Brett Hagler is the CEO and co-founder of New Story, one of the most innovative companies in the world. New Story is working on finding sustainable solutions to end global homelessness. The company pioneers community solutions and is passionate about social impact. It builds homes and communities for families all over the world that need shelter, which has positively impacted many people and has changed each of their lives for the better.
Hagler is a Y Combinator graduate and a cancer survivor. He has been 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” in 2017, 2019, and 2020.
Listen to the podcast here!
Y Combinator is a prestigious start-up accelerator that has provided financial support to companies such as Stripe, Airbnb, and Doordash. Hagler is a 2015 graduate of Y Combinator, where he learned how to raise funds for his company. New Story raised $27 million by December 2018. This gave the company the ability to get started with developing ways to complete its mission and activating its network.
“Life is a gift, not a gain,” said Hagler.
Hagler’s passion for helping others in need grew when he was in college. He realized that he had grown up with the wrong idea of what he wanted to accomplish in life. He began college living by the “three G’s,” which he described as “girls, gold, and glory.”
According to Hagler, it is important to have fun in college, but it is also about so much more than just worrying about popularity. Many students are pressured to strive for goals that they are not truly passionate about. It’s time to move away from those pressures and break out of the shell expectations can form. And this is exactly what Hagler did.
“Don’t do what everybody else does.”
Hagler began exploring his Christian faith, and he had a realization that redirected what he felt ambitious about. It changed from personal ambitions centered around his personal status to outreach and community impact.
Hagler traveled to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake destroyed many communities there. Hagler had created a for-profit start-up and was looking for a non-profit organization to give money to. He wanted to help families living without some of life’s most basic human needs, like shelter and safety.
After he came back to America from Haiti, he wanted to try to do something with his new mindset and perspective regarding his own life and the lives of others.
Life has not been easy for Hagler, but this has strengthened his sympathy for others who are also living with challenges. Surviving cancer when he was young taught him to appreciate and live life to its fullest.
He began to think in the long term because the short term didn’t give him the hope he needed. By doing so, he gained a vision and a desire to make a difference. These experiences were fundamental reasons why he wanted to start New Story.
“You need to really believe in what you are doing. It’s up to you to keep going.”
It’s hard to wrap your mind around how many people there are without homes. According to Hagler, anyone can help decrease the number by realizing their own privilege and educating themselves on different initiatives. This is the best time for you to have the courage to do something that you believe in.
“You are starting from the bottom, and that is the journey. It’s a step-by-step process, and each milestone is going to be hard. Start small.”
New Story has built about three thousand homes, and the team has learned a lot about how to improve the building process. Hagler wants to change how things have been done in the past.
Phase one was learning and making a direct impact. Phase two was trying to understand why it takes so long to build a house and why homes are so expensive. Phase three, the current phase, is establishing ways to lower the homeless population by building homes in an efficient way.
“We have earned the right to start testing new innovations. I love the challenges, and I love being on a team that will fight through the challenges together.”
New Story has been continuously working on building homes for some of the poorest people in the world and has even given them ownership of the land on which these homes are built, which is something essential that we often don’t see.
A 3D printer is now being used to print cement, which is then used to make the walls of homes. This machine has helped save money and allowed New Story to develop homes more efficiently.
“It is not just an idea, it is not just a proof of concept; they are actually building homes.”
Hagler is passionate about creating a team culture of innovation, speaking about leadership, helping other social entrepreneurs, and partnering with companies to give their team members the opportunity to make a direct life-changing impact through New Story. Hagler spoke in his own TED Talk in 2019, describing his involvement in New Story and the strides the company has made in changing the world.
“When you have a small goal that is achievable, all excuses are off of the table because it is up to you to make it happen.”
A program that has recently developed through New Story is Founders Lab. Founders Lab is a one-month accelerator program that is working to help undergrads learn how to think and act like a founder. Having the mindset to challenge the status quo will serve students well in their future goals. Founders Lab will be completely digital and interactive beginning this October.
“We are learning to be more effective and more efficient and bringing in more resources to help us be more innovative. We are really passionate about ending global homelessness, and it is a long journey to come.”
With the goal of eradicating global homelessness, New Story strives to create a platform to elevate people by not only building them homes, but also by creating social change.