Hawkins Thriving in Ambiguity

X1009 Matt-002Many people don’t do well with the unknowns in life. A dark path unexplored and unfamiliar has thwarted more than a few worthy ambitions. Matt Hawkins, on the other hand, relishes the chance to mold that darkness.

“I thrive in ambiguity,” Hawkins says. “I really like not knowing how things will shake out. You can shape your outcome. There’s something about that that really inspires me.”

Hawkins’ inspiration has led him to start three multimillion dollar companies from scratch—and, along the way, help others build their own business dreams.

Just this month, Hawkins teamed with his wife, three daughters and a coworker and his family on a two-week trip to provide support to citizens of Nepal affected by a catastrophic earthquake that struck the country last April. Along with aiding in rebuilding a school and hospital, Hawkins also helped set up the framework for a new microcredit loan program to provide the capital needed for select Nepalese to get their businesses up and running.

“It was a great chance to help the people there while also giving my daughters a chance to serve and see other cultures,” says Hawkins.

Hawkins’ financial knowhow, exhibited both in his loan assistance in Asia and as a successful entrepreneur in the Salt Lake Valley, sparked when he was an undergraduate in the Marriott School. Hawkins credits his love of financial entrepreneurship back to his time in the Tanner Building, where he took classes from two giants in the field: Larry H. Miller, founder of the LHM Group of Companies and an adjunct professor of entrepreneurship, and Ken Woolley, an associate professor of strategy and the founder and current executive chairman of Extra Space Storage.

“With the success and schedule Larry Miller had, I thought it was crazy he would come to Provo for three hours each week to teach,” Hawkins remembers. “But learning from him and Ken Woolley was quite inspiring.”

After graduating in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in finance and earning a master’s degree in real estate development from MIT in 2001, Hawkins teamed with boyhood friend and fellow Marriott School grad Bart Longson to start their first business, working in residential real estate.

The company was at its peak until the Great Recession crippled the market. Forced to shape a new company outcome yet again, Hawkins and Longson regrouped. Using their finance backgrounds, the duo first started Snap Advances, which provides working capital to small businesses as an advance on future sales, in 2009. In 2012, Hawkins and Longson capitalized on merchants’ needs for a financing model, starting Snap Finance. Both companies are now doing a brisk business, with Hawkins serving as the CEO of Snap Finance and a board member of Snap Advances while Longson plays opposite roles in both companies.

“Matt is a successful entrepreneur because he has that rare combination of smarts, desire, drive and a high risk tolerance,” Longson says. “He will do whatever it takes to be successful and will put in the work right along with others to make it happen, whatever that work may be.”

To read more about the Snap founders’ journey and Longson’s cool side job, check out the Fall 2015 issue of Marriott Alumni Magazine.