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Blog Category: Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship

PAGE Entrepreneurs in Their Own Words – Hamdi Ulukaya

PAGE Entrepreneurs in Their Own Words – Hamdi Ulukaya

Born into a family of Turkish cheese and yogurt makers, Hamdi Ulukaya landed in New York at the age of 23 with a little money and the intent of learning English. That plan soon turned into a dream of producing affordable, natural Greek yogurt in the United States, and providing more access to delicious, healthy food.

In 2005, the Turkish cheese-maker received a piece of junk mail from a local real-estate company – the local Kraft Foods plant closed down. Ulukaya saw this as an opportunity and bought the plant with the help of a loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration. He spent the next 18 months learning everything he could to create the perfect Greek yogurt recipe. In 2007, Chobani (meaning shepherd in Turkish) opened for business.

From a factory that has grown from five employees to two plants in the US, Chobani is the  #1 yogurt brand in the US with $1 billion in revenue.

Forbes has called him “the Steve Jobs of yogurt” and Ernst & Young named Ulukaya the World Entrepreneur of the Year in 2013.

As a believer in “doing good business,” Ulukaya created the Chobani Foundation which directs 10% of brand profits to charitable groups working for positive and long lasting change.

“A cup of yogurt won’t change the world, but how we make it just might,” Ulukaya said.

Earlier this month, Ulukaya launched the Chobani Food Incubator to inspire more entrepreneurship in the food industry – and to make “Good food for more people.” He wants to start a food revolution and help nurture, support and celebrate today’s entrepreneurs.

As an inaugural member of the Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship (PAGE) initiative, Ulukaya wants to help more Americans and people around the world believe in and gain access to their own dreams. Among the many events he has attended to inspire others by sharing his entrepreneurial journey, Ulukaya recently participated in the Social Innovation Summit and Entrepreneurship Summit, both hosted in New York City.

Secretary Pritzker Celebrates Female Entrepreneurs during Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

Secretary Pritzker Celebrates Female Entrepreneurs during Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker celebrated Women’s Entrepreneurship Day this week as part of the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in Marrakesh, Morocco. Secretary Pritzker helped lead the U.S. delegation to the Summit to demonstrate the U.S. government’s continued commitment to fostering entrepreneurship around the world. More than 3,000 entrepreneurs at all stages of business development, business leaders, mentors and high-level government officials gathered for the 5th Annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit. 

At last year’s GES in Malaysia, President Obama asked Secretary Pritzker to chair the Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship (PAGE) initiative, and she convened the first-ever meeting of that group this past April. PAGE is made up of 11 well-known American entrepreneurs who are dedicating their time and resources to inspiring the next generation of entrepreneurs in the U.S. and abroad. Three PAGE members joined the Secretary at this year’s GES, including Alexa von Tobel, Founder and CEO of Learnvest, Daphne Koller, Co-Founder and President of Coursera, and Hamdi Ulukaya, Founder and CEOS of Chobani.  

In honor of Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, Secretary Pritzker delivered the keynote address to approximately 300 women entrepreneurs. She discussed America’s leadership in empowering entrepreneurs at home and abroad and touted how a strong entrepreneurial society can lead to greater economic growth, stability and security, and a rising middle class. During her remarks, she also addressed the challenges that face women entrepreneurs today including lack of access to capital, training in vocational and technical skills, and access to information and technology. Structural obstacles also create enormous difficulties for women and men who want to grow a new business and Secretary Pritzker highlighted some of those obstacles. Secretary Pritzker discussed how female entrepreneurs all over the world need a change in culture to support their work. She expressed that countries need a strong educational system that produces students able to think broadly and creatively, and to accept and take risks while also stressing that countries need to have laws that make it easy for innovators to both start a company and wind it down. 

During her first day in Morocco, the Secretary also spoke with representatives from 80 American Chambers of Commerce headquartered throughout Africa, who were also gathered in Marrakesh for the Global Entrepreneurship Summit. She discussed the Department’s Doing Business in Africa campaign, designed to leverage the power of the U.S. business community in Africa and encouraged U.S. trade promotion and investment to all regions of Africa. 

