Money makers: movie science becomes reality

Japanese chemist Masaki Takao bought a replica of the DeLorean from Back To The Future to educate the masses on recycling clothes.


Masaki Takao flew his DeLorean out to Japan
(Image credit: © 2017 Bloomberg Finance LP)

At the end of the 1985 sci-fi film Back To The Future, madscientist Emmett "Doc" Brown, played by Christopher Lloyd,reappears in his time-travelling DeLorean, newly poweredby rubbish thanks to a fictional recycling reactor from thefuture, says Pavel Alpeyev in Bloomberg Businessweek.

Jeplan, a Japanese company founded by chemist MasakiTakao and textile salesman Michihiko Iwamoto, set out to turnthat fiction into reality by developing a way to extract cottonfibres from old clothing and turn them into fuel. Jeplan'stechnology, developed with help from Osaka University, turnsone ton of clothing into 700 litres of ethanol.

A new factory onthe island of Kyusu is due to start up this summer, processingan annual 2,000 tons of clothing. But the firm admits thatto make the process cost effective, 30,000 tons of donateditems will be needed a year. In a bid to spur the public intogiving away its old clothes,Takao bought a replicaof the DeLorean used inthe film from UniversalPictures, and flew itout to Japan at a costof 5m (£35,000), wherehe's hoping to teach thecrowds the benefits ofrecycling.

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Organic growth from peanut butter

Reading the label on a jar of peanut butter one day following a run along the Thames, Pippa Murray was shocked to find it contained palm oil. "It doesn't need to be there," the 28-year-old tells Laura Onita in The Sunday Times. "It does nothing except bulk it out." Palm oil is high in saturated fats and the process of growing it can be damaging to rainforests.

So Murray began making an organic nut-based spread in a rented commercial kitchen in north London in 2013, armed with a £10,000 government start-up loan. On weekends, while still working part-time, she sold her peanut, almond and cashew butters at Maltby Street Market in Bermondsey, south of the river. The following year, Murray raised another £120,000 through crowdfunding to upscale production to a factory in the Netherlands.

Her youth and inexperience were initially an impediment, she says. But soon Selfridges began to sell her spreads, quickly followed by Ocado and Fortnum & Mason. Today, Murray's Pip & Nut brand is stocked by 3,000 stores. Her business, employing eight staff, posted pre-tax profits of £138,000 on £3.1m sales last year, says Onita. "You don't need to know it all; just start doing it" is Murray's advice to entrepreneurs. Just "make sure your product is better than your competitors'".


Driving a truck through the cosmetics industry

"Marcia Kilgore is a pixie-ish character with a voice like candy floss and what she describes as a Tweetie Pie' forehead," says Charlotte Edwardes in the Evening Standard. "So to look at she's perhaps not the most obvious person to drive a truck through' the luxury cosmetic industry." But that's what she's done.

Kilgore has quite a track record. She sold one beauty business, Bliss Spa, for a reported £25m, and another, Soap & Glory, which she started with £300,000 in 2006, to Boots in 2014 for at least £40m. She also launched the now ubiquitous FitFlops, shoes with ergonomic soles, in 2007. Her new venture is Beauty Pie, a website that lets subscribers who pay a £10 per month membership fee buy top cosmetics for factory prices so cosmetics that might cost £30 in a department store sell for £2 through the site.

"It's my best idea yet," she says. The mark-up on famous brands can be up to 300 times. "I'm making the market fairer for women. It's a leap for women," she tells Edwardes. "I don't want to get all preachy, but we are taking the power back. Why shouldn't everyone be able to afford the best eye shadow or mascara? It's supposed to be about every woman being equal."


(Image credit: 2015 Getty Images)

The MoneyWeek audit: John Hurt

Actor John Hurt, who died last week aged 77, was born in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, on 22 January 1940. His father, Arnould, a mathematician and clergyman, took a dim view of the young Hurt's thespian ambitions, even though his mother, Phyllis, was an amateur actress. Hurt began studying at St Martin's School of Art in London in 1959. One nude model in his painting classes was Quentin Crisp, the writer he later played in The Naked Civil Servant (1975).

"Money was a constant problem and, on occasion, Hurt persuaded some of his friends to pose nude and sold the portraits," said the BBC. In 1960, he won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (Rada) and, after graduating, he was offered a part in the 1962 film The Wild And The Willing, for which he was paid £75 a week a good rate at the time.

What was his big break?

Hurt's big break came when he played Crisp in 1975, says The Times. But perhaps his greatest role was as John Merrick in the 1980 film The Elephant Man, for which Hurt narrowly missed out on an Oscar. Other acclaimed performances included his portrayal of the emperor Caligula in the BBC's I, Claudius in 1976 (which Crisp jokingly referred to as "me in a sheet"), drug addict Max in prison drama Midnight Express (1978) and Winston Smith in George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. He also appeared in one of cinema's most famous death scenes: the moment in Alien (1979) when the titular monster bursts out of his chest.

What was his attitude to money?

Some of Hurt's 200-plus films were "stinkers" done solely to finance a hell-raising life with fellow actors Peter O'Toole and Oliver Reed, he told the Radio Times in 2015. Later in life, he curtailed his drinking and appeared in a number of big-budget films such as the Harry Potter series. Last year, he and his wife, Anwen, were aiming to sell their Bloomsbury flat bought for £700,000 in 2006 for £1.8m, and their farmhouse near Cromer, Norfolk, for £600,000, to buy a larger farmhouse, he told The Times. In his days at Rada, he rented a room in the same Bloomsbury block for £3 per week.

Chris Carter

Chris Carter spent three glorious years reading English literature on the beautiful Welsh coast at Aberystwyth University. Graduating in 2005, he left for the University of York to specialise in Renaissance literature for his MA, before returning to his native Twickenham, in southwest London. He joined a Richmond-based recruitment company, where he worked with several clients, including the Queen’s bank, Coutts, as well as the super luxury, Dorchester-owned Coworth Park country house hotel, near Ascot in Berkshire.

Then, in 2011, Chris joined MoneyWeek. Initially working as part of the website production team, Chris soon rose to the lofty heights of wealth editor, overseeing MoneyWeek’s Spending It lifestyle section. Chris travels the globe in pursuit of his work, soaking up the local culture and sampling the very finest in cuisine, hotels and resorts for the magazine’s discerning readership. He also enjoys writing his fortnightly page on collectables, delving into the fascinating world of auctions and art, classic cars, coins, watches, wine and whisky investing.

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