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Competition for Women Entrepreneurs Nets Simmons School of Management Graduate $20,000 for Ecotourism Start-Up

BOSTON (October 29, 2007) — A recent MBA graduate creating her own ecotourism consulting company targeting Africa won $20,000 in seed money and in-kind prizes during the second annual Silverman Business Plan Competition held this month at the Simmons School of Management, the only business school in the U.S. specifically designed for women.

Jennifer Christian-Murtie, a Boston resident and an American born and raised in Kenya, plans to provide environmental, economic and sustainable development advice to the hotel and lodging industry in Africa. She named her company Yadumu, meaning "long life" in Swahili. A panel of four judges chose Christian-Murtie for her creativity and vision, passion for ecotourism, quality business plan and realistic financial goals. She will use her winnings to develop her company while completing the Certificate in Entrepreneurship program at the Simmons School of Management, where she received her MBA in 2007.

The Silverman Business Plan Competition was established at Simmons to support women in launching and leading their own entrepreneurial ventures. As part of the competitive process, participants are paired with mentors who help them with various aspects of new business creation, such as business plan development and fundraising pitch refinement. Participants also gain access to established entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, angel investors, bankers, and lawyers. Sponsors that have donated in-kind prizes include Indigo Venture Law Offices, Mavens and Moguls (brand coaching), Corey McPherson Nash (logo development), and The Capital Network (training).

The competition is named in recognition of a major gift from Lois Silverman, founder of CRA Managed Care (now Concentra Managed Care), and founding chair of The Commonwealth Institute. The competition also is supported by the Simmons School of Management Class of 2002.

The judging panel included Sheryl Marshall, a Simmons School of Management graduate and vice president at Credit-Suisse who has more than 25 years of experience on Wall Street; Indira Patel, another Simmons MBA alumna and president and CEO of New England Office Supply, Inc., one of Working Woman magazine's Top 100 women-owned businesses in Massachusetts and Top 500 women-owned businesses in the U.S.; Carol Vallone, a seasoned technology executive with more than 25 years of experience building multinational businesses, including WebCT (acquired by Blackboard, Inc. in 2006); and Neal Yanofsky, president of Panera Bread, an operator and franchisor of more than 1,000 bakery cafes.

The Simmons School of Management is committed to advancing women of diverse backgrounds into leadership positions. Simmons College is a nationally recognized private university located in the heart of Boston.