PAGE Entrepreneurs in Their Own Words – Daphne Koller

PAGE Entrepreneurs in Their Own Words – Daphne Koller

Daphne Koller began her career in education when she joined the Computer Science Department at Stanford University in September 1995. While she enjoyed teaching and leading research on probability theory and artificial intelligence, Koller thought about new ways that could engage more people in education – she wanted to share it with everyone, not just her students. 

In 2012, Koller and a fellow professor, Andrew Ng, started Coursera, a leading platform of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), to change education globally. Their vision was to provide universal access to the world’s best education.

As the co-founder and president of Coursera Inc., Koller has made all of her company’s online courses accessible for free. It gives both students and universities the opportunity to experiment with online education pedagogy and combine online course materials with on-campus learning experience.

“Education is the great motivator of people to achieve access to a better life,” she said. 

Koller is ranked among the CNBC’s NEXT List, which includes entrepreneurs and executives who are working on innovative solutions to global challenges. Time Magazine has recognized her as one of the “100 Most Influential People for 2012,” and Fast Company has named her a “creative leader” in the Most Creative People in Business 1000 list. 

With the advancement of technology, Koller is able to promote higher education to a new level. The company now offers over 800 online courses instructed by professors at 115 colleges and other institutions, including some of the Ivy Leagues schools – Yale University, Columbia University, University of Pennsylvania, and Princeton University. Coursera now attracts more than 10 million users from every corner of the world. 

After two years of being a professor and running her company, Koller chose to devote all her time to Coursera. She considers entrepreneurship as the basis for prosperity and stability, and sees the PAGE initiative as a way to make this area available to everyone in the United States and other countries.

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker has expressed her admiration for Koller’s bold entrepreneurial decision to bring change to the world.  During the armchair discussion to mark the one-year anniversary of the “Open for Business Agenda,” a policy priorities framework that she laid out last year, Secretary Pritzker said, “A good idea is a good idea. It doesn’t matter if it comes from a 50 year-old, or 22 year-old or a 19 year-old.”

This week, Koller joined Secretary Pritzker at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Marrakesh, Morocco. She gave a presentation on innovation, technology and entrepreneurship, and discussed ways to empower entrepreneurs to turn their ideas into successful businesses, grow their ventures, and ultimately create jobs.

PAGE Entrepreneurs in Their Own Words – Rich Barton

PAGE Entrepreneurs in Their Own Words – Rich Barton

Has Expedia helped you find the best deal for your vacation? Ever used Glassdoor to compare the salaries of different jobs or help you negotiate your next raise? Or have you looked up a Zestimate on Zillow to discover your next home? If you answered yes to any of these questions, the man behind these revolutionary companies is someone you should know. 

As a founder of these three major businesses, Rich Barton believes bringing the power of information and transparency to the people.
 
“All of my companies are about what I call ‘power to the people,’ bringing the power of information and transparency to regular folks so that they can take control of big decisions in their lives,” Barton said.
 
While working at Microsoft as a product manager in the 1990s, Barton felt frustrated every time he had to talk to somebody on the phone to book a flight or plan a business trip. He wanted to jump through the phone, grab the computer screen, and make the decisions himself. That’s when he decided to channel his frustration into a solution.
 
Barton directly pitched his bosses at the time – Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates – on the idea that Expedia could become the largest seller of travel in the world. They bit. He assembled a great team from across Microsoft and began to build Expedia inside the company. Expedia grew quickly and in 1999, Barton persuaded Microsoft’s leadership to spin out Expedia into an independent company.

PAGE Entrepreneurs in Their Own Words -- Nina Vaca

PAGE Entrepreneurs in Their Own Words -- Nina Vaca

The daughter of entrepreneurs, Nina Vaca grew up believing that entrepreneurship and civic leadership went hand-in-hand.  

She likes to say that she “had a front row seat to what it meant to be an entrepreneur,” working in the family travel agency business by day and attending chamber and civic events at night. 

Since starting her award-winning IT services firm in 1996, Vaca has continued that legacy both as an entrepreneur and a visible leader and advocate in the business community. 

Goldman Sachs has called her one of its “Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs,” Ernst & Young has inducted her into its prestigious Hall of Fame for entrepreneurs, and NBC has called her an “Innovator.” 

