Speaker Encourages Entrepreneurship As Path to Success

Entrepreneurship, combined with education, could provide a path out of poverty for many people, an audience at Fayetteville State University was told Tuesday.

Brian Hamilton, founder of the Raleigh-based financial accounting software company Sageworks, said more people could find success if they find an idea they are passionate about and work hard toward making it a reality.

“I think we can make more entrepreneurs, and I think the education system has to be better at it,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton, a contributor to CNBC and Fox Business, spoke in Shaw Auditorium in what was the first edition of the Broadwell Entrepreneurship Speaker Series. The talk was presented by the Greater Fayetteville Chamber.

The series plans to bring in business, social, educational and governmental leaders to share their experiences and the lessons they have learned.

Hamilton, a native of Milford, Connecticut, said he grew up in a “background of scarcity.

“In my neighborhood, there was no wealth, there was no entrepreneurship,” Hamilton said. “There was just people making a living.”

After earning an undergraduate degree from Connecticut’s Sacred Heart University and an MBA from Duke University, Hamilton said he founded a coin laundromat. In 1998 he started Sageworks, which he sold to a private equity firm this year.

Hamilton said his interest in helping people become entrepreneurs led him to create Inmates to Entrepreneurs, a national program that helps people with criminal records start their own businesses. He also started the Brian Hamilton Foundation, through which he speaks to young people about entrepreneurship.Hamilton said his own experiences taught him the importance of the endeavor.

“Any group that was down and out and they got up, it was either through education or entrepreneurship,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton told the audience, which included FSU students, faculty and members of the community, that entrepreneurs should be humble and have the ability to be good listeners.

He said they start with a good idea that they are passionate about and should have the ability to grow and learn, even through the inevitable setbacks and disappointments. He also said it’s important to be motivated by something other than money.

“If the only thing that motivates you is money, you’re not going to be able to withstand the setbacks,” Hamilton said. “The way to separate yourself is to find something you love to do.”

Hamilton also said it’s important to know your product and to build a good team. He said a good leader is liked by the people who work for him.

After his talk, Hamilton participated in a discussion that included FSU Chancellor James Anderson, Christine Michaels of the Greater Fayetteville Chamber and Steven Phelan, professor of entrepreneurship at FSU.

Phelan said while advances in technology have made it easier than ever to start up a business, the “Walmart effect” has made the businesses’ chances of success more slim.

Anderson said a problem he sees is that people sometimes try to start businesses that already “saturate” the community.