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The Most Powerful Moments from 2016 EY World Entrepreneur of the Year

Merlin Piscitelli, Head of Merrill DataSite Sales - Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) | June 18, 2016

Life is never dull in Monaco. This last week brought some of the leading minds in business to the French Riviera to recognize and support purpose-driven entrepreneurs for the Ernst & Young 2016 World Entrepreneur of the Year event. Merrill is proud to have played a key role — both sponsoring and participating in the nominee interview process — for the third straight year. I had the opportunity attend the event, and I think it’s safe to say everyone came away more than a little inspired.

Here are a few of my favorite, most inspirational moments:

  • This year’s World Entrepreneur of the Year, Manny Stul of Moose Enterprises, shared his incredible story, showing the crowd what true dedication and perseverance looks like. Since joining Moose in 2000, he’s grown sales by an almost unbelievable 7,200%, turning a small a 10-person toy company into a 200-employee juggernaut. Moose now has sales in more than 80 countries and is the no. 6 toy company in the U.S. Manny also led the company through a disastrous 2007 product recall that most predicted would sink the toy maker. They surged back, and last year beat out Barbie for one of the premier American toy awards.

    But Manny’s achievements at Moose aren’t even the most incredible part of his story. Manny was born in a refugee camp to Polish parents who fled Communist control and Nazi threats. After this challenging childhood, he worked construction to save money to start his first business in 1973, which he eventually sold for more than $11 million.

    Manny’s humble roots impart a strong sense of social purpose in his business efforts. Moose Enterprises strives toward a simple mission — “making children happy” — and the Moose Foundation delivers 10 percent of Moose profits to philanthropic efforts to help less-fortunate children around the world.

    It was powerful to hear Manny share how the Entrepreneur of the Year interview process helped him realize that he had an important story to tell — that telling his story could help him and his company inspire people and do more good for the world. He capped off his acceptance speech by calling on his peers to “do something positive.

  • Listening to keynote speaker Amal Clooney, the renowned human rights lawyer whose humbling achievements overshadow her famous husband, George Clooney. Amal was born in Lebanon and talked about her efforts to support Syrian refugees. She called on businesses everywhere to “step up and take some responsibility” for the social challenges of both local and global communities.

  • Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, is quite possibly the most inspirational and moving speaker I’ve ever seen. Paul was introduced as “a CEO amongst CEOs,” and he didn’t disappoint. He shared how he’s infused an enormous corporate entity with a purpose-driven culture that permeates every division. Each product line has its own purpose statement. For example, a portion of profits from Unilever’s bathroom cleaning products division goes toward building toilets and bathroom facilities in the developing world to help reduce disease and other health issues. Paul called on business leaders to take responsibility for creating a society that’s sustainable, including working to encompass and support those people less fortunate than you.

  • Talking with several of the national winners in attendance. The program selects winners at regional and national levels for more than 60 countries. Almost 50 of those winning entrepreneurs were in Monaco, and each has demonstrated impressive and sustainable growth while making a definitive contribution to the social good. U.S. winner Dr. Jan Lichtenberg’s InSphero Group has revolutionized testing procedures in the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries. The innovative technology catches adverse effects at an earlier stage, reducing R&D costs and dramatically speeding a drug’s time to market. In essence, they’re bringing cheaper drugs to the public, faster.

Merrill is thrilled to be a part of this powerful program. It’s an honor to help recognize these inspiring leaders and support them in continuing to grow and achieve their greater purpose. Being part of the program also provides an incredible learning opportunity for all of us at Merrill. Many of us here at Merrill had a chance to interview multiple candidates at both the regional and world levels. Learning about the challenges facing today’s growing businesses provides invaluable insight to help us better serve their needs. Hearing their inspirational stories and seeing their dedication to social good reinforces our own sense of purpose and culture.

It certainly left a mark on me.

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