At the ultra-glamorous gala night on June 16 that capped the three-day EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year 2018 in Monte Carlo, EY’s eloquent global chairman and CEO Mark Weinberger delivered a moving address that beautifully encapsulated why some people are driven to be entrepreneurs and the inimitable value of that endeavour.
“You’re doing more than any other group to create jobs and wealth, your passion to do what’s right for your business is matched by your passion to do what’s right for your community. You focus on values as value, you take pride in not only what you do, but how you do it, and you build purpose-led businesses, which are critical to a world that is changing faster than ever, and that is more uncertain than ever,” he told a rapt audience.
“And in the process, you’re inspiring the next generation to continue to innovate and reach greater heights. You are legacy builders who are fundamentally reshaping the world and building a better tomorrow for all our children. While we receive thousands of nominations from around the globe each year, the World Entrepreneur Of The Year is a very exclusive club. Since 2001, there have only been 716 entrepreneurs from 75 countries who have been inducted into our Hall of Fame, and only 17 people named as World Entrepreneur Of The Year. And while there can be only one winner tonight, all of you in this room are already winners — you deserve our heartfelt congratulations, our admiration and our thanks for everything that you do.”
This annual event, which brings together winning entrepreneurs selected by EY offices from all over the world, is celebrated over three days in glitzy Monte Carlo — in the summer, this Monégasque quarter is especially breathtaking. Against the backdrop of the azure blue Mediterranean, 56 entrepreneurs representing 46 countries and territories assembled for two days of talks, forums and interactive sessions that include some of the world’s most fascinating speakers — this year, the list featured Microsoft executive vice-president of business development Peggy Johnson, Trendhunter founder and CEO Jeremy Gutsche, Thai AirAsia CEO Tassapon Bijleveld and Australian model turned entrepreneur Elle Macpherson.
Options was able to meet some of the country winners — talented and passionate individuals who have been able to convert simple ideas into award-winning businesses that have transformed lives across various industries. Property developer Rubens Menin Teixeira de Souza ultimately won the World Entrepreneur Of The Year 2018 award for the work he has done in his native Brazil to create affordable housing solutions, but he was up against some tough competition.
Between mesmerising performances by English jazz singer and pianist Jamie Cullum — whose version of The Beatles’ Blackbird was easily the best pick of his repertoire — the gala event profiled all 56 winners, giving them the attention they so richly deserve.
Crowd favourites were the entrepreneurs directly involved in changing the lives of their immediate communities. For example, Natividad Cheng from the Philippines runs the leading manufacturer of foams and mattresses, and is known for her philanthropic work in the community too. Teodoro Ortiz works closely with Andean farmers to supply the Peruvian grains required to make Incasur’s high-quality cereals while Radovan Milojević has successfully raised the quality of life in his Serbian village of Stojnik by establishing the manufacturing plant for the Stublina brand of aluminium joinery locks and fittings.
We also learnt that youth is not always wasted on the young. Mate Rimac, 30, is the Croatian founder of his eponymous fully electric, ultra-luxurious supercar company while 33-year-old Chiau Haw Choon is the youngest CEO of a Malaysian listed company and has turned his family’s cement trading business into a building material specialist. Another source of great pride for Malaysians — the 33-year-old managing director of Chin Hin Group transformed from a troubled teen to a responsible and successful adult, and today provides assistance to similarly beleaguered youth as payback to the universe.
The tech industry saw a large number of country winners this year, indicative of the digitisation of the world while lifestyle-related businesses made up a fair number of winners — Dutch homeware designer and manufacturer Brabantia CEO Tijn van Elderen’s ambition is to move to 100% recyclability within a generation, Italian Remo Ruffini is being recognised for his efforts in transforming the future of luxury skiwear brand Moncler and Ignacio Rivera Quintana has transformed his family business, brewery Hijos de Rivera, into a global beverage company.
The unenviable job of choosing a winner falls on the shoulders of an independent judging panel of distinguished former EY Entrepreneur Of The Year winners. The award is judged on the basis of six criteria, giving all country winners an equal opportunity to compete: entrepreneurial spirit, value creation, strategic direction, national and global impact, innovation and personal integrity/purpose-driven leadership. The judging panel this year included Rosario Bazán of DanPer (Peru), Diane Foreman of Chelsea Group Ltd (New Zealand), Ruigang Li of CMC Capital Partners (China), Jim Nixon of Nixon Energy Investments (the US) and Manny Stul of Moose Enterprise Holdings & Controlled Entities (Australia).
While the days were spent in earnest learning, the nights were for enjoyment — this was a time to truly celebrate the best in life. On the first night, all the winners were inducted into the EY Hall of Fame as Bryan Pearce, EY’s global leader for the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year programme, introduced each one on the illustrious stage of the Opéra de Monte-Carlo. The following night featured a more relaxed atmosphere that was designed to encourage conversation — the winners were able to mingle with each other in an informal setting, continuing the fellowship that had already begun earlier in the day.
The ultimate event was the black-tie gala itself, which was held in the hallowed halls of the Salles des Etoiles. A yellow carpet lined with the flags of all the winners’ countries was the perfect welcome and it led to a beautifully decorated dining room where champagne awaited — after all, aren’t endless flutes of bubbly the ultimate means of celebration? The country winners may not have been able to taste their three-course meal — spoiler alert: it was delicious — as it was only after dessert that Rubens was announced as EY’s World Entrepreneur Of The Year. The entire crowd erupted into applause, fireworks lit up the balmy summer sky and suddenly, it had all come to an end.
However, the work of the entrepreneur is never truly over. With their awards, the country winners shoulder the responsibility of continuing their life’s work and always keeping in mind the purpose that inspires them each and every day to do what they do.
This article first appeared on June 25, 2018 in The Edge Malaysia.