Get your hands dirty; that’s the first rule

Belgian entrepreneur Gunter Pauli has a simple cure for the unemployment ravaging much of the Western world. He invites you to start your own company–without a business plan, money or experience.

“If you don’t have money or experience, use what you have locally available,” he says. His example: Ninety-nine percent of the coffee bean goes to waste during the coffee-making process. But you can grow mushrooms on that waste and generate revenue by selling the protein-rich fungi–and whatever is left after the harvest makes excellent animal feed. Sixteen thousand people are now creating their livelihoods by growing mushrooms on coffee pulp after Pauli started promoting this idea through his foundation, Zero Emissions Research and Initiatives (ZERI), and in his book, The Blue Economy: 10 Years, 100 Innovations, 100 Million Jobs.

This spring, Pauli will travel to Madrid, Spain, to spend time with 5,000 young Spaniards. Unemployment among Spanish youth rose to 55 percent in 2012, according to the statistics agency Eurostat. So what is Gunter Pauli planning to tell these young people in Madrid? He won’t advise them to get MBAs, find steady jobs with the government or improve their CVs. Instead, he will share stories of entrepreneurs who created their own companies using what was locally available.

Pauli has been working on the concept of the blue economy since the 1990s. The entrepreneur, who has an economics degree and has set up 10 companies, was born in Antwerp, Belgium, but has traveled the world, living on four continents. During his time as CEO of Ecover, a Belgian cleaning products company, he started to realize the green economy wasn’t the solution he sought when he learned that the cultivation of palm oil for his products was damaging Indonesia’s forests. Pauli believes “becoming green” is not enough because not everyone can afford it, and it requires so many public subsidies. The blue economy produces something good immediately, Pauli is convinced: revenue and jobs, without releasing emissions. It doesn’t rely on a lot of capital but on smart innovations derived from the wisdom of nature. And Pauli wants to inspire entrepreneurs to start their own companies to create this blue economy.

What made you think it’s possible to start a company without money or experience? 

“I have seen that it is possible, and I have done it in the past. I believe that at this time it is almost impossible to get banks to fund anything. And when it becomes so difficult to get money unless you have proven, certified and verified everything over and over again, I think it’s about time to shift gears and say: What can be done? It’s along the same lines of what I have been talking about in The Blue Economy for years. You have to work with what you have. And if you don’t have money or experience: Use what you have.

“We have to leave behind the model that says money and experience are the preconditions to being an entrepreneur. Look at Bill Gates or Michael Dell or Father Godfrey Nzamujo in Benin or Paolo Lugari in Colombia; these are all people who started without money or experience. Lugari never had experience in regenerating forests in the savannah. Gates never had experience in developing software. Father Nzamujo never had experience in urban farming. So why did they succeed? Because they were able not to take a given for a fact. With the crisis we live in, we’re in need of people who say: I have no experience, and therefore I can make a great contribution.”

So if we don’t need money or experience, what do we need?

“First of all, the greatest missing link in an entrepreneur today is that it’s someone who focuses on doing things. In my way of working on entrepreneurship, you are not permitted to write a business plan. You write business plans, you’ve killed the idea. You’re only permitted to write a business plan when you have your first invoice paid. Don’t make a risk analysis. No, if you have no experience and no money, then what’s the risk? Zero! Because the only thing you can do is win.

“If we ask people to write business plans, we are not going to get the real innovations we need. Real innovations are done by doing. And so my proposal is: do. You have an idea? Do it. Don’t talk about it, don’t analyze it, don’t check it. Make your hands dirty; that’s the first rule.”

And what does your experience show us about this?

“I’ll tell you about something I was working on recently. Three years ago, I looked at a traditional petrochemical facility in Porto Torres in Sardinia. There was so much pollution there. I didn’t see any future in it. But I thought: Why don’t we have this converted into a bio-refinery? The facility was used by Eni, the eighth-largest petroleum company in the world. Their leaders concluded they couldn’t compete anymore, and therefore they needed to close the plant down. Eni would have had to go through a massive cleanup of the area, and that would have cost a billion dollars. The Italian businesswoman Catia Bastioli succeeded in negotiating to get the plant free. She negotiated for half a billion dollars to be spent on cleaning it up and $473 million was spent on converting it into a biorefinery that uses the agricultural waste from the farmers in the area. So instead of all that money, $1 billion, being wasted, it is now converted into a positive investment. This is of course a very large project, but it’s about the mentality behind this.”

That intimidates me a little. If I’m not willing to buy a petrochemical plant but want to start smaller, where do I begin?

