Entrepreneurial Presidents: Former U.S. Presidents Who Have Owned a Businesses

Entrepreneurial Presidents: Former U.S. Presidents Who Have Owned a Businesses

by Kylie Ora Lobell, February 2016

Their biggest career achievements may have occurred when they were in the Oval Office, but before they took office, a number of former presidents were business owners and entrepreneurs.

While some entrepreneurial presidents flourished, others didn't quite make it in their industries.

Let's take a look at some of the business ventures of our country's leaders.

Abraham Lincoln

Former president Abraham Lincoln may be credited with helping bring an end to slavery and with being one of our finest presidents, but he failed when it came to running a business. In his twenties, Lincoln opened a general store in Illinois with a business partner. He bought inventories from other stores on credit to try and make a profit by reselling the items. The economy was doing well at the time, but Lincoln's store wasn't.

He eventually had to sell his share of the store. When his partner died, he accrued $1,000 in back payments, which led him to declare bankruptcy. His creditors required him to pay them back over a period of 17 years. At least, his resume got better from there.

Warren G. Harding

The 29th president of the U.S., Warren G. Harding was the publisher of a newspaper before he took office. When he was young, he bought the Marion Star, which was based in his home state of Ohio. Although it was near bankruptcy at the time he purchased it, he turned the paper around and ran it successfully. Harding was also a journalist, and his writing struck a chord with local politicians. Eventually, Harding went on to serve in the Ohio State Senate, and the rest is history.

Herbert Hoover

Herbert Hoover was another former president with business experience. Although he started out his career working 70 hours a week in a gold mine, he eventually began his own business venture as a mining engineer. In 1908, he opened a mining consulting firm and, by 1914, he was earning a high salary. In addition to consulting, he also owned Burmese silver mines.

Jimmy Carter

Among the past presidents that owned businesses, Jimmy Carter snags the prize for the most interesting job. Prior to his foray into politics, Carter joined the family business: peanut farming. His father owned a peanut farm and, when his father died, Carter resigned his Navy commission and returned to Georgia to take it over. The former president also managed Carter's Warehouse, a seed and farm supply business, with his wife Rosalynn. His success in salvaging the farm, and his becoming active on local community boards, led to his career in politics.

George Bush Sr.

George Bush Sr. was an accomplished figure in the oil industry before becoming president in 1989. With $350,000 in capital, Bush Sr. founded Zapata Petroleum Corp. in 1953. The business formation was a partnership with his neighbor John Overbey, a petroleum industry landman. Bush Sr. paid himself $30,000 per year and, by 1954, he was in control of 71 wells that were producing 1,250 barrels of oil a day. He went on to become one of the leaders of the offshore drilling business.

George W. Bush

After completing his education, former president George W. Bush got involved in the Texas oil industry, just like his father. He started Arbusto Energy in the late 1970s, but faced hardship when the price of oil dropped. Bush changed the name of the company and attempted to merge with other businesses, and was eventually rescued by Spectrum 7 Energy Corporation.

He became CEO of Spectrum 7; however, this company began losing money as well. After losing $400,000, it was bought out by Harken Energy Corporation. Bush served as a consultant to Harken, and then decided to move onto sports and invested in the Texas Rangers. He was a managing general partner of the team until he became governor of Texas in 1994.

Starting a business isn't easy—former presidents like George W. Bush and Abraham Lincoln found that out the hard way. However, if you have the skills and determination, and are willing to work hard, with a bit of luck you can turn your entrepreneurial dreams into reality.

If you're considering starting a business, LegalZoom can help. Begin by comparing business structures to determine which one is right for you. Once you decide which business structure you want to use, answer a few questions to get started. LegalZoom will assemble your documents and file them directly with the Secretary of State. You'll receive your completed business formation package by mail - it's that simple.