In today’s episode, we cover finding your life mission and turning it into a business with Brett Hagler. Brett is the CEO and Co-Founder of New Story, a Y Combinator graduate, and a cancer survivor recognized on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list, named one of the Top 100 Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs by Goldman Sachs, and his company was named among Fast Company’s “Most Innovative Companies in the World” four different times.
It’s no easy task to decide on a life mission, so what can you do figure out what yours is, why is it important to find work you’re passionate about or at least interested in, and how should you handle risk-taking and failure when pursuing a business idea that goes against the grain of mainstream thinking?
What to Listen For
- What is New Story and why should you know about it? – 2:04
- How did Brett Hagler realize solving homelessness is his life mission?
- What can you do to figure out what your life mission is?
- Why you should strive to do work you’re passionate about – 17:05
- What hidden price do we pay for doing work we don’t find interesting or exciting?
- How can 3D printing be used to solve homelessness around the world?
- What’s it like going through Y-Combinator as a non-profit organization?
- How affordable will 3D-printed houses be and how soon will you be able to buy one?
- Building a base of loyal customers when starting a business – 33:50
- What can you do to build a genuine connection with your customers when first starting a business that will set you apart from your competitors?
- How do you overcome self doubt when trying something new or experiencing success for the first time?
- What counterintuitive advice should you think about when starting and scaling a business if you don’t want to lose your best talent to your competition?
- Key strategies for handling failures in business – 47:50
- What are the two ways to approach risk-taking when running a business and why should you avoid one?
- What are some of New Story’s greatest success stories?
It’s true that the journey to finding your life mission is not easy. But if you want to be successful, it’s worth taking the time and effort to find what you are passionate about—or at very least interested in doing. When starting a business for yourself, make sure you properly connect with your customers by providing them high-quality products they can’t get anywhere else. And when failure strikes (and it will), use a few key strategies to handle tough times until better days come around again. Remember, “failure is just another word for opportunity.”
A Word From Our Sponsors
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Resources from this Episode
- Brett Hagler’s website
- Brett Hagler on LinkedIn
- Brett Hagler on Twitter
- Brett Hagler on Instagram
- New Story website
- New Story on YouTube
- New Story on Instagram
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Speaker 1: I'm a J and I'm Johnny. Thank you everyone for tuning in let's kick off today's show today, we have Brett Hagler with us. Brett is the CEO and co-founder of new story, a nonprofit that's pioneering solutions to end global homelessness. This NGO was named among fast company's most innovative companies in the world several times, and they've impacted over 11,000 lives since 2015. And their goal is to house 1 million people by 2030, Brett is our definition of an influential leader, and we can't wait to chat. Welcome to the show, Brett,
Speaker 3: I'm glad to be honest, you guys, so thanks for having me
Speaker 1: Awesome. So for our audience members that are not familiar with the news story, can you give a high level overview of what you are doing?
Speaker 3: Our mission is to pioneer solutions to end global homelessness. And so we work with families that, um, are living without adequate shelter. Um, unfortunately in the year 2021, there's about 1.6 billion people, um, that live in that, uh, environment. And what we do is we try to bring, um, kind of more, uh, forward thinking, modern, innovative solutions to, uh, to help more families to have multi-generational housing. So that's, that's what we do from a high level. Everything from, uh, kind of rethinking finance with FinTech, um, to, uh, 3d printing houses, uh, is a wide range of what we work on.
Speaker 1: And how did that become your mission?
Speaker 3: Well, I didn't grow up thinking I would do this kind of work. Um, quite the opposite actually. Uh, I was, I was always entrepreneurial. Um, I think I was always, uh, quite ambitious once I got to college, uh, I wanted to be a tech entrepreneur, um, and, uh, didn't think I'd be working with the kind of demographic or market that we work with now. Um, but what happened was I had a, a for-profit startup or at a college and, um, you know, I didn't really know what I was doing yet, but I got started. And, uh, and during that first startup, we started giving back a little bit of the money we were making to a charity and that charity was based in Haiti. And so I went down to visit that charity in person. Um, and on that trip, uh, which was a couple years after a massive earthquake that happened in 2010.
Speaker 3: Um, I got exposed to the problem of, you know, kids and families, um, growing up without life's most basic human needs, safety and shelter. So, um, that's how I found out about the problem. Um, I actually didn't think about starting my own organization because I was 24 years old. I had no experience in this space. I literally had no money. I didn't even know wealthy people. Like, I don't know. I just tried to go find organizations that I could get really excited about and I could champion. Um, and from my perspective, uh, I, my mindset was I, I loved, um, startups. I love the new companies that were coming out, you know, the Airbnbs and these new exciting companies. And, uh, and now as where my mind was. And then I looked at a lot of the traditional charities and it just felt very different, like almost like two different worlds for, um, how a lot of traditional charities operated. And I became very frustrated with, uh, just a lack of transparency. It felt very outdated. It felt like we were not, they were not thinking about using technology and innovation. And so that actually became the reason why I thought it made sense to, uh, to start, um, to start an organization and not just join one because of those frustrations that I had and trying to find a one to support. So that's how we got started.
Speaker 2: I want to, I want to ask, I mean, that's such a large task goal mission. It's, it's, it's huge and for a lot of young people and I, or last 15 years and helping young folks, one of the things that we see is that they have trouble engaging. They have trouble finding a starting point to just say, this is it. This is, this is where I'm going to, to, to enter in and start. And for yourself, is there anything that you can point to or mindset wise or that, that is just unique for your situation where you decided this is it, this is where I'm going, I'm entering in.
