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How to Nurture Impactful Entrepreneurship, According to EY’s Global Entrepreneurship Leader

The stories of three of EY’s Entrepreneurs of the Year showcase the importance of the work many entrepreneurs are doing now.

Photo courtesy of Brooke Cagle via Unsplash

If I told you that one of South Korea’s most successful entrepreneurs, Seo Jung-jin struggled to gain financial support for his pharmaceutical business in its early stages, perhaps you would not be surprised. After all, many early-stage, innovative businesses struggle to gain the funding they need to grow. However, if I told you that Seo once pledged his organs to obtain that much-needed funding, and after decades in the auto industry started a completely new venture, Celltrion Inc., at age 45, I’m sure you would be as shocked as I was. 

Seo’s business today is a multibillion-dollar pharmaceutical company, developing groundbreaking drugs to treat cancer, autoimmune diseases and COVID-19. It’s a mark of this incredible entrepreneur that he was willing to go to such extraordinary lengths to pursue his vision and create value that will benefit others. 

Another great example is Venezuela’s Lorenzo Mendoza. Mendoza’s family business, Empresas Polar, was founded by his grandfather 80 years ago as a family brewery. As Mendoza assumed the company’s leadership, the organization required resiliency and adaptability. As a result, Mendoza, his family and his team have grown the business into Venezuela’s largest privately owned company, as well as its most successful food and drink producer, expanding to more than 90 countries, all while dealing with a very tough business environment.

Mendoza is committed to his business and his country, which is demonstrated through the Empresas Polar Foundation, funding aid programs in food, health, education, sports and community development. Mendoza aspires to see other entrepreneurs in Venezuela succeed, so he funds entrepreneurship schools where students learn skills, such as how to create a business plan and register a company. Each year, Empresas Polar and its foundation programs benefit, directly and indirectly, around 20 percent of the population.

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Mendoza believes that you must have tremendous courage, strength and a long-term view to tackle the world’s biggest programs. “My convictions, principles, values, family and country are what matter the most,” he says. “Never give up; don’t leave behind what you built; don’t be afraid; and stand for what you believe, no matter the consequences.”

In both Seo and Mendoza’s cases, success didn’t necessarily come solely from their backs being against the wall. Rather, it’s clear that these entrepreneurs thrived when challenged to create a path through uncertainty. 

At the same time, perhaps learned from their experiences of failures and success, entrepreneurs have a great sense of how and when to support each other. It’s a theme I see repeated among the entrepreneurs I meet through the EY entrepreneurship programs. 

Another great example is Rasmina Gurbatova, who after founding her own successful jewelry business, Resm, recognized a clear need for more support for women entrepreneurs in Azerbaijan. “Entrepreneurship is a great thing because it allows you the freedom to create,” Gurbatova says. “Just imagine, you can put to practice all your ideas that you’ve got at any given time.”

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While the Azerbaijan government has been investing in the growth of its entrepreneurial ecosystem, entrepreneurs like Gurbatova have been adding their support to help their peers achieve their own goals. She cofounded the Azerbaijan Business Woman Association and is an alumna of the Vital Voices’ GROW fellowship, which celebrates and invests in female business owners. 

These three examples highlight that creating long-term value and a better world for others are core drivers for those entrepreneurs who will lead us toward a better future. 

3 Ways to Support Entrepreneurs

We can all do our part in nurturing the entrepreneurial mindset and helping bring unstoppable ideas to fruition. These three steps, all focused on empowering people, will help: 

  1. Stay curious and open-minded: Seeking out, listening to and engaging with the innovators of today and tomorrow shows us what is possible. While everyone might not have the capital to invest, everyone can support the growth of entrepreneurs by offering time and energy to hear them out, help shape their ideas, experiment and test, purchase their products and services and openly share their experiences to build excitement and momentum for what they are doing and offering.

Personally, I get the most joy out of asking our entrepreneurs questions so I can help them better connect the dots to build stronger companies that truly make a difference.

  1. Be a connector: It’s rare for entrepreneurs to achieve their mission “on their own.” People are the ultimate drivers of growth. An entrepreneur goes nowhere without a network. We can support entrepreneurs by opening doors to people, programs and ecosystems that will help them find a solution for their vision. Connecting entrepreneurs to the people and opportunities they need to grow is one of the most valuable forms of assistance—and often the easiest—their ecosystem can provide. 
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  1. Foster a diverse entrepreneurial ecosystem: Entrepreneurs thrive in vibrant local and global ecosystems where they can connect to customers, funders, talent, policymakers, peers and potential partners. Cultivating frequent and diverse opportunities to build these connections, share experiences and leading practices and build broad networks can ignite new ideas, inclusive growth and productive collaborations that unlock innovation. Additionally, EY programs like EY Entrepreneur of the Year, EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women, the EY Entrepreneur Access Network, EY Ripples-Impact Entrepreneurs and others provide a stage to showcase their purpose and passions to a wider audience for further growth, as well as inspiring other innovators to take the plunge.

I am optimistic about cultivating a diverse and unique worldwide entrepreneurial ecosystem as there’s more commonalities across entrepreneurship to build bridges and access. As we look ahead, engaging these changemakers and empowering them to realize their ambitions will be the key to building a better world.  

Stasia Mitchell is EY’s Global Entrepreneurship Leader. 

The views reflected in this article are the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the global EY organization or its member firms.

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