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Competition for Women Entrepreneurs Awards Simmons School of Management Graduate $15,000 for Fair Trade Apparel Company

BOSTON (November 14, 2008) — A recent MBA graduate creating her own fair-trade women's apparel company won more than $15,000 in prize money and in-kind business service awards during the third annual Silverman Business Plan Competition held this month at the Simmons School of Management, the leading business school in the U.S. specifically designed for women.  

Heatherjean MacNeil, the founder and CEO of Proxy Apparel, LLC, plans to provide fashionable fair-trade clothing for socially responsible and fashion-forward consumers.  

A panel of three judges chose MacNeil for her creativity and vision, passion for promoting fair trade, quality business plan, and realistic financial goals.  She will use her award to develop her company while completing the Certificate Program in Entrepreneurship at the Simmons School of Management.

MacNeil was inspired to create Proxy after spending a number of years working in several Latin American countries.  During her tenure with the Peace Corps in Honduras, MacNeil worked with women's groups to develop micro-businesses in rural communities.  She was inspired by the pride and sense of accomplishment she witnessed in the women who developed businesses to support their families and to sustain themselves.  Upon returning to the U.S., she recognized that there was a market of socially conscious, Generation Y consumers who would support a fair-trade clothing company and ultimately create jobs for women around the world.

"I'm thrilled that my winnings will enable me to grow the market for stylish clothing, while at the same time pay a fair and meaningful wage to the women who produce them," said MacNeil.

"The business plan competition presents a tremendous opportunity for our alumnae and students to draw on the extended School of Management network, including students, faculty, and business leaders, to assist them as they launch sustainable, scalable ventures with impact," said Dr. Teresa Nelson, Elizabeth J. McCandless Chair in Entrepreneurship and director of the entrepreneurship program at the Simmons School of Management.  

The Silverman Business Plan Competition was established at Simmons College to support women in launching and leading entrepreneurial ventures.  As part of the competitive process, participants are paired with advisors who assist them with various aspects of new business creation, such as financial statement development and market outreach.  Participants also gain access to established entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, angel investors, bankers and lawyers.  Sponsors of this year's competition include Indigo Venture Law Offices, Next Stage Solutions, Inc., and the Center for Women & Enterprise.  

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 Simmons School of Management is the nation's leading business school designed for women.  Simmons College is a nationally recognized private university located in the heart of Boston.