Speaker 3: Yeah, it's a great question, Johnny. Um, so I would answer it in two ways. Um, the first is that I think I figured out, um, basically in college, um, that I could control a lot of what I was learning. And so I would, uh, just, I started consuming, you know, almost a book a week. Most of it was about entrepreneurship or business or biographies. And then I learned about podcasts. And so, uh, I learned about these YouTube videos where you'd have founders talking about literally how they built companies from zero, where they were to their first thousand customers. And I'm like, oh my gosh, this is off is all basically free or the best ROI I could ever spend. And so I was spending a lot of time, like learning and soaking in information. And I think that was a good starting. Um, and I, the good news is that anybody listening, like, and if you're listening to this podcast, like you, you probably have a similar mindset.
Speaker 3: I really think that helped, um, me to start connecting dots and like having some, some confidence. So that was a starting point. And the second thing is I say this all the time is to dream big, but to start small, right? So here I am now, I just turned 32. I'm literally thinking I just came out of a meeting thinking about like, literally, how are we going to, um, house a million people with, by a date that's not that far away. Right. But when starting the organization, which is right after my 25th birthday, I was not thinking that I was literally thinking, how do we do this? And I'm not exaggerating for one family. Right. And it sounds very cliche, but it's, it's this idea of you can have a big dream, but, uh, you should start small. And if you're listening and you get, uh, paralyzed by, you know, one day wanting to make a big impact or want to grow a company, it's like, where do you get started?
Speaker 3: You know, if I was 25 and had no money, no resources, no, no, no experience. And the kind of work that I do. And I'm trying to put a plan together of how to house help house a million people. Like that's very paralyzing, right. And I can't really control that, but what I could control is how do I, uh, make a, a prose, a list of all of the cons that I feel that certain charities have, have caused me to feel all these frustrations, and then in a dream world, what would that look? What would that experience look like? If I could change it and I could make it better. And I just want to test that on literally one house to start, and that was it. And that's how you got started. And, um, and you know, he came at it from a different perspective and, uh, and you get your first house funded, you get a little bit more momentum. Um, you know, we got about 10 homes and then that's when we applied to a startup program called Y Combinator. Um, and then, you know, after that, it was, uh, that that really helped our growth, but that's how we got started.
Speaker 2: Well, it's certainly in there that you were very eager to get started at some point of seeing that the world was there, it was ready for you. And you're like, I'm going in and it's it's and I'm going to start small and get this moving and age. And I have an inside joke because we have had so many people who have wrote us who wanted to work for us, who wanted to do some work. And they're there. They're always excited to let us know that they've read all the books and we have that, that, that Joe running. And of course you had noticed all the content that was online, you were absorbing it at some point, you have to go, I'm willing to now put the rubber to the road. Right. There's there's no more, I, there's not, there's no more wisdom to be gained from another startup story. It's the only wisdom to be gained now is my own startup story and then plugging in.
Speaker 3: Yeah, yeah. And then learn by doing right. And then you could actually have peers that you could talk to right now. I could talk to other founders. I could talk to other executives. Of course I can learn from that. Right. Or if I'm listening to a podcast, you know, of course I can learn from them, but I'm thinking through, well, they're talking about customer acquisition. Or then I'm like, well, that's what we're going through. Right. Because we're actually doing it. And, you know, even before starting new story, which I, I started at a relatively young age, 25, I started a for-profit startup right before this, and that ended up failing. Right. But that ended up, it forced me to, and not everybody listening, you don't have to start your own startup right. Out of college. Right. I think that's for its own place. But what that did was it, it forced me to figure out how do I prepare for big meetings that I actually would never be in unless I started this, right. How do I put together a marketing plan that I would never be in if I didn't start this? Like, how would I sit across the table from this investor, this CEO that I never would have been, you know, whatever we're done. And that helped build. Obviously I was very nervous and scared and imposter syndrome at the beginning and still even now, but like, man, that's how you build confidence, right? Because you, you go out there, you be vulnerable and that's how you start building confidence.
Speaker 1: Well, let's talk about coming out of that failure because many would see that failure as, oh, I'm just not capable. Why would I take on an even bigger mission and an even more audacious plan if I'm coming off of a failure. So what was the turning point for you and how are you able to dust yourself off and say, you know what, I'm going even bigger this next time.
Speaker 3: Yeah. I think when I S when we start a new story, the initial vision was, I mean, I obviously wanted to, one day in my life make a, make a big impact. You know, I didn't have an actual number or a clear vision. I think, um, just getting started. I, I wanted to, I wanted to solve a problem in a different way from an entrepreneurial, with an entrepreneurial lens. And, and I think with the first startup, I try to force it a little too much. Like I just, I just really wanted to do it. I really wanted to be an entrepreneur. I wanted it to like, and I forced the idea that in hindsight, um, now there was a ton of learnings that came from it. I wouldn't regret doing it cause it led to basically starting new story. Um, but was starting new story.
Speaker 3: I, I really saw like serious problems that, that are, uh, and experiences that I felt should be better. Right. And there's a, um, there's a phrase from a program called white commentary. We went through, which was, uh, really my business plan and the beginning, it was four words. It was make something people want. And I just viewed myself as the demographic, right. As, as a, as a donor, not as a homeowner, but like as a donor, um, what would I want, you know, as a mid third, as a mid 20 something that likes technology that liked innovation, um, we're a little skeptical about, uh, traditional charities. Like what would I want? And then, you know, try your best with the limited budget to create a version of that. And that's how, that's how we got started.
