Seeing the leaves


3 Seeing the Leaves

3 The Golden Chalice

5 The Stick Fighting Company

6 Meet Charles Maisel

You’re sitting looking out over a vineyard, talking to a worried farmer. warming to your topic, ‘I see vineyards, and vineyards mean grapes. Grapes, pressing and fermentation mean wine. Add wine to bottles, and you get wine tastings, sales at the wine farm; bottles on shelves in stores, at good dinner parties, cellars full of good wine sold at good prices. It’s all rather obvious, really.’ You lean back, satisfied. And then another thought strikes you. ‘And all of that leads to rich, happy farmers. Right?’ This time the look you give me is more challenging. ‘I’ll give you a clue,’ I say. ‘Have a look at the picture below’. Look again. Now return to the vineyard and that worried farmer.

What do you see? What are you thinking?
‘Well,’ you say, ‘it’s obvious isn’t it?’ ‘So what do you see?’ ‘I see grape vines,’ you say. ‘That’s what vineyards are for – cultivating grapes. In fact,’ you say,

What do you see? What are you thinking?
Are you still thinking grapes and bottles of wine?

If you are, it’s time for a story.

The Story of the Vine
Charles Maisel Sometimes we struggle to see what is staring us in the face, as this story of the unhappy farmer clearly illustrates.
Not all that long ago, a local farmer asked me to visit him on his wine farm. He needed advice, badly. He didn’t want to lay off his workers in the non-picking season, but he couldn’t afford to keep a full workforce on salary unless he could find something constructive and profitable for them to do. There we sat, on his balcony, eating olives and cheese and drinking his award-winning wine. I looked out over the green expanse of his vineyards, rank after rank of vines spanning the fields in orderly lines. Picture postcard perfection. The longer we sat and chatted, tossing thoughts back and forth, the more I was looking.

I told him about …
So I told him about dolmades, mouth-watering parcels of vine leaves stuffed with a variety of fillings: rice, meat, pine nuts, zucchini, eggplant, tomato, pepper, herbs – even sultanas. The farmer’s eyes widened as I told him how dolmades can be served cold or warm, on meze platters, with salad, or simply scooped straight from the fridge, because they make such a great snack. And then I told him how the leaves can be used fresh, or pickled. They can even be vacuum-sealed.

The farmer whooped
The farmer fell off his chair, leapt up, threw his hat in the air and whooped.

And then, I saw
I wish I could describe the feeling of ‘seeing’ to you adequately. It’s a sudden excitement, a fizz that starts in the pit of my belly at the same time as the meaning of what I am seeing flashes into my mind. And when that happens, I know I have hit on a great idea, a different way of seeing that turns a problem into an exciting and achievable proposition.

The seeing doesn’t stop A great idea
I leapt to my feet and gesticulated. ‘Look!’ I yelled, like an overstimulated child. I pointed out over the fields. baffled. But he was polite enough not to comment on the fact that I was pointing in wonder at the vines we had been looking at for the better part of the afternoon. trip out as fast as my brain is forming ideas, and I have to force myself to slow down. I took a deep breath. ‘What do you do with your vine leaves?’ I asked the farmer. ‘Nothing,’ he replied. ‘Why?’ (By now The seeing didn’t stop there. As I drove home, leaving one very happy farmer behind me, I had a new business idea: LEAVES. All farmers have leaves they don’t use. Banana, fig, pumpkin – my mind galloped through lists of vegetables and fruits. How many of them can be used? And not just for eating ...

‘The vineyards!’
The farmer looked at me,

A deep breath
When I get excited the words

he was looking seriously worried; what sort of madman was he consulting?)

Look at the picture again. Those grapes won’t be there in the non-picking season. But for most of the year there will be vines, full of leaves.

2 Seeing the Leaves

Seeing the leaves
How to generate innovative ideas every day.
Enter a zone. One that leaves you open to suggestion, one that strips away the boundaries between black and white. A zone where you follow the sense of anything being possible, where standard procedures and the traditional or logical or accepted way may not necessarily be the only way. Relax the boundaries a little, allow gaps to form.
Looking differently
By the time you have finished reading this newspaper, you will have learned to look differently at a given set of facts. Those facts might be shaped to represent an opinion, to state a problem, or simply be a bald statement of things the way they are. But to you, they will be so much more. They will be inklings, germs, small flashing lights, seeds. They will start a whispering in your head. practice, you will find that you have the ability to generate new ideas all the time – every day of your life. Some of these ideas might not fly. Some of them might be kind of fun, but ultimately really silly. But the more you practice, the more you will hone your seeing skills, until you can identify the truly innovative, the truly possible. The people who practice the hardest and the longest are the people who make it! aware that you are looking. This conscious, deliberate act asks that you look at a situation from every angle. That you mull over it, let it sit at the back of your mind, or push its way forward insisting that you see what is waiting to be seen. diversifying his crop? • Maybe raisins could be a spinner?

I will show you how
I will be your coach. I will show you techniques. I will give you examples, to start the ball rolling. You, the player, will practise these techniques and if you are serious about making the most of this, you will practise and practise ... and practise some more, until you get it. Once you have mastered the techniques, you will become so adept that you’ll find you’re using them without having to think consciously about what you are doing and why. You’ll develop your own way of using your skills, and ultimately, your own way of seeing differently.

Okay, stop right there!
It’s all very well to brainstorm. In fact it’s great to brainstorm – storms churn things up, leave energy trembling in the air. But all the while, as you are thinking, brainstorming, are you looking? Are you trying to look at things, perceive them differently? Are you flipping things around?

Identify and recognise
Not everything you look at will cause that start of recognition that tells you to pay attention. You need to learn to identify, recognise and listen to the feeling that tells you there is something more. Just as a word sits on the tip of your tongue and you know you’ll get it eventually, so too will you get what your intuition and perception are edging you towards realising.

Seeing differently
I will train you to see the extraordinary lurking behind the ordinary, the brilliant idea that can be translated into reality. Armed with new and inventive ideas you will be able to refine and develop your concepts, plan and prepare, find the pitfalls and avoid them, see further possibilities, put thought into practice and take it all forward into successful and profitable businesses.

