The Entrepreneurs

Motor Man: Max Hoffman (1904 - 1981)

Maximilian Hoffman left his mark on the U.S. car market by introducing American drivers to the who is who of European cars, including Alfa Romeo, Austin, Bentley, BMW, Cooper, Jaguar, Mercedes Benz, Morgan, and also Volkswagen - bringing all of them to America for the first time in significant numbers. According to the Automotive Hall of Fame (Hoffman was posthumously inducted in 2003), he is credited with “handedly establishing the imported vehicle business in the United States.”

Hoffman was also responsible for the development and production of new car models by convincing carmakers that they would be particularly well suited for the American market. Those Hoffman-inspired cars include icons like the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL, the Porsche 356 Speedster, or the BMW 507.

The Bold Look: Johann Kohler

Johann Michael Kohler migrated with his family from Schnepfau, Vorarlberg, to Minnesota where he farmed in 1864. His son Michael, one of eight children, moved to Chicago, Illinois, married well and moved to Sheboygan, Wisconsin. First working in the iron industry, he began producing enamel ware, such as pots, bath tubs, and water closets.

By 1900 Kohler Company, in the company town of Kohler Village, employed some 4,000 workers producing enameled toilets and bath tubs for the growing American middle class. The Kohler company became also known for authoritarian anti-union labor practices. Kohler’s son Herbert was elected governor of Wisconsin in the 1920s and his son Herbert, Jr. in the 1960s. The Kohler Company is still in family hands today and employs some 15,000 people.

Francis Martin Drexel

The 25-year old Franz Martin arrived in Philadelphia in 1817 and anglicized his name to Francis Martin. He remained devoted to his roots and carried with him a watercolor portrait of Andreas Hofer, the Tyrolean leader of the rebellion against Napoleon, and a twenty Kreuzer pewter coin. He learned English within a year and became a U.S. citizen. His career as a painter took off and he exhibited nine paintings and two drawings in the annual Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts exhibition in 1818.

His son Anthony Joseph founded the Institute of Art, Science and Industry in 1891,today known as Drexel University in Philadelphia, and co-founded the baking house today known as JP Morgan.

His grandaughter Katherine Drexel became a nun and financed 60 schools in African-American ghettos and Native American reservations with her inharitance. In 2000, the Vatican canonized Saint Katherine.


John Hertz

John Hertz, born Schandor Hertz on April 10, 1879 in Szklabinya, Austria-Hungary (in present-day Slovakia), emigarted to Chcago with his family at the age of five.

He left his imprint on the American transport industry, first by founding the Yellow Cab Company in Chicago (1915), which was soon franchised across the country. He acquired the car rental business today known as Hertz in 1924, originally naming it the Hertz Drive-Ur-Self Corporation.

Dietrich W. Botstiber

Settling in Philadelphia, Botstiber first worked as an electrician before he quickly moved up in an engineering career, culminating in his naturalization in 1943. In 1947 he began working for the Piasecki Helicopter Corporation and became its chief engineer only four years later.

In 1952 he launched his own business, the Technical Development Company (TEDECO) , which developed and manufactured aircraft engine accessories. In 1985 he sold his company, which by then was employing 235 people and totalling annual sales of $20 million. Botstiber left his fortune for philanthropic work and the Botstiber Foundation was set up. In 2008 the Foundation set up the Botstiber Institute for Austrian-American Studies. It has become a premier institution funding and promoting Austrian Studies in the United States.

Wolfgang Puck

Wolfgang Puck was born in Carinthia and learned cooking by his mother’s side (Puck). He is probably best known for his restaurants and cooking shows, his catering of the Academy Award ceremonies, and brash marketeering of his cookware on television.

With his enormous success as a “foodie entrepreneur,” he launched a number of companies expanding his restaurant empire (now also including Wolfgang Puck Express shops in numerous airports around the world), moving into catering services and licensed products (like pressure cookers).

In 2017 he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his work on television and in film. He also has built a sterling reputation as a serious philanthropist, raising money for Meals on Wheels and cancer research.

Nora Pouillon

orn in Vienna during World war II, Nora Pouillon moved to the United States in the 1960s with her husband ( a French journalist).

In 1979, she opened Restaurant Nora on the corner of Florida Avenue and 21st Street in Washington, DC.- IT became America’s first certified organic restaurant.

Over the years, Restaurant Nora has served President Carter, Nancy Reagan, Laura Bush, President Barack and Michelle Obama, and Hillary Clinton, among many others. President Bill Clinton held his first inaugural party at the restaurant.

Restaurant Nora closed in June 2017 upon Chef Nora’s retirement. For her work she was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the James Beard Foundation.