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Speaker 1: Implementing these concepts from this show has influenced your life. Imagine what a year long mentorship in the X factor accelerator could do for you on lock your X-Factor and become extraordinary apply today at unlock your X-Factor dot com. That's right. Unlock your X-Factor dot com. Well, we're big on taking failure and gaining experience from it on the show, but also from that failure, you made some really key relationships that I think are often overlooked with putting effort and energy. And even if it doesn't succeed, yes, it's great to have lessons. It's great to have that experience being in the room, but those relationships really paid off for you not only getting into Y Combinator, but getting experience with other people, doing innovative things with NGOs. Can you talk a little bit about those relationships you built with your first business and how that really helped propel you?
Speaker 3: Yeah, so my, I mean, some of our venture capital investors for the first business ended up, uh, being the, the, the larger news story supporters in the beginning, you know, cause they got to know me. Um, we actually ended up, uh, actually giving back almost all the money that we raised. So that was a little different. Um, we didn't burn it all. Um, but still it was on paper. It definitely wasn't a success. Uh, so that was, that was key. Just like starting to build those relationships. Um, it gave me more confidence as somebody that was in my early twenties of how do you actually go in a room and talk to an investor and talk to an, a venture capitalist and talk about the future and try to convince them to give you money to do it. Like that's, that's not easy. Um, but I was able to do that really young and that of course built, built confidence in me where now I actually think that's where I feel most confident.
Speaker 3: And that's where I feel I'm at my sweet spot is being, being in those kinds of rooms. Um, you know, the next thing it did was it, yeah. It introduced me to, um, uh, another organization that has really inspired new story, um, called charity water. I'm not sure if you guys know, know charity water, but, um, that was the other charity that we actually partnered with for our, for the first startup. Um, so there was two charities. One was in New York, which was charity water and what was in Haiti. And, uh, and I got exposed to, um, to meeting their founders, Scott Harrison, who's now a mentor and advisor, his wife Vick, um, who was also a co-founder of charity water is on new stories, formal board of directors. Um, and that's, you know, I would have, I, I was so inspired by them and so inspired by their model that, that of course like really influenced, um, uh, new story's DNA at the beginning as well.
Speaker 3: So those are just a couple of examples and you know, I, and then when I, when I decided to take another risk and starting a new story, a lot of the way that I, I guess one of the reasons somebody asks, well, one just failed. Why would you start this next thing? And I think what I experienced was, and what I felt was that when you're doing something that is actually a different or a kind of against the status quo, um, that attracts a certain kind of person that you can build relationships with. Right? If, um, and, uh, sometimes this comes off the wrong way, right? If I was because there are some people that will do a job, whether it's being, um, you know, a lawyer or something else where like, they love it, they're passionate about it. They want to be the frickin Bessler of the world.
Speaker 3: It's like, that's amazing. Right? And like, that's awesome. And they should a hundred percent be doing that, but then there's other people that just take a normal job because they think it's gonna, you know, look good on LinkedIn and pay a decent salary. And it's like, oh, that's, that's, doesn't, that's very ordinary, right. It's very ordinary to choose that path. Um, and you kind of blend in with everybody else. And then it's like, well, why would people doing or trying extraordinary things really want to build relationships when you've basically chosen to take a much safer, more, uh, ordinary path, um, unless you really want to be doing that, right. That's different. Like again, if you really want, if you want to be an amazing consultant or an amazing accountant, like you should, and you should do that if you really, if you really are passionate about it, but I think way too many people, especially in their twenties and even their thirties are just doing normal jobs and that pay well, and they're not very passionate about it. And you don't get to meet that many interesting people when you're doing that from my perspective. So I don't know, I got exposed to, um, at a young age, like by doing something different, seeing how many doors that opened up and that became very interesting. So yeah,
Speaker 2: There's some I want to drill in it to here. This is something that I've been discussing a lot on the show and in our live streams on Facebook, which is having multiple missions. I mean, it could, because it let's just say that you do have a straight job and you dig it and you're happy with that. That's fantastic. Fantastic. Perhaps to have some reach in a hobby, right. And, or, or an, an extra curricular mission. This is my hobby measure, my creative mission or the charitable or professional mission that I'm going on outside of my straight job, uh, does see if I can make this work when you have that reach and you don't know how to do things, you are left with finding out you're left with asking other people, those connections will start building. And this is where the doors you didn't even know existed, started to appear.
Speaker 2: And there's many different missions. You could even have a romantic mission in your life. It's like of, of finding the wife in that, and that showed it and creating the, that family. And what does that look like? And if you put that on paper beforehand, now you have something to strive for. I myself have multiple missions in my life, the art of charm being the main driver though, the one that I've built a career around, but I also have, I'm also a creative, I play in bands and I have a creative missions as well. I've just moved to a new town here in, well, new city here in Vegas from Los Angeles and having that mission as allowed me to, to quickly start building a social circle here in a new city, because I've been loud about it and, and not as shy about it. But speaking to people about this is what I'm doing here. And doors amazingly, he started opening up and the people that haven't been meeting in Vegas has, is it's been because of being, uh, unabashed about what that mission is and making it happen.
Speaker 3: I love that, man. They don't add to that, which is pretty much what you're saying is, um, when you have that mission or you're, you're passionate about something like be shameless and, uh, asking for help or asking for mentorship or advice, or like, like bringing people into it, you know? And, uh, I think sometimes that, especially younger folks can be, can be way too hesitant to ask people for help or to try to build relationships with somebody that they could genuinely, you know, learn from. And, and I know that's a hard skill. Some people it's not, they're not wired to, to, to, to try to go out and build relationships, but who, and that, there's not many things that will, that will bring a greater return for your mission then, uh, proactively build building relationships. And I think being, um, there was a quote when we were at Y Combinator from, uh, the, uh, the founder of Airbnb.
Speaker 3: And, um, they were saying, he was saying how he is, uh, especially as a young entrepreneur, he said, I am shameless and asking for help. He's like so many people think, you know, you have to show, you could figure it out and you want to be very calculated when you ask for help. He's like, I literally would ask like the best investors, the best CEOs, the best founders for help. Of course, they're not gonna all gonna say yes, but he's like, I'm asking. And I think way too many people are, are slow or hesitant to, to ask for help.
Speaker 1: And all it takes is one, yes, it takes one person volunteering to put the wind behind your sails. When many people think of NGOs, they think of bill gates. They think of bill Clinton. They think of people who are very successful, have used tech in ways to build wealth. And now they're using NGOs to innovate and give back. You're starting at such a young age with an NGO and, and many people don't think of innovation in that space. Did the innovation come for you before Y Combinator after, during, how did you really infuse? Because when we think about how houses are built right now, we're not building houses for people with 3d printers, and you're looking to do it for the least fortunate, the ones who can't even afford housing.
Speaker 3: Yeah. It's uh, it's uh, I appreciate that it's, um, it really was in our DNA. Like the reason why your organization is called news story, um, is twofold. The first one, which is most important is being able to partner with families and really create a new story and their life trajectory and help them actualize their potential, which is beautiful and awesome. But then the question is, how do you do that? And so the second reason why it's called news story is we really wanted to create a new story and how we think about charity and social impact and how do we make it more modern? How do we, how do we bring a very, uh, outdated, um, sector and industry that attracts a certain kind of talent to enter industry, as opposed to other, that really good talent could go. And that was the heart and the DNA of a new story from the beginning.
Speaker 3: Um, and it still continues to be, to be my heart. And, uh, you know, every year there are things that are, that are changing that show up in different ways as what, what is actually innovation, right? And, um, and that's going to continue to evolve over the years, but the, the DNA is we want to make, we want to create better solutions, right. And people can, can, uh, there's different ways to define innovation. I like to say, it's just, it's just recognizing what should be. It could be better and then creating a better solution. Um, and that doesn't always have to mean, uh, really exciting, shiny, cool technology, like 3d printing houses, even though we love that. And we love our partner icon, but like also just be, how do you, how do you rethink financing or how do you rethink some of the architectural design and ultimately create a better solution? And I think as entrepreneurs, or as creative people, um, like man, there's there's, to me, there's nothing more exhilarating and exciting than that.
Speaker 2: I think the 3d printing bit needs to be, at least give our, our, our viewers or listeners an overview of, of this technology and how it's working and how you guys are using it because not everybody is up on 3d printing.
Speaker 3: Yeah. Well, I think everybody is familiar with the, you know, 3d printing. Um, you've probably seen a 3d printer, uh, maybe not one that prints houses, but, you know, we have them now in our elementary schools or hospitals colleges, like probably in your home. So, uh, I think people know what 3d printing is. Um, 3d printing houses, uh, is newer. And, um, you know, we, uh, just, um, completed the first community of 3d printed houses and Mexico, um, with, uh, with our partner icon. Who's a construction technology startup out of Austin, Texas. And, uh, and what we're doing with 3d printing houses, it's a, it's a very large machine. Um, they range in size, but, uh, the one where you were using it was almost 30 feet wide. And the height of it will be, uh, you know, higher than a, a one-story home. And, uh, the material we're using is a proprietary, um, cement mix.
Speaker 3: And so, uh, we have a nozzle and that nozzle is a layering, a CAD file of the interior and the exterior walls. So the layers of the house are about, um, an inch and a half thick. And we start at the very bottom and we layer the interior and the exterior walls of the house. And that layer goes all the way up to the top and you put a roof on it. And how I like to describe it, uh, is the consistency is coming out of the nozzle, almost like soft serve ice cream is kind of what it looks like. And that's, uh, that's submit that is built to last is earthquake resilient. Um, and it's, it's layering, it's littering the house. And so it's a, it's a hardware, um, solution it's software solution, it's Euro science solution to ultimately, um, create a house that is a higher quality that is built faster and is at a lower price point. So I would just encourage you to maybe Google or go on YouTube and type in, um, 3d printed house, a new story and icon, and you'll see it.
Speaker 1: And you brought up Y Combinator a little bit, but I want to go into that story because many people, when they think of Y Combinator, they've heard of all of the unicorns that it's built in the for-profit space. How did you go into that application process knowing how difficult it is as someone who is starting a nonprofit business?
Speaker 3: Yeah. We were one of the first non-profits to go through the program and, uh, you know, the, I tell people the best part was that folks will ask, like, what was it like going through as a nonprofit? And I say the best part was, um, we didn't get treated 1% different than anybody else. Right. And that's how I've always envisioned it to be right. I've always envisioned, um, we are going after a massive, large underserved market, um, of literally over a billion people and that she required the exact same, if not even a higher standard of innovation and product development and quality and all the things. So that was some of the best parts about it. And, um, you know, how we got in, uh, I mean, one was definitely having an idea that was, uh, you know, framed as, and from the heart was definitely, um, challenging and outdated or traditional model.