Seeds of possibility
Ideas will spin and spin and the inkling will become something more. It will become a possibility. The germ will spread and take over your thoughts until you are infected with enthusiasm for the idea that is forming faster than you can control it. (At this stage you might find yourself racing to express the way you feel. When this happens, slow down, take a deep breath, and get a piece of paper.) The small flashing lights will converge into one great burst of illumination and creativity. And the seed of your idea – the one that grabbed you when you whispered ‘what if’ – will burrow deep into creative, receptive, fertile soil and send out roots. Before you know it, it will have grown fast and true and its branches will be covered in the deep green of seeing differently. As you practice this new way of seeing, you will learn to see less obvious but far more creative possibilities and solutions. And your ideas will be original ones.

Are you really looking?
So then, did you notice all the leaves? There they are, those green things on the vine. They’re everywhere. There are more of them than anything else. But did you see them? Did you wonder what the farmer does with all of them?

In the zone
Are you in the zone now? Are you ready to look again? Then let’s go back. And this time, I’ll ask you to take my place at the table with the worried farmer.

New ideas all the time
Using your skills, you will find new ideas being generated all the time, forever. And, what’s more, the ideas will get better and better, on a daily basis.

New and creative solutions
What you choose to do with this newspaper is entirely up to you. Maybe you are looking for that one great idea that will allow you to create a great new company, the one you know is out there, waiting for you to make it real. Maybe you’d like to get a few things going and see where they lead. Maybe you like the thrill of discovery, and will happily use your seeing skills to present others with new and creative solutions.

Ah …
An entrepreneur saw them, and he wondered. He saw them because that is primarily what an entrepreneur does: he sees what is there, often staring us all in the face, but what no one else can see. And in an instant the entrepreneur saw the burgeoning potential of a vineyard full of leaves. First he saw one use for them, and then he saw their myriad uses. He saw the jobs that could be created by harvesting them and manufacturing edible and nonedible products. He saw that his idea had further possibilities: he needn’t restrict his thinking and seeing to vine leaves. How about banana leaves, he thought, fig leaves, any leaf? He had a vision of a social business called LEAVES.

Back in the vineyard
And so you’re back in the vineyard as the soft afternoon sun pushes the shadows deeper under the vines, and you are thinking. You are considering alternative solutions.

Innovative v ordinary
We’d be very boring and robotic if we didn’t have ideas. But most of them are pretty mundane and ordinary. The truly innovative makes people fall off their chairs. Heads nod, jaws drop, skin tingles. Everyone goes, ‘Wow!’

The first step
You need to start seeing things differently. You need to learn to flip things around, turn them upside down. Stand on your head and look at the world. You need to learn to look and look and look, because everywhere there is a gap.

My promise to you
However you choose to engage with this material, my promise to you is that: You will generate one great idea. You will be able to generate as many ideas as possible, every day all day. You will be a shareholder of a great company if you choose.

Original perspectives
You will no longer look at things in the same way as you used to. The ‘same old, same old’ will give way to the new and exciting. The ‘been there, done that’ will become a voyage of discovery, filled with excitement, fraught with necessary risk. The more you train yourself to see differently, the more ideas will take hold. Fresh ideas, new concepts, original perspectives on what was previously tired and overworked. Until, again with

The second step
Secondly – and this will assist your seeing, your observing, your looking for the gap – you need to get out there in the world. You need to expose yourself to what is going on around you, and look at the lives other people live. You need to do this on a daily basis. Not only do you need to be looking all the time, but you need to be What can you suggest to the farmer? How can he make the wine farm profitable again, turn his business around, create employment for his many workers? You are brain storming. Ideas churn in your head. • Perhaps mechanisation would be the answer? • Has the farmer thought of

I will train you
It is possible to train people to be creative. The idea that creatives are born is just not true. Soccer players may be gifted, but the coaching they receive makes them great players. This is the same for artists and musicians.

Creativity is about developing your perception so you see what is already clearly there. ~ Charles Maisel ~

Seeing the Leaves


Back in the Vineyard
Entrepreneurship is about seeing. Seeing, which may be as momentous as perceiving the unutilised vine leaves on a wine farm, or seeing in a different way that gains a perspective on something as seemingly unrelated and unconnected as our place in time.
Pick a leaf
Let’s go back to the vineyard. The sun has almost set but there is enough light for the green of the cool sea that surrounds you to be reflected. Stand there, in the quiet of the early evening and listen to the birds settling for the night. Now reach out and pick a leaf off the vine nearest to you. Smooth it with your hand, smell it. Turn it over and examine the tracery of veins under the skin. back billions of years, something comparable, in a fleeting kind of way, to the countless leaves that surround you in the vineyard. that the catatonic depression we will fall into is unlikely to be one we will ever escape. But consider this too: We believe we live in a fast-paced, fast-changing world. At times so fast-paced and -changing that we feel overwhelmed. discovered. But if we step back, take a look at ourselves and see our lives as infinitesimally miniscule specks situated at a precise spot on timeline that stretches for 4.5 billion years we will realise how static our lives really are.

What’s this got to do with vine leaves and creativity? • Well, already you’ve looked at vine leaves as marketable commodities and you’ve stretched your ability to see a little further by looking at LEAVES as a great business proposition. • You’ve also used a single vine leaf to look at your place on the timeline of the long continuum of history – something many of us seldom stop to do, let alone try to comprehend. • You’ve kicked over one of the traces of traditional thinking and found the experience to be liberating. You’re breathing more freely, and your mind is starting to expand. You’re learning to look at things in a different way.

Thinking on a grand scale
Stopping to look at yourself at a precise moment in the history of the world is a great place to begin if you’re keen to start seeing things from a different perspective. However, traditional thinking rails against using such a grand scale of comparison when contemplating our being. We are not encouraged to consider our lives in terms of the vastness of the universe or the colossal span of the world’s history.

Nothing new?
We also feel that so much has already been seen and done that there is nothing new for us to do, no new ways of seeing left. This belief is amplified by the extraordinarily narrow perspective we use to perceive the world.

Infinite time …
Gaining a perspective of our place in time is a liberating experience. Stop a while and think about this. There’s so much space and time behind us, so much yet to come. We aren’t hemmed in by the constraints of time and space. Far from it. We are surrounded by infinity. We have space to breathe and time to relish the sensation of lightness that comes from feeling free to breathe. As we breathe, freely, the pressure falls away. Space opens up in our vision. And we begin to see.

