Alumni Spotlight: Wilhelm Scholda - Crossfit Entreprenuer
Many students wonder what life is like after they walk across that stage on graduation day and receive their diploma at the end of their studies. Wilhelm (Willi) Scholda graduated with an MBA degree from Webster Vienna Private University (WVPU) in 2016 and manage to open up several successful fitness studios (Crosszone and Crossfit Viertel Zwei) in Vienna. In the interview below, Willi shares with us what led to his success in entrepreneurship and how important it is that students begin working during their studies to build their expertise and connections.
Hello Willi, thank you for taking the time to join us for this interview. Could you please introduce yourself?
Willi: Hello my name is Willi Scholda. I graduated from Webster Vienna Private University with my MBA degree in 2016. Prior to my MBA studies, I earned a bachelor of science in business administration at Webster Vienna in 2014.
Why did you decide to study at Webster?
I started my undergraduate studies at the Wirtschafts Universität (WU) but transferred to Webster Vienna because I wanted to study in an American liberal arts university where the language of instruction was English. I always planned on doing my master’s degree with Webster because my cousin graduated from Webster with a master’s degree in international relations and told me how much he enjoyed his studies. What I like the most about this university is the small class sizes that allowed me to work in small groups with my fellow students. This is very different compared to the WU. At Webster I was able to incorporate my business knowledge in the lessons and the other way around. I could take what I learned in class and apply it to my career. The biggest advantage of studying with 15-20 other students in a classroom is that you can learn from each other and discuss different issues one on one with the professors.
What is your favorite memory from being in class with your professors?
The courses I look back on the most are the courses taught by Dr. Julia Skobeleva. She was always very involved and made the lessons both educational and interactive. We had exams, played games and some took part in simulations. I enjoyed this teaching style very much, I think the best way to learn something is when you are involved in the lesson. I learned quite a lot. All professors at Webster teach us something they like and are passionate about. It’s clear to see they enjoy teaching.
I even met my girlfriend at Webster and we are in a happy relationship for three years now. I also met a lot of my friends at Webster, who have now been able to find good jobs. I found a Viennese community and we are still in touch with each other. I like that at Webster you have access to so many different cultures that you can learn from. What is fascinating for me is that no matter what your background is, we all come together to learn and speak the same language.
You began your studies at our old campus in Berchtoldgasse and finished your MBA at our new campus, Palais Wenkheim. What do you think about the move to our new campus in 2014?
Oh, the new building is great. Of course, it is one of the most beautiful buildings in Vienna to study in. I am glad that Webster was able to listen to the needs of the students when we asked for a better campus back when we were in Berchtoldgasse. The new campus is so close to the city center and easy to get to. Students are now proud to study in this building.
Which courses have helped you the most with your current business endeavors?
I loved all classes with Professor Gordon van der Veen. The last class I did with him was in finance and I would say this class helped me a lot. As an undergraduate student I took a course in business law and this class was also a great resource for me because while you are living in Vienna it is good to be familiar with Austrian law.
Webster is now offering a brand new LLM with the University of Law. It is a master of laws in conflict resolution. What do you think about this new opportunity?
Where can I sign up? Haha, that sounds great. I would love to do such a program because it is a great subject for students who want to work in a company to mediate problems that may arise.
Did you know from pretty early on that you were going to be an entrepreneur?
I knew since I was about 16 years old. Both of my parents are doctors and my dad has blood testing laboratories. I wanted to be a part of this and be my own boss as well. I love the opportunity of being independent. Of course, being an entrepreneur means you have to work a lot (even on the weekends) but that comes with the territory and realizing your own dreams and creating something new is very rewarding.
How old were you when you started in the fitness industry?
I was 21 years old when I started this business. I got containers from China and imported equipment. The first gym we opened was in 2011, so I was 22 at that time.
What advice would you give to students that would love to be an entrepreneur like you?
I would echo the words from Mr. Trautsch’ s keynote speech from graduation, it really stuck in my mind: “Don’t strive to be the next Apple”, meaning that everyone is searching for something new, innovative while seeking to earn millions early on. I think it doesn’t work like that. You should start with something small, with something you like and if you work hard, it has the potential to grow and become profitable.
I started by selling fitness equipment, we wanted to have a showroom for the equipment but later on I said “Why not, let’s build a gym. If we have a showroom full of equipment, we might as well have a gym where people are can pay to train and use the equipment” that is how it all started.
As you mentioned, Harald Trautsch gave a wonderful keynote speech at our last graduation (2017) and inspired a lot of students. How has Harald inspired you?
Harald and I have been working together for about three to four months now. He is supporting our new crossfit studio: Crossfit Viertel Zwei with his company by doing Google advertising and outreach via Facebook as well. Digital marketing initiatives and implementing effective SEO strategy is very important to us. As a person, I have to say he has really reached a lot in life. He has done wonderful things with the companies he has worked with.
Did the fact that we offer evening classes for graduate students help make your life easier in order to balance between work and academics?
Webster allowed me to study while I developed my business and worked. I highly recommend this to other students, because it really helps you get more out of what you are learning in class.
That was one of the main reasons why I choose Webster as well, because you can always choose how many courses to take. So if we opened a gym, I always had an opportunity to stop for two months and still get things done. In addition you can also study part time with one course while you are working.
Is there anything you would like to tell our students about CrossFit Viertel Zwei/Crosszone?
I would like to give back to my fellow Webster community so we offer all Webster students and alumni a discount. The greatest thing about our gyms and working out with us is that we have flexible classes that are offered both in the morning and in the evening. Moreover, we have professional trainers who encourage others to communicate with each other during group work outs.
Special thanks to Willi Scholda for taking the time to join us in this Alumni Spotlight interview.