He grew his entrepreneurial spirit doing odd jobs in landscaping into a multi-million dollar business. Now he’s teaching the Gaston community how to build their own acumen for business.
Born and raised in Connecticut, Brian Hamilton began at an early age landscaping, fertilizing lawns, weeding beds, and painting houses, and did this through college at nearby Sacred Heart University. After graduating, he went to work for a bank, and “Didn’t like it at all.”
So he started a small contracting business and earned his master of business administration degree at Duke University in 1988. It would become a turning point in his life.
“The MBA program awakened in me that ‘I’m just going to be an entrepreneur, that’s what I’m going to do,’ said Hamilton. “Since then, that’s what I’ve done my whole life.”
In 1998, he co-founded Sageworks, a Raleigh-based financial technology firm, where he worked for 20 years, growing the company to more than 400 employees. The company’s first product was software which simplified financial statements for business owners, and later branched out into helping small businesses to secure loans.
Hamilton and company sold Sageworks last year to a private-equity firm to focus on his latest philanthropic endeavor, the Brian Hamilton Foundation, a nonprofit organization which helps veterans, inmates and students to learn entrepreneurship and other career skills.
Hamilton will visit Gaston County on Tuesday, Jan. 29 and lead two separate programs aimed to teach audiences how to build their own business with limited resources and practice skills for a successful career.
He will host a presentation open to the public at no charge on the campus of Belmont Abbey College. This program is hosted by Belmont Abbey College and its Business Leadership Institute in partnership with the Montcross Area Chamber of Commerce and TechWorks of Gaston County.
Earlier in the day, Hamilton will hold presentations for local business leaders, and middle and high school students at Gaston Christian School in Lowell. This program is closed to the public.
“At the school, I’m going to be talking about the importance of entrepreneurship, introducing the kids to it, so that they know they have options that are just beyond going to college…and I go through how to start a business and what entrepreneurship is,” said Hamilton. “And at the college…it will probably be a little bit more general about sort of what it takes to be successful in business.”
Hamilton’s philanthropy extends back to the early 1990s, when he and the Rev. Robert J. Harris launched the Inmates to Entrepreneurs program, through which they visit medium- to minimum- security prisons in North Carolina to teach inmates how to start their own businesses.
“It’s really hard for inmates or people who have been judicially-involved to get jobs,” said Hamilton. “So we just help them start low capital businesses as a solution that’s available to them.”
Operating with the support of the Brian Hamilton Foundation, Hamilton’s hosted the program at prisons in several states—including at the Dallas Correctional Center in Gaston County. There are many success stories, including that of a former inmate at a jail in Orange County over a decade ago, whom started the sporting goods repair business FitTech and Assembly, became a mentor and now serves on the foundation’s board of directors.
The foundation is also focusing on helping veterans to transition from military to civilian life by providing expertise on self-employment after service.
And Hamilton says reaching out to students when they’re in middle school is particularly important to teach these skills for career success before it’s too late.
“It’s not to say that adults can’t change, but we want to reach the kids to give them options before they get into trouble,” said Hamilton. “I don’t think entrepreneurship is for everyone, just like being an astronaut’s not for everyone. But I do think that they should be aware of that as an option.”