Speaker 3: Um, and so that was kind of the first part. The second part was, it was just an idea. We actually had a good amount of traction, um, you know, in a short period of time. And that's, that's one of the things that white comedy or values most, um, not just in early stage startups that get in, but the ones that end up scaling after and get, you know, a subsequent, uh, venture capital investment is okay, you guys say, there's an opportunity here. You've researched it. You've identified it. Like, what have you actually done? You know, and the execution of it is what's impressive. And what's even probably more impressive is how fast can you execute? Right. And so we were able to get off to a pretty good start because we didn't let things like, oh, well, I don't have a bunch of software engineers to build a crowdfunding platform.
Speaker 3: I ha like, I just, we figured out how to basically hack it together. Right. And we made, um, we made a, uh, there's a, there's a company called web flow, which is like a no code solution helps designers basically design sites without, without needing to code. And when we started, we didn't have an engineer on our team and we wanted to create a, uh, a crowdfunding platform, like experience. And we don't want to use other ones out there because we were under the control of the whole end to end experience how it looked and everything. And so instead of trying to like, literally build our own crowdfunding platform from scratch, which takes time is expensive. Uh, what we did is we went on this website called web flow, um, which back then, and as basically, um, you get to go in and almost like designed really pretty like slides or like PowerPoint pages.
Speaker 3: And then you can use buttons and you can click on them and that's kind of user experience. And so we made all these different pages for our website, um, had no code behind it. It was not connected. And there's the crowdfunding pages where you could see a family's picture. Um, and then a house then costs about $7,000. And so we had people that would crowdfund the house and there was a meter and you could see how much money was donated, uh, was donated. Right. And so somebody would click a button, they click donate, they would give, and you would think, oh, cool. Like everything just automatically updates. Like this is a system that has code built into it. No, what we would do is we would get out our computers and we would manually, uh, move the meter a little bit, change, change the number, change the percentage manually and hit refresh.
Speaker 3: And the page would refresh with a new, a new interface. Um, and so, and we did that for like our, like our, almost our, our first 500 houses, you know, me and my co-founders. We just carried our computers with us everywhere. And sometimes somebody would donate and they would go back and look, and it did not update yet. And they would email or they would call and they would say, Hey, did this go through, I didn't see it like update. And we would say that, you know, credit card processing sometimes takes, you know, a few hours and, uh, it'll be updated soon. And we had to go in and like manually do it. Um, so that's just a story of like, we just got started. And we, then we did all of that probably on a less than $5,000 budget. And what we did is we proved a better, more transparent experience that people really liked giving to.
Speaker 3: And that's actually what we went to white Combinator with. And Y Combinator didn't even know that there wasn't code behind it. So, um, then of course we get funding, we build on our own, we then brought on software engineers, a CTO, but that's how we got started. Um, and then the last thing I'll say about Y Combinator, it was, we knew that our odds of getting in, um, was like literally less than 1%. There was about 10,000 startups that applied. They ended up taking, uh, I think 92 were in our batch. Right. And, um, and we there's, uh, there's, there's phases in the interview process. And, uh, you know, we, when we first applied, I mean, we spent so much time on the application. Like we really put a lot of effort in, but in the story that I tell and it's kind of a mantra for our team is, um, we got invited to the final round of interviews and they only take about 30% of those startups.
Speaker 3: And they used to fly everybody from all around the world into mountain view, um, for a 10 minute interview, right. They literally like notorious for this. Like they would fly people in from Brazil, Europe, like New York to California for a 10 minute interviews, literally only 10 minutes. And, um, and we knew that our odds were like still very low and we were, we were very much underdogs like our team, uh, or basically we had no big wins under our belt. And we were going up against people that were leaving Google and NASA and had the fanciest, you know, MBAs and all this, that was not us. Right. And so we knew we were underdogs, but we knew we had, uh, a game-changing opportunity. And so, um, the mantra is we prepared well over a hundred hours, probably close to 200 hours for a 10 minute interview. Right. And it's just like, like, that's the stuff like, that's the effort that, um, gave us the confidence and ended up getting us in. Right. And, um, and obviously you can't for every opportunity, you have to know when to go that all in for it. But man, when you get an opportunity that can really change things like that's, that's the effort that at least from my standpoint, that I think it's required to, to get some of these breakthroughs,
Speaker 1: Well, I know many have heard mantras around, you know, build things that scale and automate everything and, and figure out the quickest way from point a to B. And it sounds like there's just a lot of blood, sweat and tears along the way before you even get your foot in that door that I just don't hear many people sharing or glorifying. And it does lead people astray when they have their first failure, it doesn't happen as fast as they want and then they give up. So it's, it's so great to hear that story that you're sitting there manually updating page by page, just so that the investor, the donation can register. So that end user can feel the connection to the family, share it with their friends, see the impact they're having and really grow in an unscalable way. You can't carry your laptop for 10,000 families and update it by hand,
Speaker 3: But you can prove it. And then I'll say, I'll tell one more. This is a really quick story. One more of those examples. Well, we were actually going through Y Combinator. It was just me and my two co-founders, um, Matthew Marshall and Alexandria, uh, lossy. And, uh, and once we got out there, we moved to San Francisco and I mean, we, I've never worked so hard in my life for those three months. And, uh, and we were fortunately now getting new customers or new donors every day. Right. And there was a, uh, um, kind of a philosophy that the founder of, um, of white commoner talked about called his name is Paul Graham. And he said, it's better to have a thousand people. Absolutely love you than a million people kind of like you right. As customers. Right. And it's, you know, somewhat of like a thousand raving fans, concepts like similarly.
Speaker 3: And so, and he was talking about how, when you're, when you're just starting off, one of your main advantages is you could do all these things that don't scale to create like real customer love, right. Or real donor love. And so what we would do is at the end of every day, it used to be at like nine o'clock, um, would usually have a glass of wine at this point, like in our little office, we would, um, get out our, our computer and the three of us would stand shoulder to shoulder and we would film thank you videos for every donor that day, you know? And it ended up being like probably, you know, 10 or 20 a day. And they were short, you know, less than a minute, but man, we did all those videos for at least our first thousand donors and imagine their experience, right. I just gave, I get a personal video from the founders and that's how we got a lot of our first like raving fans. And it's just, it's not rocket science. They don't teach you that at, you know, at Harvard business school, it's just putting, it's being creative, it's being thoughtful and it's being, and it's caring and it's actually just putting in the work.
Speaker 2: So it's caring, but it's also being in love with the mission. You have to be willing to fight for it, to go through all of this. When you know that the odds are stacked against you, when you know that there's better competition, when you, when you know that the, the odds are against you. And it's like, well, I'm still going. I'm still preparing. I still, I'm still putting in a hundred hours for this 10 minutes because I love this mission so much. You will be willing to sit there and make the thank you videos and all of that. And yeah, I, I love that. I mean, and for us in the, in the work and the fighting that we have done over the last 15 years, I can relate to that so much. And, and it's, uh, that's a big ingredient. That's not only loving it, but putting so much meaning behind that. Why, and with viewers story and you, our mission, I mean, there is so many different moments of certain people's faces smiling, and being able to have, uh, to, to create a family around that and to, to lift up their experiences and enhancing their life. I mean, these are all great points. You can hang your hat on any one of those.
Speaker 1: Now, joining Y Combinator, there had to be a sense of self doubt entering that room. I mean, if the application process is so difficult, they take so few, then you're in, and you're looking around at all these other incredible ideas and incredible founders who are talented and have maybe even some wins under the belt where you may not have paint us a picture of how you dealt with that self doubt and maybe even imposter syndrome of being in such an amazing experience.
Speaker 3: That's by far, that was the most, um, imposture, like if you were to level in POS, uh, if you were to measure the level of imposter syndrome, that would be at an all time high for me, for sure. Um, I think that, you know, my, my response to that and my team's response to that was we just really did feel like underdogs. Um, and we felt like we had to put in even more effort, be even more focused and, um, and really make the most of the opportunity. And so I think we just, we did things that, um, you know, as far as like going above and beyond on building relationships, you know, at YC or outside of YC and, and kind of just making the most of every opportunity, um, and having that underdog mentality. Um, but then what really happened was we started to get a lot of traction and like things really started to work.
Speaker 3: Um, honestly, even more so than the majority of our batchmates. Um, cause every, every Tuesday you kind of come together with, uh, they break you up into groups and, and, uh, we had a group of probably about 10 or 12 other start-ups and, uh, and they're just, th the partners are there and they're just kind of grilling you on your weekly metrics. And like, we were in, like, we were hitting ours and we were kind of in that top percentile. And so going from holy smokes, we're not supposed to be here. Um, they made a mistake like, oh my gosh, what did we get into to feeling like an underdog putting in the effort and then starting to see real traction, even more so than the other people that you didn't feel like you were qualified to be with. That builds a lot of confidence, you know?
Speaker 3: And I think it gave us this boost, um, that no, we actually do deserve to be here. And like, you know, entrepreneurship, isn't just about, you know, your IQ or your resume. A lot of it is about your, your grit, your heart. Um, obviously you have to be smart and how you're problem solving, but also just like boldness and courage and being willing to do things that others aren't willing to do. And I thought we can do that. And that was how, and so that was how, you know, I think some of our disadvantages actually became our advantages while we were there.
Speaker 1: Absolutely. And I know that a big part of Y Combinator is getting you access to all of these incredible mentors and alumni of the program. What is some of the best advice that you received that maybe it's counterintuitive, or was really shocking and fascinating for you to learn and then implement in your business?
Speaker 3: Yeah, one of the ones we've already talked about, so I won't go into detail, but it's very counterintuitive. Um, it's, uh, in the beginning, whether it's with starting a company or starting something inside of your own organization, you know, it could be a new initiative. Um, that thinking is the counterintuitive thinking is to do things that don't scale, right? Because you can get so programmed into designing something from scratch that has to perfectly scale, has to be perfectly automated, um, where if you could just get on something so that you can learn and you can like make improvements and iterations and like start pushing up that, that Boulder up the hill. Um, that's one of them and anybody has the power to do that listening. So that was one. Um, the other one was, uh, um, Brian Chesky, who was the founder of Airbnb came and spoke to us one night and this was like almost six years ago.
Speaker 3: And I still remember it so vividly. And, you know, he was just talking about how, um, all the, the majority of you will undervalue, um, and not invest into culture. Um, you'll know, it's like kind of important, you know, you can't forget about it like United to do something about it, but he's like the ones that actually believe me and like make their tea, their culture, um, like the priority, you're going to be the one that builds like an extraordinary brand that recruits the best people. And, and, and I believed him, I took him at his word and we've invested so much from the very beginning into, into our culture and into our team. Um, so that would be probably, probably the other one. Yeah.
