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16 February 2012

Ernst & Young: Entrepreneur of the Year 2011 Awards

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Jannis Samaras, Chairman of the Board of Directors and CEO of Kofola S.A., won the prestigious Entrepreneur Of The Year award for 2011. Czech Minister of Finance Miroslav Kalousek and Magdalena Souček, Country Managing Partner of Ernst & Young, presented the winner with the trophy at the Prague Žofín Palace on 15 February 2012. The contest has been organized by Ernst & Young in the Czech Republic since 2000. The Technology Entrepreneur Of The Year award went to Jaroslav Klíma, Chairman of the Board of Directors of TESCAN, a.s.,  Marek Potysz of MOJE AMBULANCE a.s. was awarded the Emerging Entrepreneur Of The Year title. This year‘s recipient of the Social Entrepreneur Of The Year title is Dolores Czudková of the civic association Ergon – Chráněná dílna. 
I am standing here thanks to all the people at Kofola, my colleagues, and the team which is taking Kofola forward with me. I know they will be very happy. Thank you Kofola,” said the winner Jannis Samaras, giving his first impressions.
 “I believe Jannis Samaras of Kofola and his business story will equally impress the judges at the world finals in Monte Carlo and he and Kofola will successfully represent entrepreneurs from the Czech Republic,” says Magdalena Souček, Country Managing Partner of Ernst & Young in the Czech Republic, adding, “Through this competition we not only aspire to award outstanding entrepreneurs, but also to boost business development in the country. Among the nominees are those who started a business in a garage twenty years ago, and also those who have managed to continue the tradition by picking up the family business founded a century ago. The contestants have built companies capable of succeeding in tough competition, and some built unique ventures that have no competition at all. They comprise both seasoned veterans we admire and up-and-coming entrepreneurs we are rooting for.

Winner profile: Jannis Samaras, Kofola

Jannis Samaras was born in Czechoslovakia to Greek parents with an entrepreneurial spirit. Up to this day, Mr. Samaras considers his father Kostas his best business role model. He started his business in 1990 with three partners, René Sommer, Tomáš Jendřejk and René Musila, and it was a perfect match, as he is fond of reiterating. Kofola is currently one of the leading producers of soft drinks in Central Europe with nearly 2,000 employees in seven production plants and four markets. Nowadays, Czechs can hardly imagine a summer without drinking draft Kofola, while US competitors keep wondering what is going on in the Czech lands. The company’s product portfolio comprises also a slew of fruit drinks, syrups and concentrates marketed under the name Jupí, in addition to Top Topic and Vinea soda drinks, Jupík favored by children, Rajec natural water, and genuine RC Cola. Last year, after Kofola had acquired Pinelli, it began production of energy drinks Semtex and Erektus. In 2008, when expanding into the highly competitive Polish market, the Kofola-Hoop group took another major step by teaming up with a new investor, Enterprise Investors. But the majority stake of the company remains in the hands of the Czech owners. Jannis Samaras envisions the future in making smart and well thought-out innovations and acquisitions. And his recipe for success? He believes the Kofola team stays ahead of the competition mainly due to creative marketing and product innovations. Accountability, employing one’s own methods with gusto and putting the heart in one’s job are, in his opinion, the key qualities of good entrepreneurship. Mr. Samaras has little leisure time, so whatever he gets he saves for his family. His personal motto? It probably won’t be so surprising it’s the well-known slogan, “When you love it, everything’s right.”


The other Entrepreneur Of The Year finalists were:

Pavel Bouška, BRIT – VAFO PRAHA s.r.o.
Miloslav Pavlas, KOVOLIS HEDVIKOV a.s.
Kamil Vacek, TCCM s.r.o.
Jaroslav Klíma, TESCAN, a.s.
The winner of the Technology Entrepreneur Of The Year award for 2011 is Jaroslav Klíma of TESCAN. The company ranks among major manufacturers of electron microscopes worldwide.
The title of Emerging Entrepreneur Of The Year, designed for entrepreneurs who have been in business for less than five years, was awarded to Marek Potysz of MOJE AMBULANCE.
Ernst & Young and the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship this year presented the Social Entrepreneur Of The Year award to Dolores Czudková of the civic association Ergon – Chráněná dílna.
The recipient of the MF DNES and Reader’s Award for the “Best business story” is Jaroslav Zeman of DETOA Albrechtice. The company’s core business is manufacture of wood toys and beads and playing mechanisms for upright pianos and grand pianos.
The Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year 2011 competition is open to any company owner or manager with a 20% or greater ownership interest in the company, or a co-owner of a public company who is primarily responsible for its performance and is an active member of top management. The company must be at least 2 years old. The competition is co-organized by the MF Dnes daily and GfK Czech, Raiffeisenbank and  Accredio are the competition partners. Support is also provided by the CzechInvest agency, the TUESDAY Business Network, the Czech Venture Capital Association and US Business School Praha. Media partners are the EURO weekly and Český rozhlas Radiožurnál.
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