5000 years of history
Hold that leaf and consider that it represents 5000 years of history. No more. Now look down at the earth under your feet. An earth that has existed for over 4.5 billion years. Relative to the entire vineyard that surrounds you, you’re holding our known history in your hand – just one leaf. Beyond those 5000 years is a deep history which stretches

Our place on the timeline
With a beam as highly focused as a laser we look at our lives and the contexts in which they are embedded, and all we see is how rushed they are, how hectic, how little time here is to do anything, how little there remains to be

Fast-paced, fast-changing
Such contemplation, or so the traditionalists would have us believe, will leave us so utterly diminished in our perspective of where we are in time and space

The Golden Chalice
The source of new ideas on daily basis
So now you’re keen to start. You’re ready to look at things differently, your mind is open to the thrill of seeing something in a new way, and you want to begin practising. You’re looking around your house, you’ve been on the alert as you’ve driven to and from work, and at work itself. When you go for a walk on the beach, to the mall, to visit a friend, you’re looking, looking, looking. You’re practising. It’s great that you’re doing this – that you’re training your mind to look at things differently. And now for the best advice of all …

Read the newspaper!
If you’re looking for a source for great ideas, one that never runs dry, read the newspaper on a daily basis. You don’t need to do anything more.

The newspaper is the golden chalice for new ideas

9 compelling reasons to read the newspaper on a daily basis
1. 2. 3.

Newspapers write about what is happening today. They always have done. The stories in newspapers are current and record details of the lives we are leading right now. Newspapers tell stories, many of which highlight something lacking, or not working. There are opportunities in these stories. All you need to do is train yourself to see them. A journalist’s job is to write about what is. They don’t go any further; they don’t suggest what might be. Unless they are writing opinion columns or editorials, they aren’t paid to give their views. It is up to the entrepreneurs and innovators to see behind the story, to form opinions on problems and find creative solutions, or see the possibilities presented by stories and pictures which offer manifest opportunities.


Newspapers offer a variety of headlines, stories, pictures and advertisements. Depending on what you are looking for, these offer fodder for ideas about social change, commercial enterprises and intellectual exploration. Every newspaper you open holds a potential opportunity.

5. 6. 7. 8.

Newspapers are printed daily. You can read a newspaper anywhere, anytime. Newspapers are timeless. You can go back into the archives and see what people were doing and saying and buying 50 years ago. You aren’t limited to one newspaper. You have the choice of several daily newspapers, weekly newspapers, community newspapers and classified adverts. Between all of these, you will be able to find new ideas every day.


You can read newspapers printed anywhere in the world. This broadens your horizons and alerts you to international trends.


Seeing the Leaves

Putting it all into Practice
It’s time to stop talking and start doing the work.
Time to begin
Now it’s time to do some work. It’s time to start practising in earnest. But before you do that ...

• Go down to your local stationery store and stock up on red pens. Keep one of these in your pocket, or your briefcase. • Buy a small note book. Keep this in your pocket, or your briefcase. • Make it your practice to keep a copy of the newspaper on you at all times. Once you have everything in place: • Spend the rest of the day just reading papers and looking for the leaves. • Read headlines, interesting stories, ads, pictures. • Circle in RED anything that strikes you. Whatever causes a small kick in your belly. It could be a problem that is begging for a solution, an inkling or a small flicker of a thought, information that needs further exploration,

an idea that can be adapted or copied, an amazing inspiration… • As you read and circle – let these thoughts circle in your mind: • What’s the solution? • What’s the idea? • What can be copied or done?

should he read about a dreadful occurrence, to do what he could to prevent it happening in reality. (It’s interesting to notice that the producers of Early Edition saw the leaves of possibility in a 1944 film, It Happened Tomorrow.)

• Newspapers are current – they focus on today’s issues and opportunities • They hold information about what things can be • Daily papers = daily ideas

Daily news
The task of the entrepreneur does not come with the same immediacy and urgency as in the case of our man in Early Edition. However, the medium by which he is informed of what he has to do is very often the same – the daily newspaper. Signs and signals are around us all the time. All we have to do is be open to the possibility of seeing them. Don’t stop looking all around you for the signs – they can be anywhere in your daily round – but rest assured that you will find them most often in your daily newspaper.

Now look at your diary. How much time can you devote to reading the newspaper on a daily basis? This is not time you will be spending idly. This is work. This is practice.

Daily information
There was a TV series some years ago called Early Edition, about Gary Hobson, a guy who got the following day’s newspaper a day in advance. The events reported in the paper had not yet happened and so it fell to him,

You need to hold the newspaper in your hands
It’s tempting to see the internet as a source of newspaper articles, but to make this work – to see the leaves – you need to be holding a physical newspaper in one hand and your red pen in the other. The connection between brain, hand, red marker and paper allows things to leap out that are missed when you slide your eye over a computer, laptop, electronic reader or cellphone screen.

Coping with the cost of reading a newspaper daily
For many of us, the cost of buying a newspaper on a daily basis can be daunting, but you can become a creative paper reader too. • Go to coffee shops – many of them have newspapers available for their customers to browse through. • People often leave papers behind them on the train, or on benches at railways stations. • Yesterday’s news is only one day old – keep an eye out for old newspapers. • Visit the places like the National Library of South Africa where all the news is archived. You can’t use a red pen there, but you can have fun seeing how things were done way back in the day. • Community newspapers are free and a great source of news in your immediate neighbourhood. • Start a newspaper club – similar to a book club – where you share the cost of a daily newspaper with a few of your friends. (It will be interesting to see who picks up on what – we all see the leaves differently.)

Scattered throughout the rest of this newspaper you’ll come across places like this, where I have thrown out a few of the ideas that I’ve had over the years. I won’t be explaining them – just scattering them like leaves in the wind to get you thinking and seeing how many leaves there are waiting to be seen.

The Luggage Hire Company

Shacks on stilts

How to solve hotel theft?

SA Musician Museum African golf accessories and clothing

Love Letters Inc

Maintenance of fields

There are many more ideas where these came from.

Buy a Brick Production of trophies If you have any great ideas – from silly to spectacular fundraising out of soapstone, – why not visit my blog and campaign granite or rock post them there? Charles Maisel A company that Gym for the blind Redesigning old Bulk buying Microwave sensor Foot pedal for links celebrities or handicapped clothes into new wholesale so liquids don’t toilet seats with brands clothes cooperative boil over Wedding ring with picture insert Au pair training Washing lines and placement and advertising District 9 paraphernalia Fridge alarm when open Shack wallpaper Taxi overload mechanism Pest control Lightweight hiking and travel accessories and food

Seeing the Leaves


Leaves from the Vine 1
The Stick Fighting Company
Just like the leaves on the vine were hanging there, waiting to be seen, so the obvious is staring us in the face in other situations too. This was very much the case with The Stick Fighting Company.

