Bernie Madoff is cornering the hot chocolate market – in prison

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(This post originally appeared on The Washington Post)

Are entrepreneurs born or taught?

It’s an age-old question and I do believe, to a degree, that entrepreneurism can be taught. But for many successful people I know, the ability to make a buck is just in their DNA.  There are just certain individuals – like great athletes and musicians – who were born with that extra something-something. The entrepreneurial gene. You know them too. These are people who can sell snow to an Eskimo in January. They will never have problem making money.

Bernie Madoff is a great example of this.

Oh yes, he’s a criminal.  His $65 billion Ponzi scheme bankrupted many individuals and caused a great deal of pain and suffering. One of his sons committed suicide due in most part to his father’s illegal activities and another son blamed the return of cancer (which ultimately killed him) on his father too. Few would disagree that Madoff deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison. But prison isn’t stopping Madoff from being what he is: A born entrepreneur.

Case in point: Hot chocolate.

“Bernie really was a successful businessman with quite original insights into the market, and he’s continued applying his business instincts in prison,” Steve Fishman, the host of a new six-part series on Audible called “Ponzi Supernova” said in this MarketWatch article. “At one point, he cornered the hot chocolate market. He bought up every package of Swiss Miss from the commissary and sold it for a profit in the prison yard. He monopolized hot chocolate! He made it so that, if you wanted any, you had to go through Bernie.”

Apparently, the guy is also a star in prison and in demand for financial advice. “He stole more money than anyone in history, and to other thieves, this makes him a hero,” said Fishman, who said Madoff “fits” in prison.

And why wouldn’t he? Like most of the entrepreneurs I know, as long as he still has an opportunity to make a few bucks he’ll fit in anywhere.

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