Luis Vega of Krohn Breakthrough Foundation: 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Lead A…

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Luis Vega of Krohn Breakthrough Foundation: 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Lead A Nonprofit Organization

I was instilled in me while I was in the military that leadership is the ability to inspire someone to do something they otherwise would not do, and most of that resonated and translated to trust. People have to have faith in you, the cause, the mission, and themselves and what you’ve empowered them to do to build that because if they don’t, they will not follow you. That is where the initial definition of leadership comes in.

As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Luis Vega.

Luis Vega, Executive Director, is now leading the Foundation on missions to Ukraine’s front lines to deliver critical, life-saving aid. Vega is spearheading our work in Mexico with survivors of sex trafficking, and undergoing a massive growth year with Breakthrough.

Thank you so much for doing this with us. Before we begin our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”?

Luis was moved by the tragedies of 9/11 and joined the Army while studying Political Science at the University of Arizona, where he was deployed to Afghanistan in 2012 for a year in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and was awarded a Bronze Star Medal.

After several years as a civilian after an honorable discharge, he donned the uniform again in 2019, joining The United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) Reserve unit Special Operations Command South Korea (SOCKOR) as a Battle Captain on the generalist staff.

After his years of active duty, Luis spent several years as a legislative aide and regional representative for members of Congress where he learned the importance of serving your community, bottom-up solutions, and not relying on the government to fix society’s biggest problems. From this, he immersed himself within the veteran community, being all too familiar with the struggles they face, and discovered his passion and talent for growing nonprofits which led to his work leading the Concerned Veteran for America’s Nevada chapter and Americans for Prosperity (America’s largest private nonprofit by revenue).

Luis joined the Krohn Breakthrough Foundation in May 2022 after experiencing a Kris Krohn ‘Unleash Your Financial Destiny’ event and was personally transformed by the Breakthrough process. Luis’ military experience and battles with trauma led him to this moment, which made him uniquely qualified to lead the foundation and use the skill set and operation planning he learned as an Infantry Captain to lead humanitarian lifesaving missions from the frontlines.

So my route started as a first-generation Mexican-American. My parents migrated from Sonora and instilled in me an entrepreneurial initiative, a pride in ownership, and a want to serve and make something of myself, especially after the sacrifices I saw my parents making and to give back.

I started that by serving in the US military after 911. I was really moved to join, and I commissioned as an officer and spent six years on active duty as an infantry officer, getting out as a battle captain and having a combat deployment in Afghanistan and defensive Operation Enduring Freedom 2012–2013. That also grew into adulthood and into becoming the man I am today, a lot through that deployment, but it didn’t come without its scars. I buried a lot of that trauma and was a very high-functioning veteran that was hurting on the inside, so I decided to give back by helping my fellow brothers and sisters who had served and were starting to battle this epidemic sweeping our nation, which is our mental health crisis and depression, and more pointedly, suicide, which I lost two of my very close brothers to.

That’s when I got into the nonprofit sector. I first did a little political advocacy for veteran health care. And then I transitioned to say, the real way to do this and get bottom-up solutions to help those most in need. I knew the most direct impact I would have was through the nonprofit sector because it’s going directly to the source. It’s purposeful and meaningful. My introduction to KBF started when I was a State Director for a veteran nonprofit in Nevada. I went to Kris Krohn’s real estate investment seminar to improve my finances and experienced the foundation’s “breakthrough” process that, essentially, that allows you to break free from past trauma and let go of things that have been keeping you stuck so that you could genuinely realize your full potential. That was a paradigm shift for me after, even after the time I spent in therapy. This taught me to drop much of my trauma and practice self-healing and self-forgiveness. Finding KBF gave me the opportunity, after hanging up my uniform, to serve a higher purpose and a mission bigger than myself.

Can you tell us the story behind why you decided to start or join your non-profit?

As I mentioned, my first touchpoint with KBF was when I went to a real estate seminar to learn how to invest and better my finances. At the time, I felt fulfilled in my position and walked out with a redirected mindset. From there, I decided to let my wall down, give myself to this breakthrough, and truly heal past trauma. At that moment, I decided to tie my vision and purpose to help others experience what I did to help change the lives of others. I am lucky to have a founder like Kris Krohn, who utilizes his wealth and influence to help people and allow the foundation to expand its reach and dream big, with him as a visionary and supporter.

