Midas of the dump1


Sucking the oozing blood from his finger, the young man motions to his elderly hireling. “Load this in the trailer please” he says after he weighs the finds on his heavy-duty scale.

He rarely helps mine for scraps these days. Before he got someone to help him do the “dirty” work; he cut himself all the time. Now it’s a different story. The old man digs for most of the scrap steel while he lounges around or drinks coffee at “Le Café Rubbish” in the middle of the rubbish dump. He weighs every bit of steel and later sells it at about 2.50 ZAR per kilo. That nets him between R14 000 to R25 0000 per month.

Makes him feel like a rich man. Besides, he’s no longer aware of the horrid stench that invades every pore out here, clings to every particle.

The money that came as the by product of his successful problem solving idea, smells too good. He has no shortage of clients either. They gladly pay for his solution.

Paul Hanase, the self made entrepreneur, is the king of rubbish.*


 Mining filth.

As hard as it is to imagine, there are thousands of people who do this everyday and make a living out of it. Often, a good living; in fact, better than you think. Truly, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

But Paul’s story is just like thousands of other accounts about people who saw a gap and monetized it. Either in the interest of survival or because they had been entrepreneurially wired from birth and could not help spotting an opportunity and acting on it.

Like Chippy Brand.

Mining is also in his resume, but not filth per se. Although a lot of years, working like a dog in inhospitable circumstances, saw him roughing it; farming veggies and living in a mobile home with his wife and four kids.

Another king Midas

Civil engineer, construction man and farmer turned hotel mogul, Chippy monetized one opportunity after the other that eventually landed him around age 75 on his own game farm (farming again!) in South Africa’s Eastern Cape with more money than he can count and a family to die for.

Says he: “n mens moet self die geleenthede soek, somme maak en dit dan laat vaar…of aanpak” (one must seek the opportunities him-/ herself, do the math and either go for it or leave it) 2


 So, is there a difference between these two and if there is, what is it?

Some people seem to be born entrepreneurs. They can no more help seeing a gap in the market and capitalising on it than a lion can chase game. Among them are the Richard Bransons and Bill Gates’ of the world.

They always stand out. The many problem solving opportunities they spotted, grabbed, developed and monetized in their respective pasts, are littering the highway of their successes.

The zillion dollar question here is:” can this skill/trait be taught even if you did not grow up with it?” By now, there is enough evidence to give a secure answer to this.


 It’s a bit like leadership (and a bit different too).

Some people are born leaders. They can no more stay hidden in some obscure hole than our lion chasing frenzied game. They’ll always emerge to take the lead somehow. To not do it, goes against their nature and will lead to self torture and slow death of the faculties.

Others, who are not born leaders, and somehow have to lead, can learn leadership skills and will apply them with a certain degree of success. Maybe they won’t become a Nelson Mandela or Oprah Winfrey, but they will lead in their own sphere of influence. Their pack will follow them.

Doesn’t matter how gigantic that sphere is. Or how tiny.

The one lot has the trait; the other lot will follow seminars or courses that teach them the skill. That’s not to say that the born leaders won’t follow any courses, because they might very well and in that case their leadership abilities will become even more amazing.

It just means that those with the trait, will instinctively exhibit leadership skills without having been taught to do so, while people in the other category will have to learn them from someone who teaches them and eventually will do very well regardless of whether he / she was born with the intuitive skill to lead or not.

 However, entrepreneurs are a bit different.

A lot of what the world perceives as an inborn entrepreneurial trait has to do with the environment someone grows up in. Environment plays a key role in the development of entrepreneurial abilities and can foster them in a youngster from an early age.

They’re not inborn as such, but rather inculcated from an early age. Just look at great entrepreneurs. A background study of their early childhood will by and large tell you this.

That’s a cool thing because it’s never too late to create the right environment for entrepreneurial thinking to flourish!  Allow me to explain:

Just say you’re 50 years old and stuck in a job you hate and have never entertained any kind of entrepreneurial thoughts in your life ever. You did not grow up in an environment that encouraged this kind of thinking, but lately you’re seriously considering breaking out of it, either because you’re fed up with the rut, or because you have to or whatever: do you still have a chance? Can an old dog really still learn new tricks?


 Okay, so how do you become an entrepreneur?

 Without sounding simplistic, I’ll give you the short version: by changing your mind!

Shift your paradigm. Let your innate gifts and abilities guide you. Find out what you love to do, for it all starts here. Then look for problems around you in this area. Find a solution that people will want to pay for, market it and you’re golden.

Actually, it is a bit more involved than that. Hook up with us or some other credible institution that will teach you these timeless principles and get you clued up and fired up to entrepreneurial lift-off.

The Midas in YOU

The beauty of this is that the longer you find yourself in entrepreneurial mode and thinking, the more the trait will follow in the wake of the skills that you practise!

 You might not become an overnight millionaire or instant fairytale success. So what?

You will gain the priceless education and privilege of taking care of yourself and others, up your self worth and maybe even overcome some personal and other obstacles in the process. Paul did and he’s not the world’s next Richard Branson. At least not yet, not that I know of…

You get to cast the stones of entrepreneurial endeavour and its spin-offs in your own pond and see the positive ripple effects of income that’s generated, maybe relationships that are formed and strengthened and other benefits, such as something that has not previously been possible, but now is.

In your own orb of influence, you become the force field that impacts the lives of others through what you do.


Chippy Brand is a super entrepreneur in whom both the skills and the trait manifest. And Paul?

It is not entirely clear from this account whether he mines trash simply because he wants tot survive or because he saw a gap he could monetize or maybe a bit of both. Question is: does it matter?

Probably not. Because if it’s not there yet, the trait will follow the skill he practices day by day. Just one day, whoop…it will pop up.

Bottom line: entrepreneurial skills can be taught and developed. Therefore there’s no excuse.

So, when do you start?

Elmarie is a wordpreneur for the Entrepreneurial Business School (Pty) Ltd and a freelance creative writer, web writer and copywriter. Email her at


© Elmarie Bouwer




1. Mariechen Waldner. Your trash – their cash.  2011-08-07 10:00 .Accessed 20/03/2012.


* Based on a real account



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