From this …
Protesters from Madelakufa informal settlement in Thembisa congregate outside the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality demanding housing which was allegedly promised by President Zuma. The Star (October 13, 2010)

… to this

Old style game box for kids Inside taxi sales Electronic posters for strikers Crisis management company Blanket hooks Volunteer supplement to the newspaper Be a stockbroker 24 hours in a ghost house

Alcohol free zones in townships Short sleeved overalls

Waterproof cell phone cover

Do the Job Interview and get the job Mobile bathrooms

Shack Building Training Centre

Be a sales agent 48 hours in a studio Learners licence takeaway

… and this
Nelson Mandela – a skilled stick fighter
In the Cape, stick fighting, or Intonga, was very much a rural tradition. In his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela remembers stick fighting during his childhood in the Eastern Cape. “I learned to stick-fight – essential knowledge to any rural African boy – and became adept at its various techniques, parrying blows, feinting in one direction and striking in another, breaking away from an opponent with quick footwork.” Vuyisile then turned his attention to the youth, training young people in the art of stick fighting through stick fighting schools. Here again, he raised funds and attracted supporters and sponsors. He’s currently looking for sponsorship to buy 300 helmets for the youngest participants. Within two months of his forming the Stick Fighting Company, reporters from BBC and CNN were running stories about Vuyisile’s vision. “Before the other sports codes existed in South Africa, people would stick fight. It was a very brilliant entertainment in Africa” ~ uyisele Dyolotana ~ "In the rural areas Intonga fulfils important social and cultural functions. It teaches discipline and focus. I wish all South African, Southern African and African cultures would revive stick fighting. We could arrange world championships in South Africa and it would unite us all." ~ Vuyisile Dyolotana ~

Collection system for taxi fines Wedding pictures insert: 15 minutes of fame Mxit dictionary Satellite marine conservation areas Renovations consultants Military tourism: ride a tank, a submarine etc. Animal Tracker for farmers Popcorn lid Radio Reality Show Blue Water Army

60 kph zone cut-out mechanism on speed signs

Afrikaaps EIA on-site specialists as part of a building company Virtual global museums Reality ideas company for TV and radio stations OR Reality Radio

An urban sport

The Stick Fighting Company
People take to the streets, chanting, toyi-toying, waving placards, waving sticks. That’s all that most onlookers see as they pass by, all that most readers absorb as they read the news of the day and see a photograph of an angry crowd. But Vuyisile Dyolotana, a young black entrepreneur, saw something else. He looked, and looked again. He saw the sticks, and an idea began to grow.

Now, stick fighting has made its way to the townships of the Western Cape. Vuyisile has taken the traditional concept and commercialized it. He started with local tournaments, attracting thousands of supporters. As news spread of what he was doing, Vuyisile attracted sponsors. He groomed tournament winners to participate in corporate workshops, a very viable business proposition @ R3000 an hour.

Virtual stadium experiences Maggot farms

Why not start Stick Fighting Tournaments?
Stick fighting is a traditional fighting technique practised around the world, usually by young men during their initiations. However in many parts of the world this tradition is dying.

Test the politician

Beat the polygraph


Seeing the Leaves

Meet Charles Maisel
‘I want people to be creative every day of their lives; to start things that make them salivate when they wake in the morning.’ ~ Charles Maisel ~ Other highlights in Charles’s life include:
• • • Founder of 5 in 6 Project based on the belief that if one in six men is abusive, then the other five can do something about it. Founder of Men on the Side of the Road Project. Founder of Black Umbrellas, a non-profit company offering a working environment and support services to emerging black businesses in the way of office space, equipment and resources, from computers to a reception service, to a business directory. Founder of the Great Ideas Company. Founder of Gospel Cookies. Founder of Indlu Yegazi Aids Incentive Testing Model, a programme aimed at persuading men to forgo work for a day and get tested for HIV. Founder of Shoebox Homes, a non-profit organisation, which seeks to develop innovative designs for space-saving furniture to market, manufacture and deliver to those living in over-crowded spaces. Founder of the Broccoli Project which uses mobile and biometric technology to track and measure funders’ money at work. It also incentivizes the recipients of funds into positive actions such as taking an HIV test, cleaning their community, or attending school. Founder of Dojo. Raising R50 million over a 5-year period. Raising capital for all new projects through innovative marketing: brochures, product development and personal selling.

• • • •

Creative thinker
Charles Maisel’s aim in life is to use his pioneering, creative and innovative skills and energy to develop groundbreaking socio-economic projects. A visionary, a changemaker, a social artist, Charles is constantly seeing new ideas, researching, developing, financing and launching new projects through his company, Innovation Shack. He brings his own brand of seeing to everyday situations and problems and comes up with concepts and solutions that are inspired, imaginative and inventive.

• • •

I am interested in creating social art ~ Charles Maisel ~

Social artist
The first project Charles undertook after graduating from Rhodes University with an Honours degree in Social Sciences was to set up an organization which provides “Men at the Side of the Road” with regular work suited to their skills. However, being the founder of this awardwinning charity was just the beginning – Charles has gone on to launch numerous new projects since then, and has garnered many accolades and awards along the way.

‘I am a serial social entrepreneur who wants to change and inspire young people to be creative and innovative. I change perceptions on how to do things differently.’ ~ Charles Maisel~
Family, the mountains and the sea
Charles heads for the mountains whenever he can, and always keeps an eye on the ocean to see if the surf is good. He is married and has two sons. He lectures at the Graduate School of Business at UCT. He has published a book called The Secrets of Working with Men soon to be followed by Seeing the Leaves, which will provide the reader with more insights into his creative approach.