Can you describe how you or your organization aims to make a significant social impact?

KBF takes a unique and efficient approach to make the most direct social impact possible. We’re unique in that having a successful young person who, as a founder, strives to take risks and think outside the box. When I came in, we looked inwards and asked how to separate ourselves from those already doing it. We decided to take an unusual approach where we would lead from the frontlines instead of asking others to do a humanitarian project on our behalf. With that idea in mind, we created the Humanitarian Rescue branch of the foundation alongside a set of missions that would aid cities in crisis across the globe.

The first step was curating a team to organize and support this branch, followed by allowing donors to come with us on these missions. We understand that most other organizations have volunteers; ours are unique because these are high-level donors, some of whom have a medical or military background, but understand the cause and align with our values. Because of this, we wanted to allow them to be the change they wanted to see in the world. And that sounds like a poster ask, but the truth is, these are not run-of-the-mill missions. These frontline volunteer led-efforts go straight to the source and skip the middleman to ensure emergency transports of equipment and resources like clothes, food, and even specific ventilators for NICU babies reach those who need them.

That’s the opportunity we’re giving donors, and it’s unique in that sense. The last thing for the Korhn Breakthrough Foundation on how we have the most impact is that our vetting process is highly robust and has a three-tiered approach. The first one of which is to look for organizations that are scrappy/bootstrapped. What I mean by that is that we want someone, a community leader, who sees a problem, and wants to solve it. They’re raising money through their through their personal network and resources and understand how to make our donor dollars go further.

Without saying any names, can you share a story about an individual who was helped by your idea so far?

There are many success stories here in our program that have shown tangible results, but one that stands out is in regards to two EMT’s, Tom and John; one is from Germany, and the other one is American, who, when the Ukraine invasion happened, decided to go and do their part to help save lives in the country.

They needed a foolproof plan and quickly learned that because Ukraine had no air medivacs, they had to customize ambulances to save lives over long distances. They started with a hodgepodge approach and used duct tape and whatever else was at hand to provide emergency medical help. Through their own outreach, they were able to connect with hospitals and the Ministry of Health in Ukraine for to coordinate emergency care for evacuation cases, which included NICU babies who needed urgent medical treatment or wouldn’t survive staying in places like Kyiv, to have a direct and a literal runway to other sites in the EU and outside of the city. They became very well known and gained a reputation for being innovative. To support their cause, they provided $100,000 customized ambulances to help them save these lives, which is tangible in the numbers as we’ve helped around 338 lives, specifically children, to be saved through this approach, each one of which has their own story.

To date, this duo has helped many burn victims through standard operating procedures in these ambulances to help prevent bacterial infections, a rapid and spreading epidemic over there.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

So the way that the government, community, and society can help KBF achieve its goals and achieve its mission, which is to combat today’s epidemic, and the mental health crisis that is sweeping the nation and affecting every facet of our society, is through the following approach:

It all starts with community, where we’ve seen people thrive if they have a great support system or look to improve it if they see a shared line of trauma. The best way to help is by joining our Breakthrough sessions. KBF has a way to get certified so that you can receive the program, learn how to go through the nine-step process, and then help your loved ones, your ecosystem, your community, your friends, and even your co-workers, which creates a domino effect of sorts to start healing the healing process at one point and spread it to improve the lives of those around you.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

I was instilled in me while I was in the military that leadership is the ability to inspire someone to do something they otherwise would not do, and most of that resonated and translated to trust. People have to have faith in you, the cause, the mission, and themselves and what you’ve empowered them to do to build that because if they don’t, they will not follow you. That is where the initial definition of leadership comes in.

Where I’m at now in my life is similar but more of, I would say, inspiring, a collective, diverse group of people to coalesce around a mission, a vision, and a purpose. That goes into my philosophy of leadership, which is to be a servant leader that leads from the front. What that means to me specifically, is never to ask your team to do something that you would not otherwise do. It means you should not rain from a high castle behind the desk the entire time. I think we should forever be learners and that one should never think that they know everything, the second they do, they’re doomed as a leader.

