Speaking to us at The Riveter, a female founded co-working space, she invested in, Arlan Hamilton, returned to Dallas on a recent visit to promote her champion cause: investing in overlooked entrepreneurs.
The Lake Highlands native founded Backstage Capitol in 2015. The firm only invests in companies led by women, people of color and/or those who identify as LGBTQ. Hamilton identifies with all three.
"This to me is the beginning of a heyday for us," said Hamilton. "Many of the things I said, and a lot of my colleagues said a few years ago are coming true. More and more women and more women of color are starting companies and having amazing traction and success."
Hamilton's own journey to success is a case-study in perseverance, considering four years ago when she arrived in Silicon Valley, she was homeless.
Understanding Hamilton's journey goes back to her childhood in Lake Highlands, said her mother.
"Arlan has always done what Arlan wants to do," said her mother Earline Sims.
Straight As and headstrong, Sims said her daughter rejected an offer to attend The Hockaday School when she realized students had to wear uniforms. Instead, she insisted she finish school at Lake Highlands with her friends.
"She is very opinionated, but guess what, she had to get it from somewhere and she gets it from me," laughed Sims.
After graduating from Lake Highlands High School, Hamilton did her own thing, again.
She rejected college scholarships and instead, convinced a pop punk band from Norway to let her be their tour manager. That gig led her to eventually manage tours for acts like Kirk Franklin, Toni Braxton and Jason Derulo.
Hamilton said it was by watching musicians invest in start-ups that she recognized a huge need.
"Most of the money that's backing this type of thing and innovation is going to a very specific type of person, which is usually straight white men," said Hamilton. "I thought that was really crazy because so many women that I knew and so many people of color that I knew were innovative."
"That's when it hit me. I don't need to start my own company necessarily. I need to figure out a way to get more capitol to other companies."
So, she quit the music business and moved to Silicon Valley in 2015 with no money.
At night she slept on couches at the airport and by day she pitched investors to believe in her mission.
"I think most people give up – right before something great's about to happen," said Hamilton. "Rejection is part of the process and it's a numbers game. You should hear that 'no'."
Finally, a 'yes' paved the way to found Backstage Capital. Since the founding in 2015, the firm has invested $7 million in more than 120 companies.
"We're not going to be able to invest in every company that needs funding, but it's about galvanizing that group of investors," said Hamilton.
Her advice for entrepreneurs – be willing to work for it.
"I think most people give up – right before something great's about to happen," said Hamilton.
And, she says, make sure it's something you believe in.
"Don't take the easy route. Do something that really means something to you that really comes from your own pain point or your own ambition. And if you don't have that yet – wait, simple as that. Work for someone else for a while and then come back when you feel a calling rather than you're trying to create an opportunity for yourself."