Innovation Shack CC
Charles runs Innovation Workshops and gives talks. He conducts Sustainability Audits for NGO’s and kickstarts his own and others’ innovative social enterprises. His work in this field has gained him the following awardsd and recognition: United Nations AGFUND Award for Pioneering Development Project (2002); Echoing Green Fellow (USA); Ashoka Fellow (USA); Men’s Health Best Man winner 2005; Old Rhodian Award 2005; Finalist Shell Global Challenge 2006; Impumelelo Award 2006 and the Gibs Leadership Award 2006

12 Businesses in 12 Months Business Challenge
At the end of 2010, Charles’s students challenged him to start 12 new businesses – one a month. He’s already well on his way. To track the progress of his challenge, and to gain valuable insights into what sparks his thinking, visit Charles’s blog:

Seeing the leaves


Leaves from the Vine 2
Tuning in to what a particular market craves is the mark of a creative and perceptive thinker. When we’re in a rush it’s great to grab something quick and easy to eat. It’s even better when that something reminds us of home and our mother’s cooking ...
One franchise system that is succeeding in developing black entrepreneurs is the Hot Dog Cafe, run by Derek Smith. ... it has the support of Massmart and the Umsobomvu Youth Fund. With them on board, Smith has helped establish 30 independent hot-dog barrow owners; 10 owners of Hot Dog diners, which are more formal eateries; and six owners of The Coffee Stop, a new concept also supported by Massmart. From ‘No free ride’, Sasha Planting, Business Day 2008/11/14 thought. But what about something with a more traditional, home-based flavour? What’s cheap and easy and nutritious? “Black” tripe or mogudu. (When the mala or intestine is included, the dish is called malamogudu.) The small or “Bible” tripe is also known as blaarpens. Tripe can served boiled, fried, breaded, stewed, sautéed or poached. traditionally cooked tripe. Within two hours he had sold out, and his head was buzzing with possibilities.

Seeing that leaf
A young entrepreneur read about a successful franchise for hot dogs in Business Day. Hot dogs, quick, easy meals for people on the move. You see vendors selling them on the streets of New York, with all sorts of relishes. Great to see an international concept taking off in South Africa, he

Local is lekker
With its silky, soft texture and mild flavour, tripe is hugely popular in South Africa and recipes have been handed down from generation to generation. These call for one of two types of tripe. The large tripe is known as

A Tripe Franchise?
After researching the model and trying out his recipes the young entrepreneur hit the streets, armed only with a huge pan filled with The market is there for a new mobile franchise called ‘I Love Tripe’ and the young entrepreneur is busy putting the franchise together.

Leaves from the Vine 3 Bread Alert
The days of squashed bread could be numbered, thanks to this brainwave from a young student in Mannenberg.
From bread cartels to bread boxes
A young girl from Mannenberg was on the train going home one day, reading about the end of the bread cartel saga – the battle that had been going on against the bread companies for so long that it had become known as ‘Breadgate’. But her mind didn’t dwell on the intricacies and scandals surrounding the bread companies and how they had conspired to rip off consumers. Instead, as she thought about bread, she thought about her mom going shopping for bread, and how, nine times out of ten, she would complain about how her bread got squashed. No matter how carefully she packed her shopping bags, when she unpacked them at home the bread was well and truly compacted, usually in the middle. Some days even the bread on the shelves was squashed, probably because someone had given it a good squeeze to see if it was fresh.

Proper packaging
It’s a pity bread can’t be properly packed, she thought. Like eggs are – they usually arrive home unbroken because of the way in which they are packaged. If they have egg boxes, she thought, why not bread boxes?

Thinking about boxes …
What about families who buy two loaves of bread at a time – would they use one box for each loaf, or would the shops sell double bread boxes as well as singles? How would we get people to buy into the idea of unsquashed bread? How cheap could we make the boxes? If companies can advertise on them, then maybe they could have a promotional offer – buy two loaves of bread and get a free bread box? Maybe this would be a way for the bread companies to revamp their image? If the student who thought of the idea could be interviewed (on Carte Blanche, for example) and the bread companies could be persuaded to donate some of the money to school feeding schemes, then people might be more inclined to support the idea, and see the bread companies in a more favourable light after Breadgate. What about cardboard sandwich boxes too? Would they work?

No more squashed loaves
As these ideas tend to do, the thought grew. She stared out the window and let her mind bounce back and forth. It would be so easy, she thought. And it would save costs. Instead of packing bread in plastic bags (bad for the environment – and they make the bread sweaty) the bread companies could sell flat-packed bread boxes to all of their customers. Bread could be delivered to the stores without packaging, saving costs that might even make the bread a bit cheaper! The bread boxes would be green, of course, made from recycled materials, and they would be reusable. Not only would it be great to be able to take your bread box with you when you went shopping, you could also use one at home.

STOP! You’re losing focus!
Instead of thinking any more about boxes, turn the page and read the article ‘This is your pilot speaking’. What else could the bread boxes be used for, before they are sent to recycling? Could primary school children use them as storage boxes? Could teachers use them in the same way? If they are solidly made they could have a long lifespan. What happens to fruit when you go shopping? It’s fine if you have a car parked under a supermarket, but what about when you have to carry your shopping home on the bus? Apples are okay, they might just get a bit bruised, but what about naartjies, peaches and grapes? Why not get the fruit sellers or the supermarkets to sell flat pack boxes for fruit as well? They’d also have to be reusable. Crafters could decoupage them and make trendy bread boxes ...

TIMES the supplement 30 July 2010


Seeing the Leaves

This is your pilot speaking
Hmmm … You’ve had a great idea and now you’re thinking about new angles. But, if you’ve gone from thinking about bread boxes to recycling bread boxes after they have been thrown out, then …

… Stop!
Stop right there!

Keep seeing
More than anything, I want you to keep seeing. A creative thinker doesn’t limit him or herself to one great idea. S/he keeps seeing. New ideas jostle for space, and some burn brighter, way, way brighter than others.

hours calculating the costs of lavender oils and what it would cost to start a plant to process the product. No, what happened there was that I heard the word ‘lavender’, connected it to the idea of the plant and then thought about how beautiful it would look to see a housing project surrounded by the beauty and smell of a hardy bush that thrives in hot sandy conditions. And then I took one step and one step only. I sent out an email to all the people on my email contact list and waited to see what would happen. It didn’t take long. Within a couple of hours my inbox was flooded with enthusiastic replies and so I could see that this was an idea that would fly. If better and better things happen as a result of my initial idea, great. If someone else takes an aspect of the scheme and makes something of it, so much the better. My ‘job’ – for want of a better word – is to think creatively, to see the leaves. And in this instance, the only question I asked, after years of training myself to think and see creatively was, ‘How much lavender is there in Lavender Hill?’

