By Brianne Dela Cruz; Ilume Co.
“My whole life I’ve just wanted to help people. I’ve wanted to do good.”
Growing up in a family of eight, set at the backdrop of a farming and ranching community in Northern Wyoming, Robert Workman developed more than just a strong work ethic. His rural upbringing taught him self-reliance, self-empowerment, and more importantly how to serve others. These values are still behind the way the Barebones founder lives and works day-in and day-out.
“Our family has always been involved in philanthropic work, even from the time I was a little kid. Those are just some of the morals my parents instilled in us as kids growing up - a work ethic, but also a give-back ethic.”
Coming from a working-class family, he remembers scheming at a young age how he could make money. His entrepreneurial spirit started at the age of seven when he made popcorn and sold it around his neighborhood for pocket change so he could afford candy. From that time on, he was always looking for creative opportunities to work.
In reflecting upon his younger years in life he recalls the moment he first discovered his life purpose.
“I remember that day very distinctly. I was eight years old when I got in touch with my higher power. I felt that power very strongly. My whole life I’ve just wanted to help people; I’ve wanted to do good. That’s still my purpose today.”
How he’s served others has changed throughout his life and career, but his core purpose has always remained the same. Robert lives by the motto of: Do good. Get good. The simple, yet resounding message he shares with the world is: “When you do good from your heart, magic happens, and the goodness comes right back.”
Robert (right) and his brother, David
In young adulthood, Robert remembers a time he was enlisted to build a corral around a pasture. That project taught him just how important it was to always do a good job, regardless if anyone was watching. He understood that if he built the fence well enough, that it would stand and serve its purpose from forty to sixty years. He took pride in his work and accomplished his task to near perfection. Robert is proud to say that fence lasted for almost 50 years. The strong work ethic Robert developed in his youth led him to start and grow a number of highly successful and positively impactful companies later in life.
As Robert grew, he excelled at entrepreneurship through a myriad of businesses, but his work has always been rooted in giving back. After selling his first business, which was an arts and crafts store named Provo Craft, he delved full-time into his true passion: philanthropic work. This inspired Robert to found Tifie, a company that helps marginalized individuals meet their own basic needs and achieve economic independence through enterprise. It is a company that continues to help thousands of people whether they be poverty-stricken families in Africa, or entire communities recovering from natural disasters around the world.
Bhimtar community assembles Barebones shelters
Barebones Shelters line a community in the Philippines
Early in his professional career, Robert learned that small enterprises with talent, when given economic opportunity to grow, have the ability to impact their own communities in exponentially positive ways. This has stuck with Robert throughout his lifetime and continues to fuel his desire to empower individuals and small businesses worldwide. Robert believes that if he can help others reach economic independence while working within their own social and cultural framework, they’ll be better able to meet their basic needs, manifest their infinite potential, and ultimately give back to their communities. This is the heartbeat of his philanthropic philosophy. Robert’s life and professional career is steeped in hands-on, in-person, humanitarian work for the benefit of individuals and communities globally.
Robert with Jaret of Tournant at the 2017 Forage to Fire Event
Pursuit event at Robert's property, Tifie Ranch
Before the conception of Barebones, Robert was working hard to help poverty-stricken communities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. During this time, he faced some of his greatest hardships in his humanitarian endeavors. In his darkest hour, when his initiatives were failing due to widespread corruption, he nearly walked away from his projects. But then a message came to him:
“If not you, who? If not now, when?”
This impactful communication resonated in Robert’s heart and inspired him to keep working. Ultimately, he reapproached his strategy and identified five universal needs where he would focus his give-back energy: education, food, shelter, water, and electricity.
From this new vantage point and through his work at Tifie, Robert founded the company Goal Zero, to bring solar-powered electricity to communities in the Congo. Today, Goal Zero continues to provide people from a variety of backgrounds, all over the world, with electricity through portable solar chargers. Through his lifetime achievements at Tifie, Goal Zero, and Barebones, Robert teaches us that anyone from humble beginnings, with a strong work ethic and a desire to do good, can have a profoundly positive impact on the world. What drives him is partially self-empowerment, but more importantly self-improvement. What inspires him is the opportunity to reinvent ourselves and constantly try to be better. He’s a self-proclaimed agent of positive change that is continually trying to help people improve their situation in life. And through his work and perspective, Robert inspires us all to consider how we can improve ourselves, our family, our community, and our world.
Robert with his wife
Robert’s personal values are his north star, providing the cardinal direction for where and how he leads his companies. Integrity, honesty, giveback, and open respectful communication are core values integral to both Robert and the Barebones family. At the Barebones headquarters, Robert sits amongst the team in an open workplace environment instead of isolating himself inside an office. He prefers collaborating in this way because it encourages fewer meetings and more fluid communication. He enjoys having open conversations with colleagues and welcomes the times his ideas are respectfully challenged. His down-to-earth and humble energy is what enables him to facilitate authentic collaboration throughout the Barebones team. He recognizes that he is imperfect, just like everyone in the world, and he doesn’t allow shortcomings or unrealistic expectations to hold him back from fulfilling his life purpose. Robert believes that imperfect people are still capable of doing perfect things, and this is revealed in how he engages communities in need, as well as his team at Barebones.
Robert at Tifie Ranch
In recent years, Robert has gone back to his agricultural roots through creating Barebones and the products that help people feed themselves through tending the land. He’s become more in tune with mother nature and finds joy in helping others do the same. He’s always been a curious and spritely individual; a true kid-at-heart, who finds wonder around every bend in life.
His advice to others that are inspired to make the world a better place?