Today, Vaca owns and operates The Pinnacle Group, which includes several companies founded by Vaca, including its flagship, Pinnacle Technical Resources, Inc., an award-winning information technology services provider to the Fortune 500 founded in 1996, and Provade, Inc., a global provider of vendor management software that Pinnacle acquired in 2011. Pinnacle is also a partner in My Plates, which is the sole provider of specialty license plates in the state of Texas, contributing millions of dollars in revenues to the state each year. 

Vaca sits on the corporate board of Comerica Bank, Kohl’s Coporation and was elected to the board of Cinemark, Inc. Nov. 13, 2014. 

She is strongly committed to philanthropic efforts and is a passionate advocate of issues impacting women and Hispanics in business. Through the USHCC Foundation, Vaca founded At the Table, an initiative supporting women entrepreneurs and business professionals, propelling them to higher levels of success and influence. Vaca was named Chairman of the USHCC Foundation in June 2014. 

In May, Vaca embarked on a trade mission to Ghana, along with Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and 20 American business delegates. Vaca met with local African business leaders at the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) and Stanford Institute for Innovation in Developing Economies (SEED), where she shared her story of both success and failure to encourage others to become problem solvers with a perseverant attitude. 

What excites Nina Vaca the most about PAGE is “the opportunity to inspire other entrepreneurs to do exactly what I’ve had the opportunity to do – start a business with a vision and a dream and have access to all the right networks that can help you succeed.”

PAGE Entrepreneurs in Their Own Words – Tory Burch

Chief Executive Officer, Tory Burch; Founder Tory Burch Foundation

With a father who designed his own clothes and a mother who was an actress, fashion was always in Tory Burch’s DNA.

Having worked for world renowned fashion designers including Ralph Lauren and Vera Wang, Burch left her successful career in public relations to raise her three young children. At age 37, she started the Tory Burch company at the kitchen table in her Manhattan apartment. Her vision: to create designs that are both classic and affordable.

From one single storefront on 257 Elizabeth Street, Burch has grown her namesake brand into a fashion empire in less than 10 years. Her company, valued at more than $3.5 billion, now has more than 140 stores in 50 countries and over 2,000 employees. The collection includes ready-to-wear, shoes, handbags, accessories, watches, home, fragrance and beauty.

Bloomberg Businessweek describes her as “a shrewd designer and businesswoman”, and the Telegraph describes her as “serene, approachable, wholesomely chic in the great outdoorsy, pragmatic American tradition.” Burch has consistently been included on Forbes’ list of “The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women.”

As an entrepreneur and a member of PAGE, Burch has two top priorities: to serve as a mentor to aspiring entrepreneurs, and to help young innovators access the capital they need to turn their bright ideas into thriving business enterprises.

Burch created the Tory Burch Foundation (TBF) in 2009 to support the economic empowerment of women entrepreneurs and their families. It provides women with access to capital, mentoring and networking opportunities, as well as entrepreneurial education.

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Tory Burch - In Her Own Words

PAGE Entrepreneurs in Their Own Words – Alexa von Tobel

Alexa von Tobel

When she was graduating from college, Alexa von Tobel realized she had received no guidance on personal finance. Her personal experience inspired her to start a company when she was just 25, with the hopes that she could make personal investing and budgeting approachable. The online financial planning company LearnVest has now brought financial planning to thousands of Americans, making it more accessible and affordable than ever before.

Forbes calls her a “personal finance guru,” Fortune has named her as a “Most Powerful Women Entrepreneur,” and Marie Claire Magazine chose her as one of 18 Women Changing the World.

As an inaugural member of the Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship (PAGE) initiative, von Tobel believes that “if you can teach people that they can believe in themselves and take their little seed of an idea and feed it properly, that not only can we change the economy, the country, but maybe even the globe.”

Cosmopolitan says that “When you talk to her, it’s a bit like talking to a Roman candle, just fully on fire, and all sorts of interesting colors are coming out of her.”

With a palpable enthusiasm for encouraging others to follow their passions, von Tobel shared her experiences and expertise at the inaugural Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Summit. Launched in 2014, YALI is a signature effort that connects young African leaders to leadership training opportunities at some of America’s top universities to help expand their skills and knowledge so they can foster entrepreneurial change in their communities and countries.