No time to see the leaves
What happens then, if we seize on the first great idea we see and wrestle it into submission by working out business plans and future costs Of course it’s almost impossible to stop ourselves from taking a great idea and projecting it into the future. In a few of the stories here, I’ve given you an idea of the sort of thinking that happens when a great idea emerges and says, ‘Hey! Look at me.’ But I’ve also shown you how you can wander off the path of the great idea and get stuck in the sort of details that suck time, energy and creativity from a great thought, while preventing the generation of new ideas. and planned expansions and possible outcomes? All those other great ideas will never be seen because we won’t have allowed ourselves the chance to see them. All our energy will be drawn away from the seeing as we become tangled in the ifs and maybes and possiblys.

‘So what can we do? We have to do something,’
I can hear you saying. And you’re right. You do have to do something.

Don’t get bogged down by too much planning
The last thing I want to do is squash your enthusiasm, or to prevent you from taking inspired leaps. All I ask is that you be very careful, because – strange as it may seem – thinking about an idea too much, doing too much forward planning, can stifle your creativity.

Will this baby fly?
What you need to do is pilot the great idea. Think of something quick and simple and efficient that will show you, within a couple of days or weeks, whether your great idea has potential. Will your fledgling fly, or will it never leave the nest? Look at the story about the young entrepreneur who had the I LOVE TRIPE idea. He didn’t spend hours of time planning only to see his dreams crumble into dust. He made a huge batch of tripe, got out there, into the streets, and started selling.

Test the market
With the Stick Fighting idea, we tested the market immediately. We organised one small tournament and waited to see what would happen. People couldn’t stop talking about it, and were soon clamouring for more. Urban Stick Fighting took off like a rocket and within two months had made international news.

Some thoughts ~ Charles Maisel ~
I meditate when I walk. I want to find ancient paths and walk them in South Africa. I want to walk in the mountains and live like the San and document this on the web. When you’re on the top of the mountain and you look down, you can imagine what God sees: buzzing cars and active people. He sees new homes and buildings and roads being built on pristine land. He sees polluted rivers and a plastic-choked world. If you walk through life like you walk up a mountain, one step at a time, then you will get to the top. You can’t own the mountain, the wind, the clouds, the rain, the pools of water in the crevices of the rocks, the mud, the smell of the fynbos, the rocks, the sound of a bird, the silence, the little white pebbles, the caves. If you keep walking your body will get stronger and you will end up flying. When you walk you are aware of everything. When you walk in an ancient city with your eyes wide open, you walk with the ancients. If you are open to opportunity it will change everything. If I had three wishes I would want to soar like an eagle, run like a wolf and swim like a dolphin: Beauty, Perseverance and Joy.

Stay focused
There’s no harm in sketching out a few quick thoughts – as long as you keep your mind clearly focused on the idea at hand. If you’re thinking about bread boxes, keep thinking about bread boxes and how you might be able to test your ideas. Don’t start thinking about fruit boxes and sandwich boxes and recycling boxes. Leave that sort of thinking to other people. Let RECYCLING BREAD BOXES become someone else’s great idea. Your great idea is the one that says we need boxes for bread. Focus on that, and keep your eyes open for other great ideas at the same time.

Within a couple of hours he was sold Three ideas, three quick, effective and inexpensive pilots. No major out. But – much more importantly – within a couple of hours he had proved, far faster and more efficiently than any business plan would ever have done, that this was an idea that would fly. investments – either emotionally financially or in terms of time. If the idea flies, it flies. If it crashes and burns the fallout is minor and all we need is a sticking plaster from the medicine vending machine on the corner … Above all, we haven’t been sucked in, bogged down and shackled by planning for something that may never actually happen. We’ve tried our great idea out and the response we’ve received has shown us that it will either nosedive, or fly for miles.

Don’t limit yourself
For that matter, if you’ve been practising your seeing, you could be piloting three great ideas, with plans for piloting three more taking shape.

How an idea blossoms
When I had the idea about lavender for Lavender Hill, I didn’t spend

Seeing the leaves


Leaves from the Vine 4

Medical Vending Machines … on every corner
You have a crashing headache and no one has a headache tablet and you don’t have time to get down to the pharmacy, and all you have in your purse or wallet is R6.00 anyway? All you need is two headache tablets and you’ll be fine… Wouldn’t it be great if there were a mobile medicine chest nearby?
The Tutor Company
little time spent at home. Every-

Handbag light Paparazzi Company Concrete tombstones BEE dealmakers, e.g. between SAB and shebeens Pimp my Bible – modernizing the look and feel of the Bible Funeral Planner Property development in Kanini penthouses with a view Half a cigarette Telli-mouse Copper cable theft-proof system Rural farm security system

For Sale: Soda vending machine. Still works perfectly. For collection only. Phone after office hours.

thing you need gets packed into your rucksack at the start of the day, and if you forget something you usually have to do without until you get back to your digs. (This is the case with many people – their place of work or study is seldom just around the corner, and their days are so

Double-decker trains Festival of Horses between communities Electronic weather service for road users Beards … a product to soften, maintain … The Pedestrian Company Aspirations: drive a Ferrari, wear a designer dress … get your pic taken Tread measurer Rural fence system Flight savings scheme House calls by doctors

A group of students noticed an ad like this in the paper, and because they were getting used to the idea of seeing the leaves, looking at what was right there and waiting to be seen, they were able to ask themselves how else vending machines could be used. Not to sell another kind of beverage, as one might think, but to sell something that ties in with their lifestyle – something they need. Now the thing about being a student, as you might know, or remember from your past, is that money is often in very short supply. Often it’s a case of getting by with the minimum, eking out an allowance until the end of the month.

busy that they don’t have time to pop to the shops for that small something.) There isn’t space in a small rucksack to fit everything in – it’s usally crammed with books and notes. chest,’ said another. ‘Yes’, said another, ‘or bathroom cabinet even.’ ‘OMG yes!’ said another. ‘Have you ever had one of those days where you’ve fogotten to put on deodorant? But you’ve just bought a new bottle, so you don’t need another one for like a whole month?’ ‘Ja, and what about when you just know your breath smells and you wish had one of those little toothpaste kits – you know like the ones they sell on planes?’ And that was all that was needed. They had seen what was staring them in the face and the ideas flew thick and fast.

Pounding headache?
So what happens when you have a cold? Or a headache? Or if your hayfever goes wild and your eyes begin to stream? Can you dash down to the local pharmacy? But the thing is, you don’t want a whole box of tablets. You just need enough to meet the immediate need. Wouldn’t it be great if you could grab it quickly and fairly cheaply?

