Fayetteville State Forms Partnership to Launch Veterans Entrepreneur Program

Fayetteville State University is partnering with a renowned entrepreneur to create a mentoring program for veterans who want to start up businesses.

The university is working with the Brian Hamilton Foundation to launch The Veteran Entrepreneur Partnership program, which will provide teaching, mentoring and support to assist transitioning veterans, military spouses and student entrepreneurs.

Chancellor James Anderson said he was thrilled to be working with Hamilton’s foundation, which will provide mentors who are entrepreneurs to work with the veterans who are transitioning out of service and want to start businesses.

“This is a very momentous day in the life of this university,” he said, pointing out that the university has a social and moral responsibility to establish partnerships in the community. He said this one should produce results.

“We always try and establish a partnership that can produce results,” he said. “What good does it do to have a partnership that is conceptually nice and you don’t produce any results?”

Hamilton founded a coin laundry after earning an MBA from Duke University in 1990.

In 1998, Hamilton co-founded Sageworks, which provides financial analysis and risk management software. It has become the largest provider of software to U.S. banks. He sold the company to a leading private equity firm in 2018. He also is founder of Inmates to Entrepreneurs, a national program that helps people with criminal records start their own small businesses.

“We’re about what you do,” said Hamilton. “That’s why we’re so happy to be partnering with you because this university is exactly like that. It’s very entrepreneurial. Actually, we want to get results and we want to help people, so we are thrilled to be here.”

He said of the 26 million businesses in the country, very few are high-tech like Sageworks. He said the program here will focus on helping veterans start service businesses that are not high-tech requiring a lot of start-up capital.

“I’m sure some of (the start-ups) will provide services to the military,” Hamilton said. “But that’s not our focus. Ours is on helping people get off the ground to start low-capital service businesses that don’t require a lot of money.”

Lee Brown, the interim dean of the Broadwell College of Business and Economics at Fayetteville State, said there is a great need for the program, with 6,000 to 7,000 soldiers from Fort Bragg transitioning to civilian life each year.

He said a recent study on transitioning soldiers showed that veterans, because of their training and work environment, possess characteristics that lead to entrepreneurial success. He said those include strong leadership, a strong work ethic, working knowledge of advanced technology and effective communication skills.

Brown said the mentorship program is needed because starting a company is not an easy task. “Becoming an entrepreneur is hard,” he said. “Not only is it hard but most fail. … Indeed, the lack of good coaching and mentorship by experienced entrepreneurs is one common denominator that all the research shows will help improve entrepreneurial success.”

Brown said the university will utilize its entrepreneurial assets for the program, such as the Veteran Business Outreach Center and Small Business and Development Technology Center, as well as the university’s “diverse and heralded faculty.” He said the university may be able to offer incubator space for the veterans to operate their businesses.

“Too many communities concentrate on attracting businesses from afar instead of growing them at home,” he said.

The program participants will come through Fort Bragg’s Soldier For Life-Transition Assistance Program.

Retired Maj. Gen. Rodney O. Anderson said veterans who are transitioning to civilian life are welcome to remain right here in Fayetteville and Cumberland County. “As we provide this mentorship, it surely will be of an assistance to them as they not only launch but grow their businesses and become successful right here,” he said.

Staff writer John Henderson can be reached at jhenderson@fayoberver.com or 910-486-3596.