Recipients of the 2023 Bob Fisch Graduate Student Awards for Entrepreneurial Excellence Announced

Retail pioneer, student mentor, and bestselling author Bob Fisch presents two $25K awards to graduate students from Fashion Design and Global Fashion Management Programs

From l-r: Bob Fisch; Lindsey Mortensen; Mubarak Abliz; Dr. Brooke Carlson; Victoria Shchepakina; and Valeria Watson

Two $25,000 awards for entrepreneurial excellence have been presented to outstanding students in the Fashion Design MFA and Global Fashion Management MPS programs the School of Graduate Studies. Robert (Bob) Fisch, founder and former chairman and CEO of rue21, award-winning author of the bestseller Get a Life: A Roadmap to Rule the World, and an FIT Foundation board member, established the awards to help advise and advance the careers of the students.

The Class of 2023 recipients of the Bob Fisch Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence are:

  • Lindsey Mortensen, of Dallas, Mubarak Abliz, of Xinjiang, China, and Victoria Shchepakina, of Saratov, Russia, all Global Fashion Management, for POSSE, the “Innerwear as Outerwear” luxury lingerie brand created for sizes D cup and up.

“This is an idea we really believe in, and I struggled myself with this,” said Mortensen. “I can’t wait to help bring this to life, and I can’t wait for you all to see it.”

“We have a launch plan that we presented where we allocated certain costs toward product development and marketing, so we already have our initial solid plan,” said Shchepakina. “This funding will help us get started.”

“We had multiple one-on-ones where he was really able to help me with my career,” said Abliz of the mentorship he received from Fisch. “Meeting the Millennial Advisory Board was very inspiring, and [Bob Fisch] was able to give me really good advice. He was always able to help me stay grounded and help me actualize my plans for the long term.”

  • Valeria Watson, Fashion Design MFA, of Guadalajara, Mexico, creator of ValeriaWatson, a line of clothing that explores the blend of cultures between the United States and Mexico. She designs expressive, colorful, playful garments through handweaving and digital printing of childhood photographs, inviting all to join in the celebration.

“I have a business plan with the fabrics I need and the machines I need,” Watson said. “I went to Mexico and visited factories because I want to support local talent. With the money, I’m getting the materials and the machines, and I’m flying over to Mexico in a week to contact the factories and start production. I have a store in Williamsburg that’s willing to take in my first collection.”

Amanda Brown, one of last year’s winners with her company, Maid to Alter, underscored what it’s been like to receive support from the award. “Winning the award opened that door for us, but it was so much more than financial support,” Brown said. “The outpouring of support and recognition we have received from Bob Fisch and the FIT community has been life changing. Our GFM experience taught us there are so many ways to be an entrepreneur. We know we will face many more obstacles before running a successful company, but with the support of all the amazing people we have met in the last few years, we are excited about what’s next for Maid to Alter.”

Fisch, widely recognized for his bold innovations in value-priced, fast fashion retailing, said: “I enjoy mentoring the FIT Fashion Design and Global Fashion Management graduate students to be bold and fearless in their careers and lives. It’s important to stand up for what you believe and not be afraid to take risks. It’s about intergenerational bonding and mutual mentoring. The FIT graduate students are innovative thinkers, with big ideas soaring toward their futures. My role in mentoring is to help them take their vision to fruition.”

“We are so grateful to Bob Fisch for recognizing the incredible talent of our master’s level students, and for creating the entrepreneurial awards and scholarship for our School of Graduate Studies,” said FIT President Joyce F. Brown. “The students who are fortunate enough to win this prestigious award continue to have the opportunity to be in touch with Bob and be mentored by him, and that advice means so much more than words can convey.”

“I’ve watched the students over the past year benefit immeasurably not only from Bob Fisch’s generosity of resources but also his generosity of time and mentorship,” said Dr. Brooke Carlson, interim dean of the School of Graduate Studies. “This scholarship is about so much more than dollars, and we remain grateful for Bob’s ongoing commitment to the students with whom he is working.”

Launched in 2021, the awards are an extension of the comprehensive Bob Fisch Graduate Student Award Program, which celebrates entrepreneurial excellence and intergenerational mentoring through an initial gift from Fisch of over $400,000. The program includes thesis project completion grants, scholarships for FIT’s Fashion Design MFA and Global Fashion Management MPS programs, year-round educational “fireside chats” led by Fisch, and extraordinary one-on-one and group mentoring sessions.

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