Brian Hayden sits on a swingset in the North Campus Grove with fellow instructor Mike McFall.

Meet Brian Hayden, the entrepreneurial wizard and Lecturer at the Center for Entrepreneurship (CFE). Brian’s journey into the world of entrepreneurship is a thrilling tale of chasing customer happiness, learning from failure, and turning a spark of an idea into a blazing success.

From bussing tables to selling mortgages, Brian always had a knack for customer service. “Making the customer happy and getting paid for it is fun,” he quips. Fueled by the desire for efficiency and a bigger impact, Brian saw entrepreneurship as the perfect avenue to focus entirely on customers. “Having a boss and worrying about workplace politics felt like distractions,” he explains.

The entrepreneurial bug truly bit Brian when he started HeatSpring during his one-year MBA program at Babson College. Winning pitch competitions and developing a business plan were exhilarating, but translating those ideas into a sustainable business was a humbling challenge. “We had to change course so many times, and it took much longer than I expected to achieve stability and real success,” Brian reflects. Sixteen years later, HeatSpring stands tall as one of the biggest clean energy education companies, aiding clean energy companies in growth and talent development.

Brian’s connection with the CFE began in 2012 when he moved to Ann Arbor and met Jonathan Fay at a U-M Technology Transfer event. Introduced to Thomas Zurbuchen, a CFE co-founder, Brian became a co-instructor before taking the lead. 

Immersing himself in the CFE community, Brian found inspiration in the smart minds around him—students, faculty, and staff. “Being around smart people is the most valuable thing for my happiness and development,” he shares gratefully.

Working with students brings a special kind of lightness into Brian’s life. Quoting the Indigo Girls, he says, “Darkness has a hunger that’s insatiable, and lightness has a call that’s hard to hear.” The students’ energy and optimism make him excited to roll up his sleeves and tackle challenges, believing that together, they can accomplish anything.

In his free time, Brian is a family man, supporting and learning from his wife and three kids. Whether traveling, engaging in sports, or making audio stories in the form of podcast episodes, he finds joy in exploring ideas. “Time melts away, which is cool and fun but also a problem since I have so many other pulls on my time,” Brian laughs.

For students eyeing entrepreneurship or the CFE, Brian dishes out timeless advice: “If you show up, stay present, try hard, learn, and try again, you can succeed at anything. It’s so cliche, I know. But it’s actually true.” 

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