VISION 2018: Arlan Hamilton speaks, Simon-Lee Top Entrepreneur of 2018


For the last 3 years, several organizations committed to Diversity & Inclusion in the St. Louis startup and entrepreneurship ecosystem, plan VISION SYMPOSIUM.

This year, we gathered on the campus of University of Missouri- St. Louis for keynotes, breakout sessions and lots and lots of networking.

My two key take-aways were the networking and meeting Arlan Hamilton of Backstage Capital. I’d heard of Backstage from other newsletters I subscribe to, but I knew nothing about her story. Like superstar actress and writer, Lena Waithe, Arlan gives life to the saying, “you can’t be what you can’t see,” by being bold and unapologetic in who she is and who Backstage supports.

To date, Arlan’s Venture Capital firm has supported 100 companies, all but one being led by a woman, minority or LBGTQ person. She shared details of how she got her start in the music industry and how she wanted those entrepreneurs who could not get a seat at the table, let alone a foot in the door, the money and support they needed to be successful.

Rachel Simon-Lee, Arlan Hamilton (Founder, Backstage Capital)

Rachel Simon-Lee, Arlan Hamilton (Founder, Backstage Capital)

Although Arlan doesn’t like to shake hands (her words), she did take pictures, chat and hug with a line of folks inspired by her story. That is the essence of networking and connecting-small gestures that can ignite a chain reaction by laying the groundwork for something long term.

I love networking at events like this because, especially in a small-big town like St. Louis, the following will happen:

  • You catch up with someone you’ve been meaning to talk to

  • Someone will connect you to a new colleague or potential client

  • A client will want to schedule a coffee or lunch to talk about more business opportunities


Being present, in mind an body, at events like this has lasting value. There’s an energy that is recycled in conversations and business card exchanges that you simply cannot get in other forums. As the grind of entrepreneurship can wear you down sometimes, that jolt of energy often comes right on time.

As we enter the end of 2018, I am honored that VISION selected me as a Top Entrepreneur of 2018. This is a virtual handshake and hug that encourages me to keep going and I whole heartedly appreciate it. So, cheers to more connections, storytelling and inspiration from one entrepreneur to another.