OM Schools (similar to Alan Gray Orbis Foundation) where the best kids are given bursaries but at the same time opportunities to then start businesses or work for OM Dealing with tenant issues … There were no solutions here, but recognized many problems and opportunities As homes get repossessed is there a system to save people’s homes … a new product?

‘OMG yes!’
‘Like a sachet with two headache tablets,or maybe four? And not at prices that rip people off totally,’ said one of the students. ‘A sort of mobile medicine

No time to stop, no time (or money) to shop
Another aspect of the student life is that it’s very mobile – often with

Legal street racing in industrial areas

Fish farming operation in the Waterfront

Bulk buying wholesale cooperative

Ownership of buildings and maintenance of buildings Watersports in the Waterfront

Airbag on chest of cyclist

Mr Delivery to Manenberg

Proudly Manenberg

Flavored Amasi

Mobile Karaoke units

Training black referees, umpires etc and outsourcing

Technology to communicate with community

Food Night Markets every night – close off streets to cars

Measuring a person’s natural immunity

Financial literacy educational TV station

Positive newspapers

Trolley innovation - badly needed! One bin recycling system for home and office Pay children to market your brand to their peers

Beach carers

Sleeping bags from newspaper Social grants in the form of vouchers Local second-hand bookstore directory online

Disability phonebook

Spray systems during heat waves

Marriage proposal company – unique ways to propose Archaeology building consultants

Give up your seat

Sewash – bottled seawater

UIF 6-months worker readiness program


Seeing the Leaves

Leaves from the Vine 5
Getting fitter by the minute
A young entrepreneur has hit on a way of making gym time more accessible to fitness enthusiasts.
A young entrepreneur noticed a health club advert as he was reading his newsaper during his lunch break. Just that week a friend of his had mentioned how he’d really like to be a member of a health club, but that he couldn’t commit to a year’s worth of subscription fees. And he wasn’t the only one. The young entrepreneur knew of many people who would love to work out, but who couldn’t afford a health club subscription. But these same people were able to put money into their cell phones as they needed to, and they managed to get to the end of the month by allocating their money carefully, using what was left over to pay for small luxuries. Maybe an extra R25.00 to see a movie, or R150.00 to spend on a pair of shoes.

Put-pocket – the opposite of pick pocketing Newspaper vending machines The Single Parent Market researched Motorbike covers Kids accident cover for household accidents Supermarket cell phone with scanner Managing kids over the 4 - week break in June Bread dough making machines rental The CASTER brand Talent Scout agency using cell phones Text corrector Fresh fruit in packets chopped up as you wait on the street, as in Asia Paperweight on the train – to buy magazines Hair harvesting in SA Yesterday’s news: papers sold the day after for a lower price Student Lotto Cartoon toilet rolls and other messaging Mandarin school

Leaves from the Vine 6
UDAREF soccer card

Gym by the minute
Wouldn’t it be great, thought the young entrepreneur, if people could spend as much time per month as they could afford to at a gym, pay by the minute instead of by the month, like so many people do with top-up cell phone contracts. If people only have R50 a week spare, they could put that money into Gym by the Minute instead of by the month, using gym facilities for the time they could afford.

The inspiration for the UDAREF soccer card came about when I saw that many local referees at clubs had no yellow or red referee cards. When I queried this, I discovered that the cards are expensive – retailing at around R40.00. The next step I took was to pilot the idea. I designed the UDAREF card for around 70c and then started to market it at stadiums for fans to use. It was really exciting to hand out the cards at the stadiums and see the fans use the card when a red card was shown. The idea caught on quickly and the fans enjoyed using the cards. The pilot showed that that the UDAREF card is a great idea, one that shows enormous potential, and so I want to refine the idea, do a few more tests and refine it again. What I hope for is to see the UDAREF card being produced as a charity card that fans will buy and use and in so doing support grassroots soccer. The UDAREF concept and pilot serves another purpose here, as I can use it to show much of what is involved in taking your ideas beyond the ‘Hey that’s a great idea’ stage.

Gym cards? Makes sense.
Just like tube and train travellers in London use their Oyster Cards, people could use gym cards, swipe them as they entered the gym and again as they left.

It’s a risky business
No business will ever start out without some risk. Financial risk, personal confidence risk. In the case of UDAREF I self-financed the making of the first 10,000 cards.

Somebody’s got to do something Can’t start transport company: if drivers drink the car won’t start
There could be a rate for times when the gyms were very busy, and a lower one for when there wasn’t such high ‘gym traffic’. No business will ever start unless someone does something real. In the case of UDAREF, we handed the cards out by hand at PSL games.

Testing, testing
A good test period is always necessary in order to learn lessons and to see if a business will work.

Health club members of the future
This system would build a culture gym users who, as they enjoyed the benefits of gym time, would budget so that they could enjoy more time. Once they could afford to, they would very likely decide to opt for full-time membership and pay a year’s subs month by month. A scheme like this would appeal to students on a budget and freelancers who are never assured of a set monthly salary.

Proofreading business for Chinese and other foreign companies for product labels and instructions. Also to translate labels and instructions into Afrikaans and other South African languages

Embracing the challenge of change
From lessons learnt a business will change many times and then begin the cycle again.

Try until you score
No business can survive without being very resilient and tough. However if things are not working a business must concede that this is the case, change its approach or (in the worst case scenario) start all over again.

Seeing the leaves


Leaves from the Vine 7
A quick, free pilot

1,000,000 lavender plants for Lavender Hill
Lavender Hill’s whimsical name has nothing whatsoever to do with the vegetation surrounding it.

Urban Farms: 1000 fruit trees i.e. loquats, figs, lemons etc. leading to products and festival

Old computer boxes become drying boxes for biltong New loan system for students who drop out of tertiary education, based on individuals loaning them cash not institutions Pampers feeder box Incentive program for kids to stay in school, as in Mexico

Piloting the scheme took a matter of minutes – all I needed to do was send a quick email to all the people on my contacts’ list, and then sit back and wait for responses.

