020: Brett Hagler: Eradicating Homelessness, One House at a Time

Meet Brett Hagler, Co-Founder and CEO of New Story; a non-profit charity organization that is seeking to build sustainable communities within the developing nations.  New Story's concept is simple and powerful:

  1. Families experiencing life-threatening homelessness are identified and introduced to New Story.
  2. A picture of the family is taken and posted on NewStoryCharity.org together with a bio about their background, interests and talents.
  3. Donors fund each individual home through a crowd-sourcing campaign (either individually or through multiple donors)
  4. New Story's local Partner, Mission of Hope Haiti  builds the home
  5. Upon completion, a video is taken of the family moving into the home and shared with donors... thus creating a "New Story" for the family to rebuild their lives.

Brett shares the experience that moved him to create New Story together with his partners and also provides sound and actionable advice to any aspiring entrepreneur looking to create their own story in the world.

Why new story?

CONTACT BRETT

On Twitter: @bretthagler

By Email: brett@newstorycharity.org


SHOW NOTES


IF SOMEONE COMES UP TO YOU AT A PARTY AND ASKS WHAT DO YOU DO, HOW DO YOU RESPOND TO THAT? [03:44]

It’s definitely depends on the context but if its just a random person I would say that we have a website that helps build houses in the developing world. Now… the entrepreneurial community… we we do is we crowd fund houses for families who are living in danger in the developing world. So it’s a crowd funding platform where you can come online and meet the exact family that you could directly help and basically our process allows you to fund that family , get them into a new home. Once their home is built, we take a video of them moving into their new home and then we send it back to every single donor that contributed to that new home and that life change.

Here is an example of the videos that donors receive and the impact that New Story makes for the individual:

YOU PRINCIPALLY DO THIS IN HAITI CORRECT? [04:46]

Yes. Brett explains that they are initially starting there but was drawn to the plight of many Haitians because he had a powerful personal call to action after he walked through a tent slum in Haiti after visiting there on a personal trip.

HOW DID YOU ORIGINALLY START? [06:52]

So, they way we started was… and his is what I would highly highly recommend to any listeners that are thinking of starting some type of idea. Right, like creating some type of idea right like creating something from nothing whether it’s a non-profit or a business or a book or a blog. The way we started… was we started very small and we actually moved very fast and we created what some people might be aware of: its called an MVP – a Minimum Viable Product.

Brett goes on to explain how he took his MVP based on the principle of having full transparency as a charity where donors know exactly where their money goes. Brett shares his initial few month as an entrepreneur on how he and his partners scrambled to execute on their MVP.

Brett also stresses that the most important thing to: “Make something people want. If you can prove early on that you’ve done that then you know that you’re on to something and you can go forward.”

CAN YOU HELP EDUCATE US ON HOW CHARITIES WORK? [12:11]

Brett explains how its sometimes difficult to understand how much of every dollar donated specifically contributes to each charity’s primary cause.  He explains that many charities are run in a similar fashion on a model that has been in place for over 100 years and he believes that there are many great charities out there, but simply wants to have full transparency on where funds truly go.

HOW MANY HOMES HAVE NEW HOMES CHARITY BUILT TO DATE? [15:51]

To date in just 8 months, New Homes Charity has funded 130 homes and has received 787,000 in donations. Every penny of that will build new homes and there are an additional 45 that have been built and 36 are currently under construction.

HOW LONG DID IT TAKE YOU TO DEVELOP YOUR MINIMUM VIABLE PRODUCT? [17:50]

It took only 2 and ½ weeks to where people actually started donating.

WHAT DID AN INITIAL DAY ORIGINALLY LOOK LIKE WHEN YOU WERE FIRST STARTING? [19:38]

Brett shares how in the very beginning he and his partners developed his charity on the side.

Brett stated: What I tried to focus on was this idea that in the very beginning it’s much better to make 100 people to absolutely love you than a 1,000,000 people kind of like you.