PAGE Entrepreneurs in Their Own Words – Steve Case

Steve Case, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Revolution Enterpreneurial and Ambassador, Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship

His first job out of college was at Procter & Gamble, and a few years later he became a marketer for Pizza Hut. You may now know him as the co-founder of AOL who ultimately brought generations of Americans online and made “You’ve got mail” a household phrase. You may also recognize him as an independent with friends in both political parties, who helped broker some of the finer points of the JOBS Act, the legislative package of bills that ease regulations on startups and potential Initial Public Offerings (IPOs).

Today, Steve Case is the founder and partner of Revolution, a Washington, D.C.-based investment firm that believes great companies and ideas can be found throughout the country, not just in Silicon Valley.

Bloomberg Businessweek says he’s an “in-demand cheerleader for entrepreneurism,” and Entrepreneur Magazine calls him the “Disrupter-in-Chief” and an “online pioneer [who] is bringing big ideas to life – through drive, leadership and a personal touch.” 

Steve Case was appointed by President Barack Obama to be chairman of the Startup America Partnership, a nonprofit that fosters private-sector investment into job creation. He also joined the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, where he helped lead a subcommittee looking at job creation and entrepreneurship.

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Download the video: 
Read the transcript: 
PAGE Ambassador Steve Case Transcript

Countdown to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit

Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship Graphic

President Obama believes "Entrepreneurs embody the promise of America: the idea that if you have a good idea and are willing to work hard and see it through, you can succeed in this country. And in fulfilling this promise, entrepreneurs also play a critical role in expanding our economy and creating jobs."

With that in mind, the President announced in 2009 the creation of the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES), a platform intended to facilitate the exchange of views and ideas between global business leaders and entrepreneurs and strengthen alliances among them. Previous summits have been hosted by the United States, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and Malaysia.

At last year’s GES in Malaysia, President Obama asked Secretary Pritzker to chair the Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship (PAGE), making her the Administration's point person on entrepreneurship. In April, Secretary Pritzker chaired the first PAGE meeting, bringing together a group of America’s most inspiring innovators to serve as ambassadors for global entrepreneurship.

Six months later, the PAGE initiative continues to gain momentum, with PAGE members actively engaged in promoting innovation here at home and abroad.

To celebrate six months of the PAGE initiative, we are launching a video blog series, featuring our very own PAGE members who will share with you why entrepreneurship is important and why it is integral that the public and private sectors work together to make our economy stronger and more innovative.

Please visit http://beta.commerce.gov/PAGE to learn more about PAGE and the ambassadors who are committed to sharing their time, energy, ideas, and experience to help develop the next generation of entrepreneurs in the United States and around the world.

Among many events, here is a sample of what PAGE members have been doing to create an environment where creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship can grow and thrive.

Secretary Pritzker and Three PAGE Ambassadors to Attend Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Marrakech, Morocco

Secretary Pritzker and the Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship meet with President Obama in the White House's Roosevelt Room.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker will attend the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES), which will take place November 19-21 in Marrakech, Morocco to demonstrate the U.S. government’s continued commitment to fostering entrepreneurship around the world. On November 19, her activities will focus specifically on Women’s Entrepreneurship Day. This year’s summit marks the fifth annual gathering of entrepreneurs at all stages of business development, business leaders, mentors, and high-level government officials.

Entrepreneurship is key to unlocking economic growth and creating jobs, and the U.S. government leads numerous programs and initiatives to improve enabling environments and to make tools and networks available to individual entrepreneurs. At last year’s GES in Malaysia, President Obama asked Secretary Pritzker to chair the Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship (PAGE) initiative, and she was happy to assume her role as the Administration’s point person on entrepreneurship. In April, Secretary Pritzker chaired the first PAGE meeting, bringing together a group of America’s most inspiring innovators to serve as ambassadors for global entrepreneurship.

Six months later, Secretary Pritzker has arranged PAGE-related events on four continents since the program’s launch, and the PAGE initiative continues to gain momentum, with PAGE members actively engaged in promoting innovation here at home and abroad. The following PAGE members will join Secretary Pritzker in Morocco to serve as entrepreneurship ambassadors and to share their knowledge and experience to help develop the next generation of entrepreneurs around the world: