Episode 154 |

E153: From Homeless to Philanthropist with Jabez LeBret

Learn how Jabez LeBret @jabezlebret went from homeless high school dropout to successful entrepreneur to passion project creator on the next @OptimizedGeek. Click To Tweet

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This Week’s Guest:

It’s hard enough to build a business without funding or training. Imagine how much harder it would be if you truly started from nothing and were homeless. Now, go one step further and imagine stepping away from the business that you created in those unlikely circumstances to follow your true passion: creating an innovative nonprofit in the education field. This may sound like something out of a novel, but for today’s guest, it’s his true life story.


Jabez Lebret was a homeless high school dropout on a path to nowhere. He turned his life around by getting his GED and studying finance. He later became a financial analyst, an international public speaker, an author, and a Forbes contributor. Recently, Jabez sold his award-winning marketing agency to pursue his passion in education as co-founder of Sisu Academy. Tune into this episode to learn more about how he turned his life around, his advice for others who are considering selling their companies, and much more!

Find Out More About Jabez Here:

Jabez LeBret
Jabez LeBret on LinkedIn
@jabezlebret on Twitter
Sisu Academy

In This Episode:

  • [02:07] – What is it like to sell your business and shift your life direction? And who acquired the business?
  • [05:22] – Jabez talks about why he wanted to sell his business and start going down a new path, which he explains wasn’t due to burnout.
  • [07:26] – How to structure his high school (for example, as a non-profit) was one of the hardest decisions early on for Jabez.
  • [12:08] – Jabez shares his thoughts on B Corps, which he explains that he thinks are great, and talks about why he didn’t choose to go that way.
  • [15:41] – Over the years, Jabez has been on nonprofit boards in various capacities.
  • [19:04] – Funding operations isn’t sexy, Jabez points out, and talks about what he’s been doing to manage this.
  • [24:21] – Jabez gives us more details about how everything unfolded with growing and selling his business.
  • [26:18] – Stephan talks about his own experience with selling his first agency.
  • [31:31] – What were Stephan’s thoughts when he was considering selling his agency?
  • [34:49] – We hear about Stephan’s second attempt at selling, this time in 2007.
  • [36:22] – How far out into the future does Jabez have to go before he’s done getting paid by his company?
  • [40:55] – Jabez offers advice on what to do if you’re going to sell your company.
  • [42:20] – For listeners who may not be familiar with the term, Jabez defines the term “clawback.”
  • [44:50] – Stephan jumps back to the concept of a 510(c)(3) versus a B Corp.
  • [48:25] – When you support a nonprofit organization, you’re picking up slack in some other part of the world that needs to get solved, Jabez points out.
  • [52:36] – Stephan and Jabez talk about issues surrounding homelessness, specifically in Venice Beach, California.
  • [55:52] – We hear a tidbit from Stephan’s backstory: he was a foster child for most of his high school years.
  • [58:18] – Has Jabez been speaking about the topic of homelessness on stages or in TV appearances?
  • [60:44] – How can people get in touch with Jabez if they want to learn more or help out?

Links and Resources:

Your Checklist of Actions to Take:

☑ Decide how I want to structure my business. Determine if I want to set it up as an Inc., LLC or 501(c)(3).

☑ Consider setting up a 501(c)(3) aka a non-profit organization to make a massive social impact on my community.

☑ Carefully choose my board of members. Each member should have a specific qualification that benefits my business operations.

☑ Take a look at what I’m getting into in a business partnership. Set clear business procedures to protect both parties’ interests.

☑ Evaluate how much time I put into building my business. It doesn’t matter how much money I’m making, the real value is the time that’s being put in.

☑ Be prepared to experience burnout. Handling a business is a tough job and sometimes making ends meet is quite the challenge. But if I’m doing what I love, everything will fall into place.

☑ Be socially conscious when running my business. See how my operations affect my community and find ways to improve it.

☑ Learn more about the philanthropic world before building a charity. Consider the costs involved to keep the ball rolling.

☑ Come up with income generating projects. Find donors who share my advocacy to help my charity fulfill its goals and help others.

☑ Follow my passion and don’t be afraid to take risks. If I don’t like where I am, find the courage to go after my dreams.



S: It’s hard enough to build a business out of nothing when you don’t have funding and you don’t have training in entrepreneurship. Imagine what it would take if you are actually homeless and you’re starting from scratch. Now, imagine building up a successful business from those beginnings, to walk away from it, and follow your true passion, your true dream, which is to create your own non-profit. That’s exactly what you’re going to hear about in today’s episode number 153. Our guest is Jabez LeBret. He’s been homeless, he’s been a highschool dropout, he was on a path to nowhere. After getting his GED, Jabez studied finance and marketing at Gonzaga University. He went on to become a financial analyst at Nordstrom, an international public speaker, author, and Forbes contributor. He recently sold his award-winning marketing agency to free up time to pursue his passion in education as co-founder of Sisu Academy—a new education model. Jabez is a coffee lover and gin enthusiast. Jabez, it’s great to have you on the show.


J: Thank you for having me.


S: Let’s talk about first of all, what it’s like to sell your business, you had an agency and you decided to make a pretty significant shift in and your career direction, your life direction, and so you sold your agency. I’d love to learn a bit more about what that process was like, and what your decision was based on all that sort of stuff.


J: Jumping into the heard of things. I like this.


S: Yeah.


J: I think any time that you spend all of your blood, sweat, tears, and energy, and money building something that the decision to walk away from that whether that is a decision that is forced upon your, or in my case the decision I got to make, I had the opportunity to make, I think it’s tough. A piece of you is alive in that thing, whatever business that you’ve built. We had employees and I had a business partner who we are 50/50, we had basically gone through war together, been through the battles, the ups and downs, and you grow very close to each other, and learn to depend on each other, and a decision to go a different direction is not a decision made lightly. Fortunately for me in my situation, my business partner and I parted amicably, and we’re able to really come to good terms and understand where each person was heading in life and kind of why there needed to be a divergence. We were about seven years old, almost eight years old, we were starting to move into a really good and steady growth phase. An odd timing to leave an agency that you built but, my business partner was supportive and understanding, sometimes life takes you in different directions.


S: Did you both come to the conclusion that you would sell the business together, or did you sell to him, and maybe to his employees, who is the eventual acquirer?


J: In this case, I sold to my business partner. I sold my shares. In fact, in our working operating agreement which I highly recommend people take a look after going into a partnership. We had some pretty good language around what sales should look like, and how if somebody needed to sell for whatever reason, what would be the process and procedures, him and I were both able to I think kind of come to a good agreement without having to get the dogs in the fight, which was great.


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