Marquis Emerging Leaders

Michele L. Sullivan

Title: Founder, Owner

Company: ML Sullivan LLC

Education: MBA in Business, Bradley University (1989); Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and Management, Bradley University (1987)

Career History: Founder, ML Sullivan LLC (2019-Present); Owner, ML Sullivan LLC (2019-Present); President, Caterpillar Foundation, Caterpillar, Peoria, IL (2011-2018); Director of Corporate Social Innovation, Caterpillar, Peoria, IL (2011-2018); Manager, Parts Authorizations and Product Supportability, Caterpillar, Peoria, IL (2007-2011); Informational Technology Analyst, Caterpillar, Peoria, IL (1988-2002); Senior Analyst, Caterpillar, Peoria, IL (1988-2002); Sales Support Consultant, Caterpillar, Peoria, IL (1988-2002); IBM

Michele L. Sullivan, Founder and Owner at ML Sullivan LLC, has been recognized as a Marquis Emerging Leader for their contributions and achievements in the field of business.

A renowned global leader, adviser, philanthropist, motivational speaker, author, and expert in the areas of business strategy, finance, and social impact, Ms. Sullivan has dedicated her career to making significant, positive changes in society by prioritizing the human side of business over profits—through partnerships between public, private, and nonprofit entities. Since 2019, she has excelled as the founder and owner of ML Sullivan LLC, through which she advises small- to large-scale businesses and shares her insights on stage at such major events as TED, SXSW, and Global Citizen Festival, among others. She also sits on the board of directors of ONE, a campaigning and advocacy organization whose mission is to end extreme poverty and preventable disease.

Ms. Sullivan previously found success for 30 years at Caterpillar—a corporate leader in sustainable progress since 1925—advancing in positions from sales support consultant, senior analyst, and informational technology analyst to parts authorizations and product supportability manager to president and director of corporate social innovation between 1988 and 2018. As the first female president from 2011 to 2018, she steered Caterpillar in a more forward-thinking direction by creating and implementing a collaborative impact platform called Together.Stronger, as well as ToGetHerStronger, helping to develop the first women’s entrepreneur center in Africa, and continually striving to address global poverty through investments in advocacy. She considers her most notable achievement at the company to be creating a video that impacted 50 million people with their investments and making a significant change for the foundation.

In addition to wielding impact through her business leadership, Ms. Sullivan motivates people as a public speaker, most notably by giving a TED Talk at TEDWomen 2016. In her talk, titled “Asking for help is a strength, not a weakness,” she spoke about the difficult challenges she has faced as someone born with a rare form of dwarfism, the power of accepting others, and how she found her success against the odds. She has lent her expertise and experience to numerous speaking engagements, even being the first non-engineer keynote speaker at an event for the Society of Women Engineers. In 2020, she authored the book, “Looking Up: How a Different Perspective Turns Obstacles into Advantages,” delving further into her life and success story. Outside of her main endeavors, she has been involved with the Local Initiatives Support Corporation and Community Workshop and Training Center, Inc., and supports numerous animal rights organizations, Little People of America, and the Boys & Girls Club of America. Ms. Sullivan has been listed as one of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Philanthropy by Inside Philanthropy and earned a Centurion Medal for her achievements.

Attributing her success to her parents and spiritualism, Ms. Sullivan holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration and management and a Master of Business Administration from Bradley University. Looking toward the future, she intends to continue focusing on the work she’s been doing. Her motto in life is, “Keep looking up because the view is great.”


TED Talk

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