Ambassador Lynda Blanchard Remarks at CEED/World Chicago “Start. Fail. Scale.”

Good morning, and thank you all for inviting me to join you. I couldn’t be happier to be among so many committed entrepreneurs from around the region.

Truth be told, I feel at home in the business community, and I appreciate the chance to share in the excitement today.

A warm welcome to my American friends visiting us from Chicago, and my sincere gratitude to Peggy and Alja and their teams for the hard work that went into organizing this important event.

Events like this one are so important to motivating the next generation of business leaders, and I’m happy that the United States is active in supporting these partnerships.

You all probably don’t know this, but today is a special day for me.

It is the one-month anniversary of my arrival in Slovenia. And I think it’s appropriate for me to share it with all of you, discussing this topic that’s so close to my heart.

Before I set foot in this beautiful country, I made a few things clear about where my priorities would lie as the U.S. Ambassador. And one of the most important areas I want to focus on is a priority shared by everyone in this room: economic prosperity.

In the short time I’ve been here already, I’ve become more encouraged about the possibilities to achieve great things within the business community.

The United States and Slovenia share so much already.  As the third largest source of foreign direct and indirect investment in Slovenia—valued at more than 2 billion dollars—the United States is proud of our dynamic economic relationship.

And in my view, that’s 2 billion reasons to work even harder to expand on our success.

I will continue to advocate for deeper, wider, and more expansive business and trade ties between our countries. As happy as we are to see American products in Slovenia, we also want to see more Slovenian products on American shelves.

Exports have been the engine of Slovenia’s economic growth in recent years, and we want to fuel that engine by welcoming more of them to U.S. markets while we encourage even more U.S. exports to Slovenia.

From small start-ups to well-established businesses, companies in both of our countries offer a wealth of expertise, innovation, and resourcefulness that, as a combined force, hold limitless potential to deepen our already strong commercial ties.

But there’s always room to grow.

In front of the United States Senate, and in conversations with the President and First Lady, I have repeatedly made clear that I will do everything within my power to attract more American investment to Slovenia.

And I intend to make good on that promise: to connect more American investors, and to empower the business communities in both of our countries to attract the capital, the people, and the knowledge that is necessary for our mutual success.

I am committed to these efforts; not just because I understand what businesses need to be competitive, but because I understand that success brings us closer together.

When we expand these economic ties, our people learn more about one another, and we build the basis for an even greater friendship.

But as all of you know, a successful, vibrant economy is not a product—it’s a system. A system that depends on the hard work, perseverance, and the commitment of those with vision, and a drive to succeed.

You all embody those characteristics, or you wouldn’t be here today.

Quite simply, without entrepreneurs, there is no business community.

There is not a single successful business in the world today that did not begin as an idea. From Google to General Electric, every business starts at the beginning.

And as the theme of your conference reveals, every successful business experiences failure.

Sometimes, repeatedly.

I should know. Because while I ultimately found success, it wasn’t without surviving my fair share of failures.

For nearly twenty-five years, I’ve experienced the exhilarating highs of seeing an investment pay off. And I’ve suffered the terrible disappointments of watching investments fail.

More times than I’d like to admit, I made an investment in something that sounded great. The returns were guaranteed, they said. The customers are there, we were promised.

That land. That building. That idea. They’re a sure thing.

But they weren’t.

Because in the business world, nothing is ever a sure thing.

Through all of those failures, I learned one important thing about myself—and something that I am sure applies to all of you: stick to what you know.

Don’t follow the returns—follow your instinct.

This is a lesson I would never have learned if I had experienced success after success.

No. Failure taught me this lesson. Not success.

And I became a better businesswoman—and a more successful one—for it.

Failure doesn’t just teach you about your business. It teaches you about yourselves.

You will never learn as much about your tolerance, resourcefulness, and resilience than you will through your worst failures.

And it will be what you learn about yourself—and about the teams that make your work possible—that will be your most important achievement.

Because without enduring failure, we can never hope to succeed.

So I’ll end today in an unconventional way.

I won’t wish you luck, or success.

Instead, I will hope that you each experience the failures that you need to become better leaders, and more successful innovators.

The failures that will make you understand your own limitations, and your hidden talents;

The failures that will make you retool that product for the tenth time, and find markets you never knew existed;

And the failures that will stay with you for a lifetime—a constant reminder of how far you’ve come, and how much you can achieve.

For our part, we will continue to support the efforts of entrepreneurs in Slovenia.

Each year, we work with World Chicago and CEED to find dedicated, energetic new participants for this amazing mentorship program. And we’ll continue that great work this year through our four Slovenian participants traveling to Chicago in October!

We will also build from this year’s success in sending so many qualified teams to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in the Netherlands. Among a crowded and incredible competitive slate of applicants, Slovenia stood out among the region.

We hope to see more of that same quality next year, and we’ll will work with our local partners to recruit more candidates, and make sure even more teams are competitive next year.

And we will of course continue our Summer Economics Institute—a yearly collaboration with the American Chamber of Commerce in Slovenia that helps prepare dozens of young students with the personal experience they need to succeed.

I wish all of you the success you deserve, the failure that will make you stronger, and the strength you need to persevere.

Thank you for inviting me, and I look forward to seeing what amazing things you will accomplish in the future.