ShapeShifter

No water? No problem! Young entrepreneur profits from crisis with invention

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“You either want it or you don’t,” says 24-year-old Ludwick Marishane when coaxed into advising those wishing to try their hand at entrepreneurship.

“You shouldn't need any encouragement. Sure, you can learn some entrepreneurial skills, but the entrepreneurial attitude can’t be taught. You must be able to handle numerous disappointments and you've got to stomach risk. If you can’t then it’s best to take a job and draw a salary.”

The birth of an entrepreneur

Marishane was born in Groblersdal in Limpopo but moved to Gauteng at the age of seven when his parents separated. He finished high school at Maryvale College and holds a Bachelor of Business Science from the University of Cape Town, majoring in Finance and Accounting.

He credits his father for instilling in him the drive to become an entrepreneur. “My mother was very poor but my father, through endeavours such as network marketing, became a wealthy man and an inspiration to me. He made me see that entrepreneurship and business was the way to go.”

Marishane was in ninth grade when, after being inspired by an episode of Top Gear, he invented his own bio-diesel. He invented a “healthy”cigarette that same year and, at the age of 16, authored a cellphone shorthand dictionary and tried his hand at publishing a magazine.

None of his inventions succeeded and he failed to get the dictionary or magazine published. Marishane, however, never expected success to come easily. “Failure provides great training for entrepreneurs. I was merely‘paying school fees’,” explains Marishane.

Although success remained elusive Marishane was never going to give up and look for work. “I was a bored teenager with money on my mind,” says Marishane without a hint of humour. “And I don’t function well within rigid structures; I don’t do nine to five.”

Eureka! Laziness (and cold water!) leads to inspiration

On a cold Limpopo afternoon Marishane and his best friend were sunbathing when the friend – who did not have heated water at his home - asked what turned out to be a million dollar question. “Ludwick, why doesn't someone invent something you can simply put on your skin and then you don’t have to bath?”

“Why not? Bingo!” thought Marishane who was only 17 years old at the time.

Marishane had no money and he didn't have access to a computer.“I did, however, own a basic cellphone that was web enabled so I could do research. You've got to work with what you have and do your very best within those limitations,” says the man who once wrote a 40-page business plan on a basic Nokia cellphone.

There was no healthy product on the market that could substitute bathing altogether. Marishane saw a gap and a chance to do good. “There are 2.5-billion people without access to water and many more who have access, but might need a bathing substitute.”

“I intend for DryBath to benefit poor, water scarce communities all around the world. More affluent societies will find that DryBath offersuseful time savings and a way to cut back on water usage through daily bathing.”

“DryBath saves water and is, I believe, an important weapon in the fight against the worsening water crisis.”

What is DryBath?

Marishane estimates that city-dwellers can use 80 litres of water to take a bath and 40 litres to take a shower. Rural societies can waste 15 litres of prized drinking or cooking water by using it to bath.

DryBath is a bath substituting gel that completely replaces the need for soap and,more crucially, water. Marishane became South Africa’s youngest patent holder when he registered the blend of cleaning products and moisturisers that make DryBath a uniquely viscous blend of bioflavonoids and natural emollients. It’seasy to use and cleanses the skin while preventing dryness and irritation.

“DryBath contains absolutely no artificial germicides,” enthuses Marishane. “The antimicrobial effects are all due to natural ingredients that won’t cause any harm or irritation. One sachet covers the whole body and totally eliminates body odour – even when you've sweated like pig!”

Marishane is currently optimising the formula to better suit the needs of consumers in the areas where DryBath is marketed. “Some Asians tend to find DryBath a little greasy while North Africans need more odour elimination,”explains Marishane.

On being a “polymath”

“Nowadays, most people are specialists,” says Marishane. “But the greatest minds in history – people such as Leonardo da Vinci – knew something about everything.”

Marishane proudly self identifies as a “polymath” - someone with expertise spanning a large number of subjects – and credits this wide knowledge with being able to come up with the concept of DryBath while knowing exactly the kind of experts he needed to get on-board.

“Steve Jobs built his first, small computer by hand. He knew enough to do that. But he needed experts who knew more than him to build all the great products that followed.”

Seeing opportunity where others see crisis

“South Africa’s water crisis is getting out of control,” says Marishane. “In fact, all over the world we have a problem. Water wars will soon become commonplace.”

“We must cultivate a water savings mind-set. People should start using products such as DryBath. Eventually the cost of not using water saving products will exceed the cost of using them.”

Any water supply crisis is an opportunity for the makers of DryBath.

“In developed countries we sell to people such as campers or festival goers who might not have water readily available to bath in. We’re also pitching the product to hotel groups who usually struggle to keep their water consumption in check. In developing countries the crisis is more acute, so we’re hoping to make a difference there.”

Touching lives; getting rich

“J.D Rockefeller famously said that he knew in order to get rich he needed to touch the lives of many people,” says Marishane. “So, my goal is not to get rich but to have an impact on as many lives as possible. I want to do my bit to address the water crisis. I want everyone to use DryBath at least once a week. These are my goals; if I achieve them the money will follow.”

(Click here for more "Shapeshifter" articles such as this one.)

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This article first appeared on CapeTalk : No water? No problem! Young entrepreneur profits from crisis with invention


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