“By digging deep in fantasy. I mean, if you’re at a loss, don’t go and try to look for a job on the Internet. When you’re in Spain and you’re unemployed, don’t do what everyone is doing because you will be outcompeted. Be creative. Find out: What are the local readily available resources that are not being used?"

Such as what?

“Well, this is not a very pleasant topic, I know, but look at slaughterhouse waste. You can use it to farm black soldier flies and use their larvae, maggots, to create protein. The world is in need of protein. Since I wrote about this in The Blue Economy, 10 people have started doing this. Who has experience in farming flies? No one! So who does it? The person who has the guts to say, I don’t think it’s so difficult. There are thousands of slaughterhouses in the world, and they all throw away their waste. According to the Harvard Business School, you need five-year plans, long-term strategies; in the meantime, these flies have been laying eggs like hell. Why, as a young entrepreneur, would you want to focus on things that take a lot of time? Identify what is available around you. You can start small.”

What if you are scared of becoming an entrepreneur, scared about taking the risk if you have a steady job? Or if you’re 45 and have three kids to provide for?

“Imagine you have a diploma in biology. Will you be a biologist all your life? Forget about it. Your diploma has an expiration date. The only problem is, the universities don’t put it on there. As a result, we claim to work with the knowledge we gathered 20 or 30 years ago. And as a result, we are not capable as a society to innovate. Let’s go back to the wisdom of the Dalai Lama who says, ‘Go somewhere once a year where you have never been before, and you know no one.’ And if you go to that place, and you have never been there before, you become a flexible person.”

Can you mention an example of someone who did this? 

“I know hundreds. South African Wendy Luhabe comes to mind; she created the first investment fund in the world for women, with cash collected by women and investments and decisions made by women. It’s a billion-dollar fund on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. She used to be a BMW car sales lady and had no funds.”

So we should all become entrepreneurs?

“I’m not saying that everyone should be an entrepreneur, but everyone should be exposed to this culture and understand that it’s possible. Accept that the new rule of the game is that you first make certain you get an invoice and get paid before you start writing business plans. And if that becomes that common understanding among people, it will be much better. Let’s accept that if we are writing new rules of the game, don’t do strategy analysis, just do.”

Solution News Source

Get your hands dirty; that’s the first rule

Belgian entrepreneur Gunter Pauli has a simple cure for the unemployment ravaging much of the Western world. He invites you to start your own company–without a business plan, money or experience.

“If you don’t have money or experience, use what you have locally available,” he says. His example: Ninety-nine percent of the coffee bean goes to waste during the coffee-making process. But you can grow mushrooms on that waste and generate revenue by selling the protein-rich fungi–and whatever is left after the harvest makes excellent animal feed. Sixteen thousand people are now creating their livelihoods by growing mushrooms on coffee pulp after Pauli started promoting this idea through his foundation, Zero Emissions Research and Initiatives (ZERI), and in his book, The Blue Economy: 10 Years, 100 Innovations, 100 Million Jobs.

This spring, Pauli will travel to Madrid, Spain, to spend time with 5,000 young Spaniards. Unemployment among Spanish youth rose to 55 percent in 2012, according to the statistics agency Eurostat. So what is Gunter Pauli planning to tell these young people in Madrid? He won’t advise them to get MBAs, find steady jobs with the government or improve their CVs. Instead, he will share stories of entrepreneurs who created their own companies using what was locally available.

Pauli has been working on the concept of the blue economy since the 1990s. The entrepreneur, who has an economics degree and has set up 10 companies, was born in Antwerp, Belgium, but has traveled the world, living on four continents. During his time as CEO of Ecover, a Belgian cleaning products company, he started to realize the green economy wasn’t the solution he sought when he learned that the cultivation of palm oil for his products was damaging Indonesia’s forests. Pauli believes “becoming green” is not enough because not everyone can afford it, and it requires so many public subsidies. The blue economy produces something good immediately, Pauli is convinced: revenue and jobs, without releasing emissions. It doesn’t rely on a lot of capital but on smart innovations derived from the wisdom of nature. And Pauli wants to inspire entrepreneurs to start their own companies to create this blue economy.

What made you think it’s possible to start a company without money or experience? 

“I have seen that it is possible, and I have done it in the past. I believe that at this time it is almost impossible to get banks to fund anything. And when it becomes so difficult to get money unless you have proven, certified and verified everything over and over again, I think it’s about time to shift gears and say: What can be done? It’s along the same lines of what I have been talking about in The Blue Economy for years. You have to work with what you have. And if you don’t have money or experience: Use what you have.