From: Date: To:

Charles Thursday, April 07, 2011 3:19 PM Undisclosed recipients

Subject: Charles Maisel wants to plant 1,000,000 lavender plants in Lavender Hill

The seed of a great idea
It all started when one of my students approached me and said he’d like to become involved in an entrepreneurial scheme with me. For some reason the first thing that popped into my mind was to ask him, ’Where do you live?’ ‘Lavender Hill,’ he said, and immediately I saw blocks of project housing and dusty earth. ‘And is there any lavender in Lavender Hill,’ I asked? The answer was no. But why shouldn’t there be? And with that question, I saw the leaves. The obvious was staring me in the face. If it’s called Lavender Hill – then obviously lavender should be growing there.

You all know me as a crazy guy with lots of crazy ideas. But you do know me as someone who makes these crazy ideas work. And then they’re not so crazy after all. I need your help with my next idea. Why is there no lavender in Lavender Hill; a gang infested community that really needs help? I aim to plant an urban farm of 1,000,000 lavender plants in Lavender Hill. I will plant and process these plants over the next 12 months. I want to reclaim the land into something positive, beautiful ( I can see the colours from the highway already), calming and productive. You can help me by letting my team come and take cuttings of the lavender in your garden or you could sponsor one plant for R20.Give me a call and be part of this massive social art/social activism/ social entrepreneurship project. Charles Maisel Serial social entrepreneur
It didn’t take long. Within minutes of sending the email the replies started coming in: all of them enthusiastic, all of them delighted by the idea, and all of them offering support. The email cost me nothing to send – only a few minutes of my time – but the returns on it were spectacular.

How to turn your pool into a reservoir?

Existing laser beams connected to house alarms as pool security for kids

Fire alarms in all domestic houses and shacks

Mall security solutions

Working holidays in South Africa e.g.: picking grapes etc.

A small store that only sells big things e.g.: large soap containers, large toothpaste etc.

Plastic dolls merchandising of celebrities in SA

Clearing shops of old stock of well known brands The Train Entertainment Company Back mirrors for cars Walk around vendors selling anything: food, drink, products at games, trains, stations etc Skype in townships

Pay as you go umbrella company for internet, gyms, gaming … anything Branded children’s transport Solar powered appliances The Pedestrian Sign Company, fresh ideas appealing to local communities Mattress massager

Clothing range for pedestrians that light up in dark areas

Artisan show raffle houses instead of auction or sale

Speedometers to only reach a certain speed in SA – max 140

Earplugs for soccer games Virtual scoreboards Certificate of royalty. Do you want to be a prince? Send us R150 and we will send you a certificate 3-sided TV For driving schools and parents of learner drivers: Learner bumper pads around car SA happy birthday songs for restaurants

Joke cubicles in malls Black cheerleaders Alarm on speedometers (when speeds reached are too high) similar to alarm that sounds for seat belt Raw wool blankets

Transnet ticket vending machines Virtual contracts Building industry water retention and savings consultancy at building sites Union for the unemployed

Virtual playbacks at games Rabbit farms Build up a fantasy book for teens: each teen writes a piece then the story moves on Sleeping slippers

Movable and portable change rooms for beach

Wholesale stationery company

The creation of shortcuts using lights on highways

Hard hat protector

Compulsory heat detectors in cars

Portable parenting program

DIY paint kit for inside homes with instructions

Grannies’ gossip

Delivery service for all shops in a mall

Alumni programme


Seeing the Leaves

Leaves from the Vine 8
But their influence in lower divisions is evident. … “We (fans) are fighting the same battle. We all want our clubs successful and to avoid any financial problem,” said Nick Towle, chairman of Manchester United’s influential fans’ group, Shareholders United. “We are the ones who provide clubs with all of their money. And at the moment, such a contribution is not recognised.”

A Winning Goal for South African Soccer Fans
“Our goal is to promote sustainable spectator sports clubs based on supporters’ involvement & community ownership”. [Supporters Direct mission statement]

… Supporters’ trusts already own or control nine of the lower league clubs, and have 38 of their members on the boards of others. Over the course of four years, they have raised £10-million to finance their activities. Burnham, however, wants more. Come 2055, he said, fans would prevail. “Fifty years from now, the vast majority of clubs will be supporterowned or controlled,” he said. “It is coming back our way.” … Apart from Manchester United, where small shareholders own about 18 percent of the club, fans have little significant presence in top-flight clubs.

Excerpted from a story about the early days of Supporters Direct: ‘British fans hope to increase spectator power’, by Alaa Shahine, Argus, November 4 2004
Inspiration at the station
In April I went to London to meet with a company called Supporters Direct. It all started, as so many great ideas do, when I was sitting on a train reading the newspaper and an article about Supporters Direct caught my eye.

Soccer stadiums were packed during the World Cup. Can this be the case on a regular basis, if fans are allowed a greater interest in their clubs?

Supporters own shares in sports clubs
This company has managed to get fans to buy shares in lower division clubs. As a result, fans are more involved in soccer as a whole. They have a say in how their clubs are run, they receive the benefits from their clubs rather than having this money find its way into the pockets of the wealthy few. Supporters Direct soon convinced 300 clubs to use this system and the concept is growing throughout Europe.

Supporters Direct encourages all sports clubs to follow their model.

Filling stadiums to capacity
If fans had an interest in their club – one that went beyond supporting their favourite players and buying scarves and t-shirts emblazoned with club logos – then they would become even more staunch supporters. Stadiums, which are often empty, would be filled with fans cheering as they saw their clubs in action.

Could this work in South Africa?
As I read, the first thought that came to mind was: I wonder if this could work in South Africa? Could South African fans buy clubs in South African soccer divisions? Could they own shares and have some say in regulating the sport? Surely this would raise the standards of South African soccer?

From Charles Maisel’s blog: 12 Businesses in 12 Months Business Challenge

Golden Arrow shares owned by the public Farm on community land or city council land Dustbins that disintegrate paper immediately using a heater system Fishing training

Individualised medical folders on a disk drive Build wind turbines from rubbish Fireboxes for valuable documents – see blog entry to the left Books on fishing and fishing skills Rechargeable battery iron Solar panels on chemical toilets Mobile personal drink detector to see if over limit before driving ‘Rent-a-fridge-space’ model in townships

Fireproof furniture Houses made from cold room panelling Hand-held personal alarm linked to light poles in townships Full schools curriculum on the internet with tests

Information by real people. E.g. transport information: when there is a transport problem, or if things are on schedule, come and give commuters real time information via walkie talkies Low cost airlines, hotels, cars etc. Offer benefits once they get data and get discounts on birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, graduations, etc.