Thursday, December 16, 2010

Bob Blumer - Having Too Much Fun

Everyone likes to eat, well, everyone I know. People’s lives often find meaning around the event of a meal. Take Thanksgiving, Christmas, Birthdays, Rehearsal Dinners, The Last Supper and Happy Hour; all these are special times when people get together around a meal (and beverage!) to celebrate a special occasion in their lives. 

Granted, sometimes there are people at those meals one might rather not be present. The family drunk may act out after imbibing a bit too much. But for the most part we enjoy the company of those with whom we break bread. This has been true for centuries.

How, then, can anyone take something that happens every day, somewhere, and turn it in to an entrepreneurial exercise? Entrepreneurship is not necessarily inventing something new. It is often taking something as simple as eating and looking at in in a new way. Entrepreneurs see the world through different colored glasses. Individual entrepreneurs each have their own unique color through which they see the world and it gives them a special vision.

Bob Blumer is one such visionary. He has taken food, not to a whole new level but, to a completely different dimension. When is a birthday cake not a birthday cake? When it is meatloaf with mashed potato icing. When is bacon a dessert? When it is the prime ingredient in maple bacon-crunch ice cream. Who would combine licorice and shrimp? Bob Blumer.
Those three recipes are all from his book, glutton for pleasure (Whitecap Books, 2010). I won’t call it a cook book, though it does have actual recipes for your enjoyment. It is more of a culinary adventure travelogue. Blumer is kind of like a cross between MacGyver and Indiana Jones with a spatula.

When you read his recipes the first thing that comes to mind is, “How did he think of that? Who would do that? Is he right in the head?” OK, that is three things, but my point is entrepreneurs take risks, they try new things, they think outside the baking pan. His recipes all look fun and exciting and delicious. But these are the successful ones. I wonder how many failed? How many things has he tried that just did not work? If he were to compile all his experiments that did not result in a gastronomic victory into one book, how big would that book be?

Edison is credited with saying, “I have never failed, I have only discovered 10,000 ways that do not work.” Blumer keeps trying and experimenting and, fortunately for us, sharing his successes with the rest of the world.

If you want to learn more about Bob Blumer you can check out his book. And go to his website at

By the way, I was going to tell you about his Airstream Toaster Trailer that he built, but I will let you discover that on your own.

William Kamkwamba - Ignore Conventional Wisdom

Entrepreneurs see a problem and find a solution. It sounds easy and on one level it is easy. But in reality it is not easy. There are many obstacles that entrepreneurs have to go over, through and around.

William Kamkwamba lives in Malawi, Africa. Malawi is one of the poorest nation in the world. It is a land affected by drought, hunger, disease, poor medical conditions. Just living there is a Sisyphian feat.

William Kamkwamba had a dream for his family and village. He wanted to provide electricity and water to them. He wanted to go to school to learn about electricity. Unfortunately, a famine devastated the family farm and he could not pay the $80 per year tuition. He had to help his family survive. His days were spent foraging for food just to help keep his family alive.

But he did not let go of his dream.

Entrepreneurs have dreams they want to fulfill and follow. They grab on and hold tight. One might also say it is the Dream that grabs the entrepreneurs. This dream of water and electricity grabbed William. And it held tight. With his stomach in pain from emptiness his mind remained full of his vision.
He had some textbooks and taught himself about electricity. He visited junkyards to find scrap metal, bicycle parts, pieces of tractors and other things necessary to fulfill his dream. As he built his machine the villagers called him crazy. Why would he waste his time on something no one could eat? He should feed his family.

William did not give up. Hunger, the voices of disbelieving neighbors and even his own personal doubts would not deter him. He needed a part so he visited the junkyard. A fan blade here, some wire there. And in time the windmill he was constructing was turned on and at the end of the wires was a light-bulb - and it glowed!

Spurned on by this success William built another machine. This one ran a pump that provided water to the villagers. Crops now would grow even in the most severe drought and famine.

William saw a problem and saw a solution. It took him time, trial, error and sacrifice but he persisted. He overcame many obstacles to fulfill his vision.

To read more about his story check out: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer, HarperCollins, 2009.

Here is a YouTube video to watch:

And his website is: