Start Staffing Earlier and Get Insurance: Lessons Learned from Brittany Hebert, Founder and CEO of Sky High for Kids
I had the pleasure of interviewing Brittany Hebert, Founder and CEO of Sky High for Kids, a 10 year old non-profit that raises awareness and funding for pediatric cancer research. In a short period of time, Hebert has gone from a small town Louisiana girl to a leading sales rep in the Oil & Gas industry in Houston, TX and the founder of a non profit that is quickly making a name for itself donating millions of dollars a year to hospitals like St. Jude Children’s Hospital, Ronald McDonald House and Texas Children’s.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory?”
I grew up on a small farm in Abbeville, Louisiana enjoying the outdoors with my family. We raised 4-H lambs, pot belly pigs and on Saturdays I would help my dad harvest crawfish. My dad always introduced new outdoor activities to us and one of those was shooting sporting clays with a hand thrower in the backyard. It turned into a weekend activity and eventually I competed in local festival competitions. Later, my mom introduced me to the pageant circuit and I was honored to lead at 13 years old as the Cattle Festival Queen. I was the only queen to ride a horse in the parade versus the float. I continued to compete which is what led me to walk the halls of St. Jude and the Ronald McDonald House of Memphis at age 14 and it changed my life forever. Unfortunately, my parents divorced at age 16 and from that time on, I raised myself and worked through college to pay my way through school at ULL in Lafayette. During my final semester of college, I accepted a challenge to raise $10,000 for St. Jude. With the help of some very vibrant women, we hosted a sporting clay tournament benefiting St. Jude and raised $50,000. This ultimately changed my path and led me to Houston, TX to start my career in oil & gas … the rest is history.
Can you tell me about the most interesting projects you are working on now?
I am working on our three-year strategic plan which will help guide our team through fundraising challenges to help reach realistic goals. This is the first time our team set a solid plan to guide us and it has been an awakening! It has challenged me to dig deeper into our mission and focus on what’s most important; saving kids fighting cancer but also learn how to be the best in business and a better leader. In addition, I have a dream to build our own Sky High sporting clay range and event center near Houston, TX. Our venue would be offered to other non-profits at a discounted rate to help those who work hard to do good in the world. The venue space and clay range would produce income to pay for our overhead so Sky High could ultimately donate 100% back to cancer facilities. As of now, we donate .70 cents of every dollar annually which is incredible for an organization who specializes in “special events”. 3. Yitzi: So tell me a bit more about your organization? Sky Hgh is a 501 C3 non-profit organization that brings the community together through fundraising events. We provide comfort and help fund research to save lives of those fighting pediatric cancer and other life threatening diseases. We work tirelessly to fulfill the mission daily and are proud to help families during their darkest times. We have hundreds of volunteers and staff that make our banquets, golf and clay shooting tournaments some of the best in the country. Our organization leads with passion and energy every step of the way through the motivation of the kids we are saving. One thing you will always know at our events…where your money is going! We have children and their families present from St. Jude and Texas Children’s there for our donors to meet and greet. It’s the best part!
Can you tell me a story about a person that you helped?
One of our programs called Adventures, allows kids battling cancer to experience the outdoors just as I did growing up. Matthew, a super depressed teen undergoing treatment at St. Jude, had little hope during his treatment until he met Sky High. One of our best volunteers, Richie Bartosh helped host Matthew on an Adventure trip that changed his entire outlook on fighting cancer. After Matthews weekend in the woods, around the campfire and tons of great laughter, his outcome has changed…it has literally prolonged his life and we are proud to have helped change his attitude and spirit to this day.
This obviously is not easy work. What drives you?
It’s easy, I am not battling a life threatening disease but every day, 43 more children ARE! In my mind, that’s not fair so it’s my job to lead our team and never give up until we end childhood cancer for good! We run multiple special events, and sometimes we only sleep for 2 hours in a weekend but we do whatever it takes..everyday, no excuses.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
Honestly, there are too many so to pick out one wouldn’t be fair. I have always said “surround yourself with people who are smarter than you, but make sure they also share the passion.” From my mom introducing me to pageants, Mrs. Billie Menard challenging me at a young age to raise money and volunteer at St. Jude and the Ronald McDonald House to Christl Mahfouz creating our billboard to promote our first clay shoot to several very powerful business men & women in the oil & gas industry believing in my vision and always pushing me to do more. I’ve also been blessed to have my personal best friends involved and making it their life mission too. The bottom line is that our success isn’t about me, I was just chosen to lead, our success is about our team and they know who they are.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why.
A. Work-Life Balance. It’s very difficult to balance our work since we are always event planning, executing and trying to improve. I always say that “cancer doesn’t sleep” but the reality is that we must balance our home life. We are all still trying to figure that out.
B. Board training. After ten years of running Sky High, we just went through La Salle University Board Training and LEARNED so much! There are still areas where we need to improve. One is the hiring staff, and the Board taking their jobs seriously as leaders.
C. Insurance. We fortunately never learned the hard way, but you have to have insurance for EVERYTHING if you want to run things legally. For example, for years volunteers transported items or even people related to our organization and we didn’t have their personal car insurance on file. Now we do.
D. Staff — We were 100% Volunteer for seven years and I wish I would have initiated hiring staff sooner to help in areas we were lacking. As a nonprofit, we were not educated enough about full time employees and did not understand how to run the organization like a business. Now we have (4) staff members and we are able to grow beyond our volunteer hours.
E. Don’t put your eggs in one basket — our donor base is 95% energy (Oil & Gas) and although we are proud and thankful for our donor base, we know that we need to diversify our donor portfolio. We are still working on this and have formed a diverse Development Committee to help reach new industries.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
George Strait is a pillar in the country music and outdoors community. After admiring George for so many years, I recently learned that he founded a charity. The Jenifer Strait Foundation in memory of his daughter, and donates to various children’s charities across the country. I have always admired George for his heart, professionalism and pride for our country. We have energy that never runs out and he already understands the work that St. Jude does for children battling cancer. Come on George, let’s grab breakfast at your ranch in South Texas! So George, do you accept my invitation?