Why the “Homeboy Way” is a Radical Approach to Business and Life | Business with Purpose Podcast EP 282: Thomas Vozzo, Homeboy Industries
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My guest this week is Thomas Vozzo, CEO of Homeboy Industries, the largest and most successful gang rehabilitation and re-entry program in the world.
Tom has served as the first-ever CEO of the nonprofit since 2012. He has led the organization forward, bringing his business expertise and vision to implement a strategic and mission driven development plan for the organization that has resulted in growth all around.
He has cultivated Homeboy’s portfolio of job-training businesses (e.g., Homeboy Bakery, Homegirl Café, and Homeboy Silkscreen & Embroidery) and increased revenues from Homeboy Industries’ enterprises in order to decrease the organization’s reliance on donations and government funding, as the organization receives less than 5% of annual funding from any government resources.
Most recently, he has helmed Homeboy Industries’ acquisition of Isidore Electronics Recycling, rebranding the full service, certified B Corporation as “Homeboy Recycling,” and establishing a new job creation stream that supports the organization’s comprehensive, free rehabilitative services. The venture marks the first of its kind in the electronic waste industry where a for-profit entity is leveraged to both provide jobs and generate revenue for a not-for-profit organization.
4:18 – Thomas 101
- Homeboy is based in Los Angeles and helps gang members change their lives.
- He wants to help people heal.
- Before Homeboy, Thomas was in the corporate world and ran a $1.8 billion business. His values didn’t line up with the corporate world.
9:01 – Running businesses
- He came in and used business techniques to improve certain areas. But Homeboy changed him as well.
- Homeboy is a chance for people to get a job. They give people a lot of latitude.
- They need to teach people how to work.
13:53 – 10,000 people a year
- They’re first and foremost a human services agency.
- 10,000 people come through Homeboy’s doors every year to get some type of service and help.
- They help take tattoos off people’s faces for free since it hinders them getting jobs.
16:09 – How Homeboy has change Thomas
- Thomas came to Homeboy wanting to help, but he had the hubris of a company executive.
- There really are two Americas – the America that Thomas and most of us live in … and then the plight of the really poor, the demonized.
22:22 – Poverty in America
- Poverty is America has not changed much
- People aren’t in gangs because they want to be in there. It’s because it’s ingrained in them from a young age.
28:15 – Clients became managers
- More than half of Homeboy’s management team members are former clients.
32:53 – Homegirls
- Thomas tells the story of a client who was friendly and polite but had a hard life. She had health issues and debt and turned to prostitution to make money.
44:04 – What Thomas has learned
- When he talks with people, he tries to find out what’s behind their frustration, anger and pain.
46:50 – Get to know you
- Favorite meal at Homegirl Café – Carne Asada tacos with hot sauce
- What actor should play him in movie? Steve Carrell
- Most played music? Bruce Springsteen and classical music
We need to teach people how to work along the way.
We’re first and foremost a human services agency. Ten thousand people come through Homeboy’s doors every year to get some type of service and help.
There really are two Americas – the America that I live in … and then the plight of the really poor, the demonized.
ABOUT THOMAS VOZZO:
Thomas Vozzo left a lucrative career in corporate America convinced there had to be a better way to define success. In 2012, Vozzo became the first-ever CEO of Homeboy Industries, the largest and most successful gang intervention, rehabilitation and re-entry program in the world.
Each year, thousands of former gang members from across Los Angeles enter the doors of Homeboy Industries seeking hope and the tools to make positive change. They are welcomed into a community of kinship, love, and exquisite mutuality, alongside access to the needed support services to ensure their own success—including case management, tattoo removal, anger management training, mental health services, parenting classes and more. The overarching goal is to support individuals as they work to heal from their complex trauma and help them see hope in their futures and the importance of their contributions to their families and communities.
Vozzo led the nonprofit organization forward, bringing his business expertise and vision to implement a strategic and mission-driven plan that doubled the organization’s size and impact. He has cultivated Homeboy’s portfolio of social enterprise job-training businesses (including Homeboy Bakery, Homegirl Café and Homebody Electronic Recycling), and increased revenues from Homeboy Industries’ social enterprises while only having less than 5% of the organization’s funds come from government sources.
Vozzo’s journey goes from billion-dollar revenues—his last corporate role was as CEO of the $1.8 billion ARAMARK Uniform and Career Apparel Group—to a voluntary, unpaid CEO of a nonprofit built on compassion, kinship, empathy and social justice. Along the way, he has learned hard-earned insights from motivational and sometimes heartbreaking stories of former gang members determined to break the cycles of incarceration and violence of their own lives.
In Vozzo’s first book, The Homeboy Way: A Radical Approach to Business and Life, he gives readers practical ways to address some of our most vexing social issues and provides a new path for personal and business leadership.
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