When most people think of caviar, it conjures images of impossibly rich oligarchs sipping vodka and eating the luxurious “black gold” from mother-of-pearl spoons.
Junkyard operator Bill Holst doesn’t exactly fit this description.
Nevertheless, the 69-year-old Wisconsin resident is considered one of the top caviar entrepreneurs in the world. Holst not only owns a large stake in a company that controls 30 percent of the market, but he also owns some of their competitors. His operation spans the globe, with sturgeon farms in Germany, Hungary and China.
Last year, he raked in $8,000,000 from his European caviar enterprise alone. The stake he owns in a Chinese company is expected to bring in an even larger return.
Holst wasn’t handed all this wealth on a silver spoon, either.
As Forbes reports, Holst dropped out of college in 1968 to begin work at a factory. His pay was $2 an hour. Soon, he decided to strike out on his own.
A few years later the budding entrepreneur opened his own remodeling business. After building capital, he bought a gravel quarry. Holst bought another, and then another. He eventually owned more than ten sites, one of which had a lake that Holst would stock with fish.
A friend soon introduced him to the world of sturgeon raising and gave Holst the connections to obtain the elusive fish. The rest is history.
The notoriously finicky fish thrived under Holst’s care. Sensing opportunity, he would later go on to buy his first sturgeon farm — a Hungarian operation that went bust. A bankrupt German company was also purchased by Holst. His magic was not wasted, and that caviar operation soon began to turn a profit as well.
Chinese businessmen, impressed by Holst’s success, partnered with him to capitalize on his caviar knowledge. The company they formed quickly became the largest in the world, dwarfing their closest competition.
Holst admits that not everyone has always been supportive of his endeavors.
He revealed that people thought he was the “goofiest guy in the world” after going overseas to begin his caviar company.
Now, he is anything but goofy.
What his story proves is that the American dream isn’t dead — it’s there for anyone to grab. Holst went from a dropout making a few bucks an hour to an international king of a luxury good.
He’s not the only one either. The United States is full of business owners and industry leaders who took a similar course, and forged their own path to success.
And while it’s not an easy road, Holst is living proof that the American dream is attainable for anyone willing to put in the work.
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