Starting from Scrap: My Favorite Business Book of 2010 (So Far)

If you enjoy the kinds of businesses we profile here on Business Opportunities Weblog, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that you’ll enjoy the book Starting from Scrap by Stephen Greer.

In 1993 at the age of 24, American Stephen Greer gave up his steady back office job in Germany and moved to Hong Kong without a return airline ticket, a plan, or even a real place to stay. He’d lined up a couch to crash on from a friend of a friend and lured by the booming economy he gave up his entire life and moved.

He had no idea what kind of business he was going to start once he got to Hong Kong, only that his dream was to build a great company and see the world in the process. Once there, he formed a corporation and with $500 in the bank he began faxing a letter (no email in those days) to almost everyone he’d ever met of business significance. The fax read:

Dear Sir,

I am writing to inform you that I have established Hartwell Pacific Limited as a trading company in Hong Kong. We are looking to participate in trade between China and [your country] and hope that we may be of service.

Please do not hesitate to contact us.

Stephen Greer

With that letter and visit to a “gift” show on the Chinese mainland, they were off and running. Their genius idea that would lead to riches: tooth brush holders with matching soap dishes.

The bathroom trinkets didn’t pan out in the end, and eventually Greer’s company became a scrap metal broker.

Being a middle man is easy and hard at the same time. Easy because you don’t have to buy anything until after you have an order in hand, but hard because it’s very easy to get cut out of the loop. That’s eventually what happened.

Since his company had developed some expertise in the scrap metal business, Greer eventually decided to get out of the middle and start his own scrap metal company. To hide the fact that they were now competing with some of their clients, they opened the separate companies under different names in many different countries in South East Asia and North America.

Eventually, his business was a big success and he sold the company for millions, but the real excitement of the story was watching him try to figure everything out along the way. If you enjoy the kinds of stories we post here, you’ll enjoy the book.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *