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Book showcases 100 humble entrepreneurs with 'heart'

The conventional view of entrepreneurs is that they are heroic millionaires. Words like “businessman” and “finance” and “statistics” may come into mind — all of which can seem pretty mundane and meaningless to the man on the street.

“The Other Hundred Entrepreneurs” is a unique book that turns that stereotypical view on its head. Helmed by Chandran Nair, the project portrays the inventiveness and ingenuity that ordinary entrepreneurs from around the world bring to bear as they find the means to support themselves, their families and communities.

In other words, it shows the “heart” of the entrepreneur. The humble background of these entrepreneurs proves that one does not have to be rich and famous to be noteworthy.

The book looks at 100 ordinary people from 95 countries, all of whom contribute to maintaining the global economy and creating jobs.

Here are some of the interesting profiles featured in the book:

ASIA — Orchard Road, Singapore

Allan Lim, 42, founder of Comcrop, Singapore (Photo: Richard Koh/The Other Hundred)

Allan lim, 42, is the founder of Comcrop, an urban farm spread across a 6,000-square-foot roof-top on Singapore’s downtown Orchard Road.

Comcrop, a social enterprise, uses “aquaponics” – a system of hydroponics – the process of growing plants in sand, gravel, or liquid with the use of nutrients – that uses broken down bio-waste from fish and aims at recreating the eco-system of a freshwater lake.

The farm’s output includes a range of herbs and vegetables, including basil, peppermint, spearmint, and several varieties of tomatoes.

Allan, who is also CEO and co-founder of Alpha Biofuels, a bio-diesel business, and co-founder of The living! Project, a collective of artists, social innovators and designers graduated from Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University in 1999 with a degree in engineering.

Comcrop’s staff include two young Singaporeans, one a recent graduate and another about to begin her university studies, helped by a group of local senior citizens who help with harvesting and packing.

AMERICA — Buenos Aires, Argentina 

Dani with one of a half-made pair of shoes, Buenos Aires, Argentina (Photo: Anatol Kotte/The Other Hundred)

Nearly six decades ago, in 1955, on a small street in Buenos Aires’ Palermo district, Felix Correa founded Calzados Correa, a maker of men’s shoes. He opened a workshop, hired the best argentine, Spanish and Italian craftsmen he could find, then started selling the shoes they made by walking up and down the streets of his neighbourhood, knocking on doors in search of customers.

Slowly, his reputation grew. “You are going to be the best craftsman ever,” his customers told him. “We will still wear your shoes when you are gone.”

Felix spent much of his free time outdoors, with football a particular passion. In 1992, in the middle of a game, he had a heart attack and died. His son, Dani, then 32, inherited the business. As a boy, Dani had spent all his hours after school sitting alongside his father, watching and learning. He promised to run Correa with the same passion and spirit as his father.

Today, Correa employs a dozen staff. A pair of its off-the-shelf shoes takes around two weeks to make and sells for around US$350. Although Dani continues only to make men’s shoes, his younger brother has opened Correa ladies across the road from Correa, a separate business specialising in women’s footwear.

Dani, now in his mid-fifties, sometimes wonders about Correa’s future. “What will happen when I’m gone?” he asks. The answer, he knows, lies with his older son, Juan, now in his early 20s. He understands the spirit of the company, says Dani. “Be creative. Follow your instincts. Be genuine,” he advises his son.

EUROPE — Ulldemolins, Spain

Maialen, 27 and Andrés, 35, members of Engrama band, Ulldemolins, Spain (Photo: Edu Bayer/The Other Hundred)

Maialen, 27, and Andrés, 35, are the two members of Engrama, a popular band in the virtual world of second life. From their home in Ulldemolins, a tiny Catalan village in north-west Spain, wearing headphones and playing electronic instruments, their eyes fixed on a laptop screen, they have given more than 2,000 concerts in the last five years.

Developed by Linden Lab, a company based in San Francisco, second life has acquired around one million regular users since its launch in 2003. As well as being a place where people can meet and socialise online, it also has it own currency, the linden, which can be exchanged with real world currencies such as the dollar and euro.

Through their concerts and a virtual fashion store where their followers can buy “clothing” and other accessories for their second life avatars, Maialen and Andrés earn enough to support themselves, Maialen’s parents and her sister.

AFRICA — Johannesburg, South Africa 

Philani, 24, makes a living selling books on a Johannesburg street corner, South Africa (Photo: Tebogo Malope)

Philani, 24, makes a living selling books on a Johannesburg street corner. To attract attention from passers-by, he offers them free reviews of any of the titles in the pile of works next to him. If someone likes what they hear, they can then buy the book.

Born in Kwazulu-Natal, a province on South Africa’s east coast, Philani moved to Johannesburg in his early teens. He says he discovered the value of reading after self-help books helped him recover from drug addiction.

He sells his books – most of which are given to him – for between US$2 and US$9 each, earning enough to rent a flat as well as buy enough food to eat. Although he refuses to name his favourite book, John Grisham is his favourite author.

For more information about the book, visit