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U.S. Presidents Who Were Entrepreneurs

Jennifer Williams

As we enjoy President’s Day this year, it’s hard not to focus on the 2016 presidential campaign, and the very wide variety of candidates in the running this year. But did you know that many previous U.S. presidents started out as entrepreneurs? As the Voice of Small Business™, FreedomVoice wanted to celebrate President’s Day by looking back at our U.S. Presidents who started out as entrepreneurs with small (and not so small) businesses.

Abraham Lincoln

The first in a long line of entrepreneurial presidents, Abraham Lincoln opened a general store with a partner, William Berry, in 1833. Although that store went out of business within a year (with Lincoln's possessions being seized by the sheriff), Honest Abe went on to own a law practice, and even received a patent for a contraption designed to lift riverboats over sandbars (though the machine was never produced).

Warren G. Harding

When he was only 19 years old, Warren G. Harding bought a small, struggling newspaper named The Marion Star (with several partners). The newspaper became highly profitable, and eventually provided Harding with the revenue necessary to fund his political campaigns.

Herbert Hoover

After earning a degree in geology from Stanford University, Herbert Hoover got the idea for a mine engineering business. In 1908, he became an independent mining consultant, and by 1914 he was a millionaire. Hoover was once quoted as saying, "If a man has not made a million dollars by the time he is forty, he is not worth much."

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

After being diagnosed with polio, FDR refused to accept that he was permanently paralyzed, and in 1926 he founded a hydrotherapy center for treatment of the disease. The center still operates today as the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation.

Harry Truman

After World War I, Harry Truman opened a men's clothing store with wartime friend Eddie Jacobson in Kansas City, Missouri. Although the store thrived for three years, it eventually became a casualty of the post-war recession (however, Truman did paid off all his debts).

Jimmy Carter

In 1953, Jimmy Carter left the Navy to run his family’s struggling peanut farming business. By 1959, Carter had revived the business, and he eventually expanded the Golden Peanut Company into an international corporation with warehouses and a peanut-shelling plant.

George H.W. Bush

In 1951, the elder President Bush started the Bush-Overby Oil Development company. In 1953, Bush-Overby merged with Zapata Petroleum Corporation, which later made Bush a millionaire.

George W. Bush

The second President Bush invested $600,000 in the MLB's Texas Rangers in 1989. He sold his stake in the team in 1998 for a whopping $15 million.

Future Presidents?

And of course, we’d be remiss if we forgot to mention one of the presidential candidates this year, Donald Trump. Love him or hate him, he is well known for being an entrepreneur and business man.

What do you think? Does the entrepreneurial spirit make for a better president?