Brett focused on going above and beyond and making each donor feel special and really focusing on what you they loved doing.

WHAT WAS PROBABLY YOUR MOST EFFECTIVE OUTREACH STRATEGY? [23:36]

Brett explains the importance of starting with who you really know within your network and start sending personal messages. Afterwards, it turned into getting their early customers to share their experience on social media and then that migrated to sending out cold emails to people that he wanted to contact.

WHERE ARE YOU PLANNING ON TAKING NEW STORY? [26:02]

Their real vision is to go into other countries within the developing world and created “sustainable communities” with housing, clean water, schools and businesses.

BRETT EXPLAINS HOW AS AN ENTREPRENEUR, IT’S ALL ABOUT LEARNING [26:58]

Brett shares that you don’t necessarily need an advanced degree or a long background in a particular field to do something. It’s important rather to surround yourself with people who do know and you can also read many books to get a better understanding of how you can accomplish your goal.

Brett quotes Elon Musk when it was asked of him [Elon] how he knew how to build a spaceship and he said; “Well, I read a lot of books and I surrounded myself with people who knew what they were talking about.”

WHAT WAS YOUR BIGGEST AH-HAH MOMENT? [31:31]

So, I vividly remember sitting in my bedroom one night and I was actually trying to give to other organizations, but I kept being frustrated that I couldn’t see who I was helping and I didn’t know where my money was going to and I just thought; ok what would be a better experience than this? The ah-hah moment came from like, Whoa; why don’t we just put up people’s pictures and their stories so you see exactly who you’re giving to? Kind of like a kick starter, but for this problem…

Brett goes on to explain that his ah-hah moment happened because of all of the dots that had been connecting over the last two years.

If anyone is “searching for an ah-hah moment” I think the best kind of framework to think through is what’s something that is like just frustrating to you or bugging you are you think, man, this should be better…

BRETT EXPLAINS FURTHER ON HOW TO COME UP WITH AN IDEA FOR A COMPANY? [33:55]

Brett shares the importance of taking an existing idea and then focusing on making a different or better experience for consumers than what is currently being offered.

Brett recommends that early on, chasing after a lot of funding is not necessary. Instead, focus on making the MVP (minimum viable product) and seek to get traction either through subscribers on a blog, number of books sold, etc. Once you start to get traction, at that point is a good time to seek money.

Create something that you can prove that people want and once you prove that you have something that people want then you have all the leverage and you can go get more money.

WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED FROM YOUR FAILURES?  [38:11]

Brett explains how the initial failure of his e-commerce company, Huxley, was actually a great launching platform for him because of the direct experiences that he gained, the education he earned from direct experience and the network he created. All three things helped him to be able to launch New Story.

WHAT IS SOMETHING THAT YOU INTENTIONALLY FOCUSED ON EVERY DAY IN THE BEGINNING OF BUILDING YOUR BUSINESS? [41:38]

I have a phrase that I really believe in and try as best I can to focus on: Keep things insanely simple so I think simplicity is a key, key, key differentiator in whatever you are trying to build.
It’s more important to make 100 people absolutely love you than 1,000,000 people kind of like you.

IF YOU COULD GIVE ADVICE SPECIFICALLY TO ANY ENTREPRENEUR WHO IS LOOKING TO START A NON-PROFIT, WHAT WOULD THAT BE? [44:06]

Think really big, but start really small. Imagine something that you are very passionate about that there is a big market for but then as you start, start it very small and only try to solve it for a couple people in the very beginning. 

RECOMMENDED RESOURCES


BOOKS

Poke the Box by Seth Godin

Purple Cow by Seth Godin

RESOURCES

Y Combinator – View live streaming upcoming lectures at schools such as Harvard, Brown, NYU, etc. on how to start a company. How to put together your team. How to raise money. 

Howtostartastartup.co - View lectures on just about any topic related to starting a business. Huge resource center! You can also check out specifically what Brett watched at: http://startupclass.samaltman.com

How To Start a Start Up Podcast

Click the link below