You also have to be willing to be vulnerable. Because there’s power in vulnerability. I understand it’s hard to open yourself up to those that place their trust in you, but as a team leader, it will be worth it in the long run. It’ll be reciprocated because it shows that you care and are willing to trust them in return. In a nutshell, the way that translates to KBF is our philosophy of joining our partners in the hard work that we’re asking them to do by being there and being an amplifying force in person, not just being a fiscal sponsor to them, but an actual frontline volunteer with them. So we continue to do that and will continue to lead from the front alongside our partners.

Based on your experience, what are the “5 things a person should know before they decide to start a non-profit”.

Here are the five lessons that I would give to anyone who wants to start a nonprofit based on my experience. The first is that it all centers around your vision. Once you have completed your vision, you’ve completed the goal of what you set out to do, and the world has changed and it’s a better place. So if you don’t have a clear vision, you will never achieve it, and here are a few pitfalls to avoid.

The second is identifying what the problem is that you’re trying to solve. You have to identify that problem, specifically, and this is one of the pitfalls people say, for example “we are going to solve world hunger.” That is a very admirable goal, but will a nonprofit solve world hunger? Investors and donors alike will most likely say that’s impossible. Investors and donors who are smart with their money are not going to invest in that because there is no path to solving that problem. But if we said we are going to solve the mental health crisis for today’s high schoolers within Utah and help them combat depression, anxiety, and suicide by equipping them with the tool of breakthrough, both in school and their personal life and home, that’s a more attainable goal.

Number three is identifying your target market, who are you trying to help? For us, we want to help those struggling to process their trauma, which gives us a very clear idea of who our target market is and who we’re trying to help. From this, we know we can make a direct impact and a huge difference quantifiably in the reduction of suicide rates, etc.

The fourth step is that if the whole world is your target market, you’re going to miss out on that as well. So for us, although breakthroughs could be for everyone, we need to first solve the problem in our target market. And that’s in our backyard, Utah. So we start in Utah, we start in Provo and we go to Orem and then to Salt Lake City, and start moving along the west coast. We have a three to five-year plan where we will have breakthrough chapters in Arizona, Nevada, California, and Colorado and it goes on until we spread domestically throughout the entire continental US. From there, we go global. So, all in all, take the right steps to build up your impact as opposed to heading into open waters headfirst.

The fifth is when you plan on solving it. This is where if you don’t have a purpose, a good calling, and a good reason that you’ll sacrifice your time and talent to make this goal happen, people won’t believe in the cause. Now with the foundation, we can give it to those who need it most it’s personally changed and saved my life, and I want to do that for fellow veterans, for the youth, and for my daughter. I want to leave a legacy of giving back more than I receive.

We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world who you would like to talk to, to share the idea behind your non profit? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Well, I would love my daughter to read this in the future when she’s older. And my message for her would be to decide what kind of life that she wants to live, and what kind of person she wants to be. Whether it’s someone who takes from this world or someone who adds value to this and leaves it a better place, which is what her father and the foundation is trying to do. And I believe that we will all achieve it. I also want to tell her that I hope what we’ve done inspires her to give more than she receives and that if she feels like she can make a difference, she should act on it, even if it’s scary or even if it’s outside her comfort zone. The work that the foundation is doing, isn’t just about a noble pursuit but to add value to the world in the best way.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson” Quote? How is that relevant to you in your life?

My favorite quote is from Tim Grover, who says “If you think the price of winning is high, just wait until you get the bill for regret.” And this struck me like a sledgehammer for my past life choices and future decisions, especially when I was going to take the risk and go help those in Ukraine which included going into an active war zone to try to make a difference in a humanitarian aspect. My wife was pregnant at the time and I knew that it was a very difficult call and decision to make, but I knew that I couldn’t live with the regret if I passed up the opportunity to make a direct impact and help those who needed it the most.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can learn more about our ongoing efforts on Instagram and on our website (

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success in your mission.

Luis Vega of Krohn Breakthrough Foundation: 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Lead A… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.