Throughout his adult life, there are two things of which Derrick Hamilton has always been certain and these have served as beacons when life was murky and the path to success clouded.
“I always said my goal, when I got out of college, in six years I want to be here. I want to run my own business,” he said. “And, I always wanted something with kids, because I love kids.”
In the parking lot sat the culmination of Hamilton’s two goals, a massive pickup and custom trailer covered in video game graphics and emblazoned with the name Mobile Video Game Station. Six years in the making and with a year in the market come April, Hamilton, 30, talks about the custom rig’s features with the same wonder and excitement as the many young people the company has served in its short history. “We have five TVs inside; we’ve got four 50-inch HDTVs and one 60-inch HDTV,” he said.
“We have about 15 to 20 game systems … so kids can have a huge variety of games they want to play. We crossed all our T’s and dotted all our I’s so we can impact everyone. No matter what age, you can have a good time inside the station.”
Hamilton and his wife Jessica have quickly grown a statewide clientele by marketing directly to mothers planning birthday parties and also carved out a niche with area schools that bring students in as a reward for academic or classroom challenges. Their largest event, at Springhill Elementary School in Bryant, served 400 kids in two hours, a mark sure to be eclipsed with upcoming bookings at Springfest and Riverfest.
“Now, it’s not about money with me it’s about the experience. It’s just about seeing a kid have fun.”
It’s these school outings and community events, such as a recent anti-bullying promotion at the Bryant Target store, that bring Hamilton the most satisfaction. “Once you get in that station there’s no arguments, there’s no fighting,” he said. “We have 28 kids at a time, we’ve probably had 7,000 to 8,000 kids in seven months that came through the station. That’s a lot of kids, a lot of personalities, but it doesn’t matter about race or what language you speak. We impact everyone.”
Outfitting the rig is expensive and yet a good portion of Hamilton’s initial time in business has been spent playing events for free at churches and elsewhere in the community. He said while there are ancillary benefits to such events — he’s already attracting enough paying gigs to put a second rig on the road — his primary motivation is to repay the kindness of strangers from his own childhood in Texarkana.
“I came from a home where mom was a single parent,” he said. “It was three of us kids. My mama always worked, but we struggled growing up. We had to actually walk to the store and many people knew us in that town and they began to give us stuff for free to support us. “Now, it’s not about money with me it’s about the experience. It’s just about seeing a kid have fun.”