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11/05/08

New Ernst & Young LLP initiative helps “Winning Women” entrepreneurs grow their businesses

New York – November 5, 2008 – Ernst & Young LLP is proud to announce the winners of the first annual Ernst & Young Winning Women program, designed to foster informative relationships, build networks and provide growth opportunities and support to women-owned businesses and women in business. This new competition merges Ernst & Young’s long-standing support of entrepreneurs worldwide with the firm’s efforts around women’s advancement.

The Ernst & Young Winning Women program is conducted in collaboration with Babson College’s Center for Women’s Leadership and its Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship, and with the support of Catalyst and the Committee of 200. As part of the program, five outstanding Winning Women aspiring entrepreneurs are receiving complementary participation in the Ernst & Young Strategic Growth Forum 2008, which takes place November 12-16 in Palm Springs, Calif. The Strategic Growth Forum, dubbed by Forbes.com as one of the “Seven Get-Ahead Executive Retreats,” is a prestigious gathering of high-growth, market-leading companies. This opportunity provides the aspiring entrepreneurs with the tools to achieve every entrepreneur’s dream – a chance to accelerate their company’s growth by building and fostering critical informative relationships, enhancing leadership skills and expanding business know-how.

“Again and again, women cite a lack of experienced role models and access to business-building networks as barriers to entrepreneurial achievement,” said Maria Pinelli, Americas Director, Strategic Growth Markets, Ernst & Young LLP. “Through the Winning Women program, we aim to give outstanding female entrepreneurs a leg-up by providing access to highly successful entrepreneurial and corporate women, investor and informative networks and the hands-on knowledge needed to grow entrepreneurial enterprises successfully.”

According to statistics from the Center for Women’s Business Research, women-owned businesses in the US account for 40 percent of all privately held firms, but only one in five firms with revenue of $1 million or more is woman-owned. Women business owners with $1million or more in revenue have one thing in common, however: They are more likely to belong to formal business organizations, associations or networks than other woman business owners (81 percent vs. 60 percent).

 “As the top-ranked business school for entrepreneurship education, we know how critical it is for early-stage women entrepreneurs to have access to strategic business advice, strong professional networks and sources of capital to fuel their growth,” said Dr. Jan Shubert, Babson College’s Center for Women’s Leadership Director.“Our research on women entrepreneurs, both in the U.S. and globally, underscores how vital The Ernst & Young Winning Women program is for business success and leadership advancement.”

At Strategic Growth Forum, more than 1,500 leaders of the nation’s most successful companies, their investors and advisors gather with exemplary entrepreneurs to share growth strategies and discuss current economic challenges. Speakers this year include business luminaries such as Jack Welch, Marilyn Carlson Nelson and Robert Nardelli. In addition to attending the Forum’s general sessions and specialized tracks, the Winning Women award recipients will participate in a special on-site networking session with Forum participants, designed to foster learning and serve as a starting point for long-term relationships.

This year’s Winning Women award recipients are:

Alison Barnard, Founder and Owner, in-jean-ius and Twilight (Boston, MA) — Specialized women’s boutiques with an emphasis on denim. Alison’s love of fashion prompted her to develop a retail store designed to help women find the perfect pair of jeans. She struggled to obtain funding; unable to qualify for a Small Business Administration loan, she reached out to friends and family to secure the necessary capital. Alison is a featured denim expert for publications such as People Magazine and Women’s Wear Daily, and was named one of Inc. Magazines “Top 30 Under 30.” Ultimately, in-jean-ius intends to expand the brand nationwide, including exploring the men’s market. Consequently, Alison is focused on learning more about managing growth and finding the right balance between too-rapid expansion and missed opportunities.

Jill Cartwright, Founder and President, Go GaGa (Jamaica Plain, MA) — Designs and distributes ergonomically safe products, such as diaper bags, yoga totes or laptop bags that feature a sleek urban style and have amassed a following among celebrities. While watching her mother care for her grandmother, as well as her friends with newborns, Jill found an opportunity. She learned to invest “what little capital [she] had in what was most critical to the success of the business.” Jill has accumulated significant debt while starting Go GaGa, an effort she describes as “the hardest and loneliest thing I’ve ever done in my life. But I can’t imagine doing anything else.” She’s looking forward to building a network that can offer advice on producing long-lasting returns.