“We have to leave behind the model that says money and experience are the preconditions to being an entrepreneur. Look at Bill Gates or Michael Dell or Father Godfrey Nzamujo in Benin or Paolo Lugari in Colombia; these are all people who started without money or experience. Lugari never had experience in regenerating forests in the savannah. Gates never had experience in developing software. Father Nzamujo never had experience in urban farming. So why did they succeed? Because they were able not to take a given for a fact. With the crisis we live in, we’re in need of people who say: I have no experience, and therefore I can make a great contribution.”

So if we don’t need money or experience, what do we need?

“First of all, the greatest missing link in an entrepreneur today is that it’s someone who focuses on doing things. In my way of working on entrepreneurship, you are not permitted to write a business plan. You write business plans, you’ve killed the idea. You’re only permitted to write a business plan when you have your first invoice paid. Don’t make a risk analysis. No, if you have no experience and no money, then what’s the risk? Zero! Because the only thing you can do is win.

“If we ask people to write business plans, we are not going to get the real innovations we need. Real innovations are done by doing. And so my proposal is: do. You have an idea? Do it. Don’t talk about it, don’t analyze it, don’t check it. Make your hands dirty; that’s the first rule.”

And what does your experience show us about this?

“I’ll tell you about something I was working on recently. Three years ago, I looked at a traditional petrochemical facility in Porto Torres in Sardinia. There was so much pollution there. I didn’t see any future in it. But I thought: Why don’t we have this converted into a bio-refinery? The facility was used by Eni, the eighth-largest petroleum company in the world. Their leaders concluded they couldn’t compete anymore, and therefore they needed to close the plant down. Eni would have had to go through a massive cleanup of the area, and that would have cost a billion dollars. The Italian businesswoman Catia Bastioli succeeded in negotiating to get the plant free. She negotiated for half a billion dollars to be spent on cleaning it up and $473 million was spent on converting it into a biorefinery that uses the agricultural waste from the farmers in the area. So instead of all that money, $1 billion, being wasted, it is now converted into a positive investment. This is of course a very large project, but it’s about the mentality behind this.”

That intimidates me a little. If I’m not willing to buy a petrochemical plant but want to start smaller, where do I begin?

“By digging deep in fantasy. I mean, if you’re at a loss, don’t go and try to look for a job on the Internet. When you’re in Spain and you’re unemployed, don’t do what everyone is doing because you will be outcompeted. Be creative. Find out: What are the local readily available resources that are not being used?"

Such as what?

“Well, this is not a very pleasant topic, I know, but look at slaughterhouse waste. You can use it to farm black soldier flies and use their larvae, maggots, to create protein. The world is in need of protein. Since I wrote about this in The Blue Economy, 10 people have started doing this. Who has experience in farming flies? No one! So who does it? The person who has the guts to say, I don’t think it’s so difficult. There are thousands of slaughterhouses in the world, and they all throw away their waste. According to the Harvard Business School, you need five-year plans, long-term strategies; in the meantime, these flies have been laying eggs like hell. Why, as a young entrepreneur, would you want to focus on things that take a lot of time? Identify what is available around you. You can start small.”

What if you are scared of becoming an entrepreneur, scared about taking the risk if you have a steady job? Or if you’re 45 and have three kids to provide for?

“Imagine you have a diploma in biology. Will you be a biologist all your life? Forget about it. Your diploma has an expiration date. The only problem is, the universities don’t put it on there. As a result, we claim to work with the knowledge we gathered 20 or 30 years ago. And as a result, we are not capable as a society to innovate. Let’s go back to the wisdom of the Dalai Lama who says, ‘Go somewhere once a year where you have never been before, and you know no one.’ And if you go to that place, and you have never been there before, you become a flexible person.”

Can you mention an example of someone who did this? 

“I know hundreds. South African Wendy Luhabe comes to mind; she created the first investment fund in the world for women, with cash collected by women and investments and decisions made by women. It’s a billion-dollar fund on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. She used to be a BMW car sales lady and had no funds.”

So we should all become entrepreneurs?

“I’m not saying that everyone should be an entrepreneur, but everyone should be exposed to this culture and understand that it’s possible. Accept that the new rule of the game is that you first make certain you get an invoice and get paid before you start writing business plans. And if that becomes that common understanding among people, it will be much better. Let’s accept that if we are writing new rules of the game, don’t do strategy analysis, just do.”

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