development area

An Interview with Antnony Melikhov

Anthony Melikhov captured the American Dream when he ventured to the United States from Belarus. Taking the pharmaceutical sector by storm he founded a company which became one of the largest pharmaceutical enterprises in the former Soviet Union and eventually entire Eastern Europe. Today he has moved his focus to shift today’s philanthropic consciousness in a movement known as unite4: good. With high-profile supporters already on board to help inspire and lead the movement, including President Bill Clinton and Eva Longoria, unite 4: good is set to make an extraordinary impact.

You have an incredible background. Could you tell us a bit about your story?

I was born and lived in a former country of the Soviet Union, Belarus. At the time when my wife was pregnant with our daughter we left the country for the United States. As immigrants in Chicago we did not have anything. We had no money and I could not speak the language. 

I started an over-the-counter pharmaceutical business together with two of my friends and partners, which we developed from ground zero with an entire brand line. We eventually had presence in each of the different markets in Eastern Europe and hundreds of millions in sales. 

Whilst I was president, I eventually felt disconnected, disengaged and unhappy to continue my corporate life. In 2008, pharmaceutical giant Bayer Pharmaceuticals purchased the company and suddenly I was free.

I started looking for my cave and I found my cave in the jungles of Panama, one of the most pristine places I had ever seen. I spent one year away from this world focusing my time on meditation and Thai Chi. However, I found that I still needed something else and I realised there is a higher purpose in this life. So I came back to Chicago and that’s when my philanthropic walk started. 

You have had a great deal of success in the pharmaceutical sector. What motivated you to work in this field?

We have to remember that when the Soviet Union disintegrated it became a completely different society. The pharmaceutical industry in the former Soviet Union was very underdeveloped, especially in the over the counter sector. When we came to the United States my good friends and I saw quite a substantial difference in perception of over the counter products; products with bright labels and very easily accessible. We saw the opportunity to introduce these products in Eastern Europe, where branded products did not yet have a presence. 

Why did you decide to leave the pharmaceutical sector?

At some point we start thinking about the purpose of this life. No matter how much money you have or how much power it gives you, it is only temporary pleasure. In order to become a happy and joyful person you need something more. I realised that no matter how much I do, how much wealth I accumulate or power, I am not happy. I still desire something else. I am also lucky enough to have my wife who is very spiritual and who is a genuine person; she lives by giving back. She was a big inspiration for me.

Could you tell us more about establishing Bright Future and the programmes it runs for children?

Initially we started establishing Bright Future International with the purpose to help children in different parts of the world to learn kindness, compassion, empathy and love. Those are the values that are universal. We wanted to give children from unprivileged communities a chance to connect with those values through a discipline: art and music, for example. The programme expanded to Russia, Rwanda, Kenya, and Central America, such as Panama. In Russia we helped families of criminals, drug addicts and alcoholics, for example; In Rwanda we helped children in families affected by HIV and Aids; and in Kenya it was refugees from neighbouring countries, such as Somalia. We wanted to teach children to become happy.

Unite4: good was only launched early last year but has already made substantial headway in uniting non-profits and inspiring individuals to volunteer. Could you tell us a bit more about what motivated you to create this organisation? 

At Bright Future International we eventually came to the conclusion that we needed to do something more. We found that the core root of the human problem is in effect that we live in a negative society. All you have to do is turn on the TV, listen to the radio, or read newspapers and the stories are filled with a society which has been disempowered by scandals, wars and violence. 

In response, we decided to create a movement which we called unite4: good. The idea is to create an alternative society to foster completely different values. We wanted to aggregate positive energy that comes from activities such as volunteering and selflessness; we wanted to amplify this to the world. To make people realise that acts of kindness can be very simple, easy, and fashionable; making acts of kindness a global brand. 

There is an enormous explosion of social consciousness. Here in the United States we have 1.7 million non-profit organisations. There were only 250,000 organisations less than 10 years ago. Many organisations are still underfunded. However, we can do more if we can unite our efforts. 

There are 4 major factors that will shift people to become part of the movement: 1-Motivation; 2- Entertainment; 3- Modern technology; 4- Sense of Unity. 

We are building a platform which we internally call a Facebook for charity, bringing together a multitude of non-profit organisations and uniting people with those organisations. One way in which we will motivate the youth to volunteer is through a point system. For example, if you go to a nearby shelter to help the homeless you may get 5 points to redeem for a free latte from Starbucks. For 20 points you may have a chance to speak to your favourite celebrity, such as Eva Longoria or for 50 points you could visit an eco-resort in Costa Rica. This is a way, especially for young people, to be entertained. We anticipate over a period of time those people that need motivation at some point will realise that these activities are rewarding by themselves. They will motivate others and will have a snowball effect. 

Note from our Editor: On February 27th, 2014, unite4:good will hold a celebration of philanthropy calledunite4:humanity. The event will be held at the Sony Studios in Los Angeles, CA and will feature everyday heroes, philanthropically minded celebrities and musical performances by Grammy-winning artists. The goal of the event is to empower and inspire individuals to make a positive difference in their communities, and to create awareness for the unite4:good philanthropic social networking platform that u4:g is set to unveil early this year.