AlisonJanet Chien, Co-Founder and Principal, Dyad Systems (Cambridge, MA) — A consulting, data management and technical services provider to biomedical companies conducting clinical research. Janet saw the lack of project management, financial tracking and management reporting skills in life sciences companies that slows down the clinical trials process and delays product launches. She set out to close the gap. All in all, Janet notes that Dyad’s “niche strategy has remained true, steering us through tough times while other small companies have failed.” Janet has found it challenging to meet other female professionals working in science or technology, and is looking forward to expanding her network and building new advisory relationships.

Linda Smith, Founder and President, Peloton Diagnostics Corporation (Needham, MA) — Supplies medical and clinical diagnostics tools based on photonics technologies to advance the practice of preventative medicine. Inspired by her father’s struggles with early-onset Alzheimer’s, Linda decided to do something. Although she has faced financing and human resources challenges, Linda believes in her company’s potential to deliver “preventative and personalized medicine.” She is looking forward to expanding her network within the healthcare industry, and dedicating the coming months to “strategy, new perspectives and the bigger picture.”

Kathleen Utecht, Co-Founder and Co-President, Green Rock Entertainment, Inc. (Chicago, IL) — Creates, manufactures and distributes the toy/game Cahootie, a multi-award winning modern twist on the classic paper-folding fortune game that is sold at many major retail outlets. Kathleen strives to create quality games that empower children while also inspiring creativity and social interaction. Kathleen and her partner manage all aspects of their company. She’s found production and quality-control issues to be among the most challenging, but is motivated by passion and enjoyment in her work. As Kathleen says, “all of my money, my time, and future career is at risk. However, that’s what was needed to build a successful entrepreneurial venture.” Kathleen is looking forward to expanding her knowledge base and meeting “potential investors, future buyers and others for our board of advisors.”

“We applaud these exceptional women for their innovation, business acumen and leadership,” said Ilene H. Lang, President and Chief Executive Officer, Catalyst. “Women business leaders offer dynamic and diverse perspectives. In its support of Winning Women, Ernst & Young demonstrates its deep commitment to a more robust pipeline for women’s leadership and to the overall advancement of women in business.”

“The Committee of 200 is delighted to participate in this opportunity to support women’s entrepreneurship, provide role models, and encourage the development of tomorrow’s women business leaders,” said Dr. Helene Lotman, CEO and President, The Committee of 200. “By sharing our success, we believe we can change the face of business and the future for many young women. It is an honor to work with Ernst & Young, Babson College and Catalyst to inspire and cultivate burgeoning entrepreneurs.”

About the Winning Women Program

Through the Winning Women program, Ernst & Young is proud to demonstrate a steadfast commitment to inclusiveness and diversity by extending its resources and long-standing support of entrepreneurship to champion the success of women in business. Winning Women aims to create a network of women entrepreneurs and business leaders at all stages of growth. Additionally, Ernst & Young seeks to provide early-stage women entrepreneurs access to critical resources, strengthening the pipeline of women into upper echelons of the business world. In this inaugural year, all aspiring entrepreneur applicants to the program were founders of their own businesses and alumnae of Babson College (either undergraduate or MBA) who graduated between 2003 and 2008, with entrepreneurial ventures no more than five years old. Winners were picked by an independent panel of judges, chaired by Helene Lotman, president and CEO of the Committee of 200. Criteria included business originality and vision, clarity of business goals and plan and the entrepreneur’s ability to leverage the Strategic Growth Forum experience. Ernst & Young seeks to expand this pilot program to women entrepreneurs who are alumnae of other colleges and universities in the years to come.

About Ernst & Young Strategic Growth Markets Practice

Ernst & Young's Strategic Growth Markets (SGM) practice guides leading high-growth companies.Our multi-disciplinary team of elite professionals provides perspective and advice to help our clients accelerate market leadership. SGM delivers assurance, tax, transactions and advisory services to thousands of companies spanning all industries.Ernst & Young is the undisputed leader in taking companies public, advising key government agencies on the issues impacting high-growth companies, and convening the experts who shape the business climate.For more information, please visit us at www.ey.com/us/strategicgrowthmarkets.

About Ernst & Young

Ernst & Young is a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services. Worldwide, our 135,000 people are united by our shared values and an unwavering commitment to quality. We make a difference by helping our people, our clients and our wider communities achieve their potential. For more information, please visit www.ey.com.