Brian Hamilton grew up in a working-class neighborhood in Milford, Connecticut, with a family that didn’t have a lot of money. Today, he is a self-made multi-millionaire. The co-founder of Sageworks, a financial tech company, Hamilton was invited to speak to students during the College of Business Executive Speakers Series at JWU Charlotte.
“I am a first-generation college student. Maybe some of you are?” he began. “Sageworks started with money I earned from coin operated laundromats.”
Growing up, his neighborhood was a tough place to be. Barely a teenager, Hamilton started a lawn service company, then it was on to landscaping and coin operated laundromats. His mother always told him he was an entrepreneur long before he understood the meaning of the word.
If you start a business, you have to love what you’re doing.”
“My advice to you: Number one, if you start a business, you have to love what you’re doing. Number two, you have to love people. That’s not easy. You can’t fake that. People know if you regard them well. Number three, you have to listen to people even as you’re speaking. Be disciplined enough to listen to people.”
Hamilton sold his stake in Sageworks in 2018 to invest in others. He was a lecturer at prisons and eventually was asked to be part of a prison ministry where he would discuss entrepreneurship. He formed Inmates to Entrepreneurs, a program that offers training and mentoring for people who have criminal records. The goal for graduates is to start their own businesses.
Don’t be limited by your background.”
Bentley Jackson ’20, a business student, says Hamilton’s values are aligned with a student organization he is involved in on campus. “I want to apply different techniques to helping people develop the entrepreneurial mindset. One lesson I learned was that success as an entrepreneur requires ambition, empathy, and soft skills such as listening to others. I plan on applying these key attributes to future business efforts.”
Hamilton’s parents were active in his life. His father was by his side during many years of public school football. But, his rough neighborhood upbringing colored what he calls his world view.
“Don’t be limited by your background. You will always carry your ‘thing’ with you. There’s nothing wrong with running a small business, but think big. You need confidence, but be open to feedback. People will absolutely put you down. Be tough.”