Life is short, travel more.

An entrepreneur, child of the world, who has made of his life a journey and the journey his life. Manager, traveller and founder of Wisshh.

Merih’s life seems to be the script of a counterintelligence movie. When people ask him where he was born, he uses to reply: “It depends”. Son of diplomats – American Turkish mother and Italian father – he believes he was born in 1970 in Turkey. But he is not 100% sure. What he is sure of is that he grew up between Naples, Rome and Istanbul, and that he studied in the US where he started his first professional life: the basketball player. Yet, everything changed when his diplomatic documents that allowed him to live in the US were withdrawn. So Merih re-invents himself and started to work in tourist villages. He started to travel the world, but in 2001 another event changed his life and Merih returned to Italy, where his third professional life began: the corporate manager. He started to work as sales manager for some companies. He likes the job and it leads him to travel the world, but he starts having the necessity to work on something of his own. So, one day, during one of his many trips, he has an idea: to create a bag that re-invents the hand baggage concept. And hence, the Wisshh Bag was born. Merih participated in the Shark Tank television program and managed to collect the first funds needed to open the company, starting his fourth professional life: the entrepreneur.

Interview

Can you tell me how Wisshh Bag idea was born and what motivated you becoming an entrepreneur (while working as manager)?

WISSHH was born in 2012 initially as a travellers’ community while the travel bag was the gadget I had designed to make the project more visible. WISSHH aimed to create a database of hotels, restaurants, bars and businesses to share among colleagues and friends by exploiting and expanding our different rates and business agreements. These activities were entirely financed by me and implemented in my spare time. Everything changed after my participation in the Shark Tank television program. The authors told me that I had 5 minutes to explain the WISSHH project to 5 big investors and at the very last moment I decided to show the gadget instead of the community-related project. After a year of due diligence, with all 5 investors of Shark Tank and a company composed of about thirty entrepreneurs from Brescia, we have established WISSHH Srl, turning my idea into a concrete business project.

I believe that doing business is the very best expression of meritocracy. When you work within any company, your performance is strongly connected to a mix of tangible and intangible assets that you have been given to. When you open a VAT number, it is like declaring that you have become a professional adult, assuming responsibilities of everything you do and you do not do, as well as responsibilities for your suppliers and the relationship with the State. As an entrepreneur, you cannot hide and there are no excuses: your business is the mirror of who you are as a person.

You are an entrepreneur, but you are also a traveller. You travel both for work and for passion (in a year you take over 170 flights!). How important is travelling around the world to get new inspirations? And what do you think are the 5 activities that every entrepreneur should always do to get new inspirations and seize new opportunities?

Traveling for me is like having a parallel life for the time I am travelling. All the ordinary logics related to work and personal life are paused and I have the chance to look around with new eyes. Traveling stimulates the senses and the mind, there are no doubts. To seize new opportunities, you must:

  • • be genuinely interested in creating something valuable for others;
  • • looking around with curiosity;
  • • trying to understand how your personal experience can improve an existing product or service;
  • • to seize new opportunities, you must have an open mind, being able to observe and listen to others.

As an entrepreneur, you cannot hide and there are no excuses: your business is the mirror of who you are as a person.

— Merih Marzari

In Italy, it is not that simple to find funds to launch your own business project. In order to get funds, you have participated to Shark Tank. After several years from this experience, which advice would you give to an entrepreneur who is now launching his own business?

WISSHH is my first entrepreneurial project with partners in Italy; yet, in the past I opened a bar with someone in the Canary Islands, I have opened and managed a franchising shop and my management consulting company, Merih Srl, was born the day after my potential partner ran away with the money we had collected in the start-up and beta test phase of the VIPCard community before becoming WISSHH. Let’s face it, the right ideas and the hard work are not enough to launch an entrepreneurial project, you need a starting capital. If you do not have the capital, you have to invent it and often to do so you have to dilute the shares of your company with partners who almost certainly will not work as much as you do and will not believe in it as much as you do. My advice is, regardless of the economic value required, since you will have to give account to your partner as you would be giving account to a husband or a wife, try to choose the person before accepting the money. The money can be found, instead, the ideal partner needs to be created.

You always put your own face in everything you do. You are the testimonial of your company and in every bag you sell you put your phone and email address so that those who buy your products can write or call you. I think that this is very important. How do you keep your clients engaged?

My consulting company has my name, on every product I create there is always my telephone number and my email address. This is because I have great respect for those who give me even one euro and I want to be sure that they are satisfied with their choice. I also have a reimbursement policy on my products or services. If a client is not satisfied, I apologize and I try to understand why he/she wasn’t, and then I refund them. I would like to live in a world where to understand what I’m buying I could get the chance to know who has produced it. If I had to feed my children with something made up by a criminal, I probably would not go for it but I would ask someone I trust. Before the production of my travel bags, I went to China twice at my expenses to make sure I had selected a company where there was no child labour or inadequate and unsafe working conditions. One of my mantra is: put your face on to be accountable.

You travelled the world, lived and worked in many different cities, yet you have chosen to live and work in Italy. Why did you choose so? And, in your opinion, is Italy the right country to launch and build your own business?

I would be hypocrite to say that Italy is the right place to launch and build your own business because I do not believe it for the reasons that I think we all know. But it is my duty to try to launch and build a business to create jobs and to give work to other companies through outsourcing. I chose Italy to launch my activities because I would like my daughters to have the opportunity to grow in the most beautiful place in the world. We, as Italians, have become a bit more cynical, and a little more selfish but we are entrepreneurs and we have to change things. We pay our suppliers as we do when we go to bars or restaurants and we do not let them wait months to be paid. We ask for the receipt and the invoice every time we buy something. We are our country, and hence, we have the power to change it and this is why I choose Italy.

We are our country, and hence, we have the power to change it and this is why I choose Italy.

— Merih Marzari

A few quick questions

Now a few quick questions:

Today you have chosen Italy as the country to live and work in, but if tomorrow you would like to change it, where would you like to move in?

Toronto, Canada.

If you found a working time machine, and you could have one trip only, where would you like to live? In past or future times ?

I would like to go back to the moment of my birth to finally understand where I was born and when. Today, I have no certain information.

What drives you to work more? Making profit and be successful (making money) or whether your job gives meaning to your life and might positively impacts the world (making meaning)?

As an employee, my compensation was a way to measure my “success” within the workplace. As an entrepreneur, my priority is to be in charge of my time trying to create as much value as possible for my clients.

If you could write only one word to print on all your Wisshh Bag so that it could be read by as many people as possible, which word would you choose?

SMILE.

When you are asked what do you do, what do you answer (in a word)?

Entrepeneur.

You do travel a lot, if you could make a trip with an entrepreneur, whom would you do it with and where would you go?

Richard Branson in Naples.