. My programs, training, and seminars provide ways for women to adjust in behavior, attitude, and image that are necessary for their career advancement and business acumen.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

I have to say there have been three moments of great accomplishments for me since being in business. The first was being selected for the 2022 Veteran Champions of the Year (VCOY)” in Corporate America” list. The 2022 VCOY Corporate list honors 30 champions who advocate for our nation’s veterans in the civilian workforce.

My second greatest professional accomplishment was being featured in the Vetrepreneur Magazine (June 2016) and receiving the 2016 Women Vetrepreneur of the Year Award. This award was in recognition of my being a veteran and a businesswoman. That was a great moment of joy for me, and I felt a huge sense of accomplishment in receiving such an award.

And finally, receiving the “Business Woman of the Year Award” from the Prince George’s Chamber of Commerce. Receiving this award of recognition from my community and peers gave me a sense of pride and accomplishment that my work is valuable and needed.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

In the beginning, the hardest thing for me was learning to communicate, especially with my clients. Another lesson learned was to diversify and not have tunnel vision about why I was in business. I had to put my fears on hold and look for new opportunities and step out of my comfort zone if something came along that might potentially be successful.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

The top 3 tips I would give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today would be:

  1. Remember, no one plans to fail, but many fail to plan. In all the excitement of starting their business, many new entrepreneurs neglect the “all too important” business plan. A good business plan is like a road map for someone who’s lost on the highway.
  2. Do your research. When you decide to start a business, and while up and running, you must do thorough research to be sure there is a need for the business or service you plan to offer. For instance, it would be futile to open a store that sells road maps since the birth of GPS has rendered maps all but obsolete. You also need to know what your competitor is doing. What is working or not working for them? You need to be aware, so you can stay on top of your industry.
  3. Inadequate funding. Many start-up business owners underestimate the amount of money needed to get their business off the ground. It’s this reason that many businesses are unable to grow. And you must have a backup plan. Be able to pivot if something unexpected or drastic happens that could affect your business operation (i.e., a pandemic closing you down). What will you do to survive?

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

My personal quote: “Being proud of your background and unique attributes will ensure continued growth. Recognition provides the opportunity to speak about and showcase our experiences as women exhibiting strength in the business world.” (Dr. Madeline Ann Lewis)

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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