Doug Smith, CEO of Hawthorne Funds, grew up on a cotton farm just south of Lubbock, Texas. Hawthorne Funds is a private equity firm that aggregates investors’ funds to purchase, subdivide, and sell large rural tracts of land in Texas. “Many investors are members of the Houston
LGBTQ+ community,” he says.
Smith’s ability to take good care of his investors has earned him the Best LGBTQ Fund Manager award.
Despite COVID-19 and all of the hardship it has caused, Smith says things have been going surprisingly well at Hawthorne Funds these days. “I’m grateful that it has been mostly ‘business as usual’ for us. The main thing that has helped us is that we buy and sell rural land. We’re seeing an increased desire by many to flee the city for wide-open spaces.”
Smith has been interested in doing business and making money since he was a kid. “It may have started with the Monopoly board game. It continued with my small business in junior high, selling bracelets and necklaces. Then it was on to buying and selling baseball cards online, handling the email marketing for businesses (right as email became a thing), and eventually selling study guides to math students during college.”
People are often surprised to discover that Smith was quite an athletic youngster who dreamed of becoming a baseball or football star. “But as the other kids grew, I didn’t. It felt like I became tinier and tinier in comparison,” he says, noting his disappointment over not excelling in high school sports. “As a way to feel good about myself and to feel less invisible, I focused my efforts on making good grades and winning awards.”
When it was time to head off for college, choosing a school wasn’t a tough choice for Smith. “My dad said that I could attend any college I wanted—as long as it was Texas Tech.” He decided to pursue a major in business administration with a minor in Spanish.
His academic path, he says, brought him to ExxonMobil here in Houston, right out of college. “That job led to me saving up some money and launching my career as an entrepreneur and businessperson. And here I am today. So apparently my [success can all be traced] back to me being a runt!”
However, he did not remain at ExxonMobil for long. After learning that most millionaires made their fortunes in real estate, he decided that real-estate investing was his next move. So, Smith bought his first house and then went on to buy 41 more over the next five years. The rest, as they say, is real-estate investment history.
Smith used to be a regular on the Montrose Softball League Association and says he met some of the closest friends he has today on the softball field. These days, he’s more focused on the Executive and Professional Association of Houston (EPAH) organization and tends to support causes EPAH is involved with. Other organizations that he’s recently supported include the Montrose Center, the UH Graduate College of Social Work, and AIDS Walk Houston.
Smith says that investing is vital to individuals, society at large, and to the LGBTQ+ community specifically. “It allows us to take control of our own finances, and by extension, our own lives. People who invest properly are generally able to retire or scale back much sooner. Just imagine what the LGBTQ+ community could do with the [generous support of many] individuals who had invested properly over the long term.”
Finalists: BBVA, EastWest Bank, Regions Bank, Wells Fargo
Best Credit Union
Houston Federal Credit Union
Finalist: People’s Trust Federal Credit Union
Best Female Accountant/Bookkeeper
Finalists: Maria Ngo, Wendy Langford
Best Male Accountant/Bookkeeper
Finalists: Bryan Polk, Joseph Werle
Best Female Attorney
Finalists: Lena Laurenzo, Dawn Renken, Fran Watson
Best Male Attorney
Raed Gonzalez (tie), Mitchell Katine (tie)
Finalists: Heath DeJean, Charles Hunter, John Nechman, Dwane Todd
Best Female Financial Planner/Advisor
Finalist: Christyna Lewis
Best Male Financial Planner/Advisor
Finalists: Elias Contreras, Steven Miranda, Shane Theriot
Best LGBTQ Fund Manager
Doug Smith/Hawthorne Funds
Best Female Insurance Agent
Finalist: Jennifer Majors Baca
Best Male Insurance Agent
Lane Lewis (tie), Patrick Torma (tie)
Finalists: Dustin Harwell, Jason Rocha
This article appears in the October 2020 edition of OutSmart magazine.