When I was in my 20s and my grandfather in his 90s, I would visit his apartment on Saturdays and listen to him talk about life, politics, and business. One of his business lessons was about brown paper bags.  My grandfather had hobbled into the kitchen and brought back a brown paper grocery bag, a ubiquitous but relatively useless item at that time.  He then proceeded to undo the seams of the bag with his shaky hands. When he was done, he put the resulting large piece of paper on the floor.  He yelled excitedly only as an old man can, “Look at that! There’s got to be money in there!”  

For years I tried unsuccessfully to come up with something to make with brown paper bags.  His lesson never left me though.  If there is something that we throw away in large quantities, you just have to come up with a use for it.  If you come up with a use for it, then you can get your material largely for free.  

Years later, after my grandfather passed away, I was in my sister’s garden.  Her raised gardens beds utilized anything that she could find.  A brick on the side of the road.  An old license plate.  On one occasion there was a beautiful, large, flat polished stone lying next to the garden. My brother-in-law told me it was a piece of granite countertop to make raised beds, found in a dumpster at the granite counter place.  My response: “They throw that away!?”  He said, “Yeah, there’s a lot of it.”  

I found my brown paper bag.

Soon thereafter I started a company recycling granite waste.  Granite companies throw 25-40% of each slab in a dumpster.  They then pay to have the waste hauled away to a landfill.  I reduced their overhead by picking up their waste granite and turned the waste into pavers, veneers, and fire pits.  I built the company up and sold it after a few years.  An idea that grew from too many brown paper bags.