Speaker 2: I think that's very important because that puts other people in alignment to want to fight for your mission. You are a goal for that idea. Could you speak a bit about that too? What things you did in the early days after hearing that, to get everybody aligned and to make that happen?
Speaker 3: Sure. I mean, um, I'll kind of do high level then I'll zoom in. So I think the first part is, um, you know, no matter how small of a team you're working on, you know, it could just be your co-founders like, it wasn't the beginning. It could be, even if you're not running your own company, but you're running, you're running a team within teams like you, if you're in a leadership role or you want to be one day, like the good news is you have, you have control over the culture. Right. And I think what, um, what people don't do is they don't believe it's the most important thing. And so what that means is they don't actually invest into it. You know what I mean, invest, I mean, time and I also mean money, right. And, and you try to, you try to create an excellent culture.
Speaker 3: You want an excellent culture, but you're not willing to actually make the investment that's going to generate the return. And so, you know, from the beginning we would, um, you know, we always wanted to have, like, from the beginning, just like overpay for, for benefits. Um, we would overpay for, uh, like off-sites that we would do, uh, quarterly offsites. We still do them, um, which costs a lot of money and a lot of time, but man, what comes out of it is so amazing, um, you know, different events that we put on. Um, and yeah, and just like trying to listen to two team members and, you know, if they are really, if we think it'd be a great opportunity to provide, um, you know, free, uh, like mental health classes, like we'll do that, you know? And, and it's like just not being afraid to, to spend money on things, um, because it's going to have a great return. So we've always done that.
Speaker 1: Yeah. That investment in culture keeps the amazing talent that you attract as well. And in your space, you're competing against for-profit companies that probably have bigger benefit packages, bigger things to offer their employees. So culture has to be a focus for you to succeed. Part of this is also relying on donors and getting people to buy into the mission and give you that money. And these checks in order to reach this goal, this million goal have to get bigger. So how do you approach this, where the presentations and the stakes get higher, and now every time you're in a room with a potentially larger donor, you know, how big of an impact that could have, do you have a mental process you go through to prepare yourself?
Speaker 3: Yeah. I mean, it's definitely evolved over the last couple of years. Um, you know, now I'm personally, you know, thinking and working on a lot of just like, you know, seven figure plus partnerships, even getting into eight figure. And, um, that was a process, right. Again, didn't start that way. Um, but, uh, I think, I think what you have to, what I've learned is to be able to go and like really ask someone, not just, if it's just one person, maybe that's different, but to actually put together a program or you can ask multiple people for a million dollars and above, um, you have to be able to fulfill that. Right. And I think you have to have the, the capacity to actually take that money and deploy it in a, uh, a highly effective way. Right. Which for us is about, is about the impact.
Speaker 3: And so I think we've done a well, we try to focus on is how do we get really great at having the team and the strategy and the operations and position to where if somebody wants to come in with, uh, with a partnership of that size, we're able to deploy it and not just be like, holy smokes. Like, did you see this? So now what do we do with it? Right. Like that's not how you're going to continue to get these larger partnerships. So, um, it's like first it's like focusing on like our, our actual product, right? The on-ground delivery of basically impact and housing is the most important part. And if we can get that right then, you know, we're attracting, um, other, other resources. And, and I just mentioned as an example, like we have different levels, right? That's, that's the highest level.
Speaker 3: Um, it's called the foundation. It's a million plus if anybody's listening, I'd love to talk to you about it. Um, but, but we, we have, and then we go all the way down to a program that's actually way more, um, uh, accessible for anybody. And it's a, it's a monthly giving program that we call the neighborhood. And the neighborhood is literally any amount that you want to give a month, $5. Our average is close to $40 a month. And every single month that that money is dedicated to, to helping a family get into, you know, multi-generational housing. And so, um, there's obviously different strategies for how you grow each of those. We have different teams for how you grow each of those. Um, but that's what we're working on. Yeah.
Speaker 1: And with innovation in this space, whether it's 3d printing or FinTech, when you're swinging for the fences, you're going to have some epic failures too. You're going to have some major misses. And how do you handle those setbacks and failures? And when do you know, to, to move on to change strategies, because this is a even more unique situation, because it's such a, a passion of yours and a core mission. I think many founders, their mission might be a little bit more monetary, or maybe they just stumbled into it and now it's working, but something that's. So in line with your personal mission, your core values, those failures have to sting.
Speaker 3: Yeah, for sure. I think, um, they staying, but if you set them up in the right way, like when we set up more risky projects, you know, we are, you, you have to obviously be willing to take a risk where if something doesn't work, then you're going to learn from it and you can move on. Um, I, I seen there's a big difference and taking what I call calculated risk versus just dumb risk. Right. A dumb risk would be, I'm just going to kind of bet, like, you know, 50% of the company on this thing that I'm not sure about. I mean, that's very rare. Like you need to have an insane amount of conviction to do that. And some people do that from time to time. Like, that's definitely not me or us. Like, we try to take calculated risk where we can, we'll take a risk and like, we don't want it to fail, but if it fails, like we're going to be okay, right. That could be, you know, it was like maybe, you know, 10 or 15% or even higher 20% of our budget for that year, which sucks and is not what we want or intended to. But the worst case is we, we tried something that we thought had breakthrough potential. We learned along the way, and we can either take those learnings and try something similar, or we can say, you know what, this is just too hard and we need to go put our efforts elsewhere.
