It's who you know: mentorship is alive and well
Funding is of course important, but I like to think that in the world of entrepreneurship, the personal connection counts for something big, too. This hit home at EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year 2014, the first week in June in Monaco. EY sponsored its Ready, Set Grow program in which seven high-potential entrepreneurs had a stage on which to showcase their companies and discuss their plans to scale up — and fast. The best thing: they were given feedback from a panel of successful entrepreneurs, and in this business, it takes one to know one!
Take Hendy Setiono, President of PT Baba Rafi. Starting out pushing a cart through the streets of Surabaya, Indonesia in 2003, he now has more than one thousand Kebab Turki Baba Rafi outlets, making his business the world's largest kebab chain. Still, he wants to expand to new markets — but knows that opportunity almost always includes some challenges.
He said the RSG program was like a dream come true – his mentors were upfront about explaining all the red flags that can crop up while thinking expansion. Setiono says he left Monaco with a new roadmap to prepare him for the real world as he pursues his next areas of conquest.
Michael Cohen and his wife Silvina Leidenberg have had great success taking Lolita, the tiny boutique owned by his mother and aunt, into a global apparel powerhouse. Today, Lolita is an international apparel brand in 17 countries.
The couple learned that the Great Recession turned out to be their biggest boon – as they expanded across Latin America to capitalize on the unique opportunity in the face of an economic downturn. They were pleased to get feedback on their new expansion plans to conquer the Middle East – now that their growth strategy looks solid.
Michael Sikorsky, CEO of Robots & Pencils Inc., is based in Canada but looking to up his app-gaming business in Asia. He was thrilled that his mentors could talk to him about the importance of the different cultures in the vast Asia area, and making sure he is aware of the nuances in each of the new countries in which he is looking to compete.
The home market of India is doing well by Kailash Katkar, who founded a computer service center, operating from a single room. Today, Quick Heal Technologies is one of the world's leading IT security companies.
He's happy with his "home town" success but is now looking to take his brand out into the world. He says he received great advice on what it means to have a truly global brand.
The opportunity to learn from the "best of the best" gave Hugo Moreno more ideas to solidify his strategy. Recognizing that low-income people in Mexico lacked an outlet for purchasing affordable eye glasses, Moreno founded Opticas Ver de Verdad. Today he operates a chain of eye-care shops across Mexico — but Moreno wants his "vision" to go further.
Keep going, keep growing – keep doing what it is entrepreneurs do to inspire us all and give us a better working world.