By: Jane Walsh
Amy, Andres Cardona (NFTE Class of 2010) and I had a terrific time in Monte Carlo! Not only was the setting spectacular, the event almost doubled in size in number of attendees over last year and included interesting speakers and panel sessions. Hats off to Maria Pinelli, NFTE Board Chairman, Herb Engert, and countless other Ernst & Young leaders who brought this all together.
Upon arriving in Nice, France, we each took a helicopter ride from the small Cote D’Azur airport over the Mediterranean Sea to Monte Carlo, Monaco. As you can imagine, despite a long day of travel, a helicopter is a pretty cool ride!
The opening night welcome reception was a lot of fun. We were greeted by a band of drummers at the entrance which was behind the famous Monte Carlo Casino Terrace, right on the water. The World Entrepreneur Of The Year® (WEOY) program is Maria Pinelli’s big event where all of the Entrepreneurs Of The Year® from all of Ernst & Young’s country programs come together to crown the overall worldwide winner. Maria took the spotlight, later joined by Ernst & Young COO John Ferarro, and together they announced all of the judges who had the difficult task of naming this year’s winner. They also brought on stage all of the contenders hailing from 46 countries - a dynamic group of people from every industry and all with a lot of passion for what they are doing.
We were able to meet many great entrepreneurs at this reception including: Hamdi Ulukaya, Chobani; Frank Jaehnert, Brady Corp ; Edgar Bronfman, Jr., Endeavor; Sheila Johnson, Salamander Resorts/Hotels and part owner of the Washington Wizards; Dan Cherian, Nike; Lorenzo Barrera Segovia, Banco Base (Mexico); Rodrigio Herra Aspra, Genomma Lab Int’l (Mexico).
Thursday night Amy and Andres were invited to a very private reception with His Excellency, the Minister of State of the Principality of Monaco. After that, we attended the country dinners- the Mexicans and Colombians can dance! Herb Engert and his team did a lovely job wining and dining all of us. For part of the evening, we enjoyed a blind wine tasting where each country shared a red and a white and each guest sipped, rated, and then used chips to cast their vote for top choice.
We had the chance to hear some incredibly terrific speakers during the days including:
· Dambisa Moyo, economist from Zambia– She informed us that India is growing by one million people per month, which she then she put into the context of youth unemployment.
· Sir Timothy Berners-Lee, founder of the worldwide web– He discussed how big paradigm shifts happen and how at the time when he was building the web he was doing it as a “side project”.
Friday we attended a dinner with Cirque du Soleil performers, food stations from around the world and a Beatles cover band, Let It Be, who performed a 90 minute set. They were really good and you might have mistaken them for the real thing!
Saturday morning, the three of us held a NFTE breakfast kicked off with Amy giving a presentation about NFTE as a growing global organization bringing urgency to the issues facing youth and the economy today. She explained how entrepreneurship education is an essential part of the solution to bring about sustainable change. Then Andres took the stage and gave an inspiring, endearing speech about NFTE’s effect on his life. Everyone was incredibly moved and won over. Herb Engert, Bryan Pearce and David Spreng also spoke eloquently about why they are involved with the organization and how much fun it is to be in classrooms and at events working with students. I always feel a tremendous sense of pride when there is this coming together of perspectives about why NFTE matters. I know for sure that everyone who attended came away wanting to get involved with us in some way.
After the breakfast, Amy, David & I went to the pavilion and listened to some of the final speakers – Mika Hakkinen and John Cleese. Eclectic to say the least!
That evening, Amy, Andres and I set off for what can only be described as a spectacular and memorable affair. A beautiful setting right on the Mediterranean Sea, the sun shining and every guest looking glamorous in their own right, the gala kicked off with the building’s roof opening up to shower the night’s sky with a colorful fireworks show. Then the formal agenda ensued, highlighting all of the 2013 country winners and offering a little bit of their stories all of which are quite impressive as you would expect, even including one story about one entrepreneur getting stranded at sea and it being a life changing moment to start a business. Among all of them was the consistent and profound spirit of ‘we are a community of entrepreneurs and we all have a responsibility to make the world a better place.’ Amidst the winner profiles, more daredevil, gravity defying performances were given by the Cirque du Soleil artists. And then the final moment had arrived … who would be crowned the 2013 World Entrepreneur Of The Year®? This year it went to Hamdi Ulukaya founder and CEO of Chobani!
As I said, the entire event was really remarkable – like the Oscars or Emmy’s of entrepreneurship – but when Hamdi gave his acceptance speech you knew you were among real people (sorry Hollywood). He expressed his happiness and how his family gave him the courage to create Chobani and that it was an honor to be an entrepreneur and he feels a deep sense of responsibility to do good for the world. And that as a Turkish-American he is inspired everyday by the idea that the American Dream is alive and well and there for the taking by EVERYONE and he wants to help more people achieve it.
This was a very fancy and exceptional experience for NFTE to be a part of and I am so glad we were part of it. Entrepreneurs are changing the world. NFTE’s work is really important and like Andres said in his speech at the NFTE breakfast, he plans to be on that stage in 10 years. I hope he is!!
I want to say a big THANK YOU to everyone at Ernst & Young for including NFTE. We are so proud to be partners.