A Birdseye view of innovation

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in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

For a glimpse of how to put inventions into action, check out Clarence Birdseye, the guy who enabled us to eat vegetables from a freezer instead of a can.

Well before he launched Birdseye Frosted Foods, the 10-year-old from Long Island, N.Y., was looking for ways to make money in 1896. He noticed lots of muskrat around his family’s farm and wondered where there might be a market for them.

The young Birdseye wrote to the Bronx Zoo, asking director William Hornaday if he’d be interested in acquiring some live muskrat. Hornaday wrote back that he had all the muskrat he needed but knew an Eng­lish aristocrat who might be.

Before long, the boy had trapped a dozen muskrat and shipped them to England. He earned $9 for the nine that survived, which he used to launch his next business venture at age 11.

Lesson: Watch for opportunities, ask questions and act.

— Adapted from Birdseye, Mark Kurlansky, Doubleday.

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