Inge Dinnessen-Dassen (left) and Katja Hilckmann © EY
Author profile picture

The entrepreneur is the driving force behind a company. That is why EY has been awarding an entrepreneurial prize for more than twenty years. Successful entrepreneurs from sixty different countries are then presented with an Entrepreneur of the Year Award. “We don’t look at the company, but at the entrepreneur themselves. Her or his vision, passion and strategic direction, personal integrity and influence and social and international impact are what are most important,” says Inge Dinnessen, manager at EY.

There are two categories that fall under the Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Large companies with established entrepreneurs are the focus of the main category. Entrepreneurs Jan-Renier Swinkel from Bavaria and Tijn van Elderen from Brabantia have already won the award. This year, among others Jeroen van Glabbeek of from Breda has been nominated. There is also an Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year, a young entrepreneur who is in charge of a successful start-up or scale-up. Lex Hoefsloot of Lightyear from Helmond is one of the nominees this year. Twelve entrepreneurs will participate in this category, which is far more than the number of participants in the main category. Four people get to take part in this category.

Young entrepreneurs with an innovative perspective

The up-and-coming entrepreneurs will present themselves to an independent jury chaired by Jan Kees de Jager on September the 4th. The jury will select the four entrepreneurs who will go through to the national final to be held on October the 2nd. “There are tough selection criteria which an entrepreneur must meet in order to be able to participate,” says Dinnessen. “This is not just about financial and quantifiable criteria, such as turnover. It is also about issues such as sustainability and social responsibility,” states Katja Hilckmann, Associate Partner at EY. ” Innovation plays an important role in this category. Companies often need an innovative aspect in order to be able to grow so quickly.”

Furthermore, Dinnessen believes that the motivation of the entrepreneurs in this category is also very special. “Young entrepreneurs want to make an impact by finding solutions for global social problems. A high salary and good terms of employment are less important in this respect,” she says. “They no longer think in terms of a product that they want to put on the market. They look for the optimum solution to a problem and build a business around it.” The manager sees this as a new type of entrepreneur which in turn creates a completely different dynamic within a company.

International event in Monaco

The four participants in the main category do not need to go through a preliminary round. They will be only be presenting their pitches in the National Final. The winner in that category will go on to the International Entrepreneur of the Year event in Monaco. “It is such a wonderful event where entrepreneurs from all over the world meet and share experiences”, says Hilckmann. “That’s why the winner in the emerging category is also allowed to come to Monaco. It’s an interesting and inspiring experience.”

Further growth as an entrepreneur

Aside from receiving a great deal of credit, entrepreneurs in both categories will be given pitch training, access to a large network and an EY strategy session. The pitch training will be very useful during the jury day and the national finals. “The founder of the company or the inventor of the idea is not always the one who is best equipped to tell the story,” explains Hilckmann. ” With the help of the training, we make sure that the entrepreneur is able to tell their own story.” Besides the pitch training, the participants also participate in a strategy session. “During this session, they and their management team will draw up a roadmap based on the seven pillars in order to ensure sustainable growth. These concern: customer, transactions, digital, people and culture, business operations, funding and risk. Per pillar they discuss where they stand as a company and where they want to go. They then determine the concrete steps that need to be taken in order to achieve these goals.”

Women in the minority

It is noticeable that there are few women among the nominees. According to Dinnessen and Hilckmann, there are two important reasons for this. “In percentage terms, there are just not as many female entrepreneurs as there are male entrepreneurs. In addition, women are often too modest to come to the forefront on their own. They frequently state that they do everything together with their team and so do not want to be on stage by themselves.”

Yet male entrepreneurs often emphasize that they do everything together with their team as well, adds Hilckmann. “Almost every entrepreneur starts or ends his or her pitch this way.” That is to the credit of entrepreneurs. “A company is made up of people as a whole. It grows through the input of various employees, but started with the vision of that one entrepreneur. That’s what makes the award so interesting.”

EY will once more be presenting an Entrepreneur of the Year Award next year. Are you or do you know a successful entrepreneur? Sign up or nominate someone else via this link.