Speaker 1: Yeah. And I think understanding that the risks are worth it based on past risks, you've taken, right. Being able to take those lessons with you throughout all of this helps quite a bit. When you now have an opportunity to change people's lives. I mean, when we think about housing, it fundamentally will change that family's life and multi-generations of that family. What are some of your favorite success stories? Because we think about charities that really have impact. Yes, there are large numbers and everyone can get behind this idea of millions. But when you think about the actual stories of changing lives, that's what really get people to open up their wallets. What stands out from your experience thus far?
Speaker 3: Yeah. I'll give one story. Um, so there's, there's a family and so new stories, a little more than about six years old. And one of our first communities, um, was built about five years ago and an area called Nuevo who Scott law and El Salvador. And it was a family of five. Um, when we were building this first community, like, it was really cool that we're building it, but it was also the question of, well, this is one of our first ones, what's it going to be like in five years? You know? Um, and so I got to go back there, uh, about a couple of months ago. It was my first time traveling to the field since COVID. And, um, you know, I got to meet this family. That's been in their home for almost five years and it was, uh, it was, um, two young kids and a teenage daughter.
Speaker 3: The daughter was actually blind and she, um, before had to walk up a very, very, very steep hill that was prone to landslides to get to their shock. And I would walk up there and I'm in pretty good shape. And I mean, I would like lose my breath. It was like so steep and so hard. And I was just thinking like, she used to have to do this every day and now, you know, she's in a house and she, um, she actually now has a place. She loves music. So she has a place to, um, actually practice the piano and sing and she's getting a music scholarship, right. That's like one example. Um, uh, her, her parents, um, by having a new home have increased their income enough to where they've actually built an additional room onto the house. Um, another bedroom that's actually, uh, this, their daughter's now has her own bedroom for the condition that she's in.
Speaker 3: And we didn't fund that with charity. They paid for that themselves. They built that themselves because their income increased by having the house. Um, and then one of the kids, um, he wants to, I think he's like nine. He wants to be a vet. And, uh, and he talked about wanting to be like one of the best veterinarians and El Salvador and, uh, and like Outback. They now have, um, a few animals that they get to take care of and he gets to like work with and learn from. And so he now has a better chance of actualizing that dream or that potential by being in the environment that he's in. So that's one family story. And, um, you know, we're lucky to have at the end of this year, hopefully a little more than 4,000 of those.
Speaker 1: Congratulations on all the hard work as someone who started in their twenties as a very young leader to where you are. Now, if you could go back in time and give yourself advice, what advice would you have for you starting out in your twenties?
Speaker 3: I mean, I love that question. Um, I would say to, um, be absolutely obsessed with learning, um, but don't just stop at learning. Uh, also you have, you have to do right. You have to do you have to take risks. Um, I would say that, uh, your twenties is, I would argue probably your best time to go out and take calculated risks with your, with your career. It doesn't have to mean, you know, not everybody's listening has to start there an organization. Right. Of course. But it could be maybe joining a startup. It could be going into a different career that, you know, on paper, your friends or your peers would be like, wait, why are you going to do that? Like that's different or that it's not the same as the route that you could go, but if you feel that pull to do it, like you have to do it, you have to do it, or you're going to regret doing it. Um, and that any other thing I would encourage somebody with is, uh, even if it doesn't work the way that you want you are, you're truly gonna learn more than going a traditional safer route. Um, and, and that it's going to have a bigger return. So, um, I would just say, uh, to it, somebody in their early twenties, um to, to learn obsessives early, to take action and to do something that is against the status quo. If you feel a pull to do that
Speaker 1: Excellent advice for everyone in our audience who may be at that exact same crossroads, wondering themselves, we love asking each of our guests what their X factor is, what it is that makes you extraordinary. What do you think it is for yourself? What is your X factor?
Speaker 3: I, I think that, um, you know, I'm, by no means like pretty much ever, like just the smartest person in the room, like over the last, I guess, five years, my resume has gotten a little better than where I started from, but it's, I still view myself as very much, you know, an underdog. I think my X-Factor, my advantage has been there's, you know, there's a, there's a mantra that bold ideas attract bold people, you know, and, and fortune favors the bold. And I think that's probably been one of the main reasons for some of the growth we've had. And, and my learnings is like realizing that it's scarce to do something bold. Right? A lot of people talk about it. A lot of people think about it. There are not many people that actually do it. And so just by actually doing it, um, is scarce and is actually rare and is different. And I think, um, that's probably been new stories. X-Factor and probably my X-Factor as a leader.
Speaker 1: Incredible. Thank you for sharing your journey with our audience. Where can they go to find more about how to support you on this amazing mission? Yeah,
Speaker 3: You can go to our website is a new story, charity.org, or just Google new story. I'm on social media. Our handle is a new story charity, and then for myself, um, I'm on social, mainly Twitter and Instagram. It's just my name, which is at Brett Hagler.
Speaker 1: Thank you so much, Brett. Thank you. Yeah. Thanks guys.
Speaker 4: [inaudible]
Speaker 1: Also, could you do us the entire art of charm team, a huge favor. Could you head on over to apple podcasts and rate and review this show? It would really mean the world to us and it helps us bring on influential leaders like Brett. The art of charm podcast is produced by Michael Harold and Eric Montgomery until next week. I'm a AIJ and I'm Johnny stay charming.
Speaker 4: [inaudible].
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