A lesson in Entrepreneur Skills with Arnold Schwarzenegger

Arnold Schwarzenegger and entrepreneur skills: Bricklaying was one of his first businesses.
Arnold Schwarzenegger and entrepreneur skills: Bricklaying was one of his first businesses.

Entrepreneur Skills: Terminator Style

We all know the Bransons, Zuckerbergs, and depending on which side of the aisle you’re on, the Gates and Jobs. Their entrepreneur skills created products that disrupted our daily life and have made them iconoclasts. But Seedstars World knows that entrepreneurs can be found in places you’d least expect… such as Austrian body building gyms. I am talking about the Governator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger. His entrepreneur skills actually made him a millionaire well before his career in Hollywood, and we’re looking at why.

Market it Right

In 1968, Schwarzenegger began a bricklaying businesses with fellow bodybuilder Franco Columbu. Despite cutting costs and being cheaper than the competition, the pair did not succeed until the had a marketing stroke of genius. Relabeling themselves as Specialty European Bricklayers and demanding a much higher price than their competition to signal their ‘speciality’, Schwarzenegger and Columbu soon had more orders than they could handle.  However, we cannot attribute this solely to Schwarzenegger’s entrepreneur skills, as the 1971 San Fernando earthquake also helped drive up demand.

Efficiency can give you an edge

But the bricklaying business was not his first shot at business. Arnold first flexed his entrepreneurial muscle with a mail-order business that included pamphlets and posters. Based on his success during bodybuilding, fans wrote him to find out about his body training secrets. With this demand, he started sending out booklets and undercut his competition:

Many bodybuilders failed at mail order because they’d accept the money but not get it together to mail the product. You had to fill your orders within a certain time by law. If the post office received complaints, it would take away your post office box, and your business would be gone. […] But I was super-efficient. There were bins for incoming mail, checks, envelopes, and outgoing orders. […] I always showed Joe [Joe Weider, his mentor] any ad I wrote before putting it in the magazine because he was a merchandising genius. “Why didn’t you write ‘Fill within days’?” he’d ask. ‘Put that in the ad! People want to know you’re dependable! And you should say ‘This booklet is a limited edition’! People love limited editions’.


Bricklaying and mail orders got Arnie his first million, but it was far from his last. In his early twenties, he made his first foray into real estate, buying up a family friendly block in LA, which cost about $215,000 at the time. With a mortgage and duns of around $40,000, he was able to quadruple his investment fourfold over the next years. A decade later, he bought entire city blocks in one of the most expensive cities in the US: $7m for 39,000 square-feet in Santa Monica. This man knows what he’s doing, regardless of which business he’s in.

Be a Visionary

Vision is vital in helping you get started. Seeing and believing in the big picture is needed for success. While it’s only an empty phrase if you don’t have the hard work to back it up, it is needed to know where you want to go with your product, your business, and life.

I am not a big fan of Arnold Schwarzenegger, but his entrepreneur skills and vision are proof that he’s not to be underestimated. And no one knows that better then himself:

All I know is that the first step is to create a vision, because when you see the vision – the beautiful vision – that creates the want power.

Extra points if you read that in his accent.



About the author

Nellie Horn

Nellie graduated from University of Mannheim with an Economics Major and has lived in the USA, Germany, and Spain. After part being of the Deutsche Bahn’s Investor Relations team, she specialized in Innovation Management. Nellie has gained expertise in many aspects of the R&D process, thanks to her multi-million euro project assistance at the Helmholtz Centre Berlin, co-authoring a publication on German cities’ innovative behavior at the Center for European Economic Research, and working at the pioneering SAP Innovation Labs. At Seedstars World, she will pair her financial experience with tech savvy while organizing the 2014 tour as one of our scouts!


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