Entrepreneur Reveals Impact of Philanthropy and Creating Lasting Change

    Justin Bayless has earned widespread recognition for his contributions to the healthcare industry—from leading a family-owned clinic network to launching a new program intended to create a pipeline for young entrepreneurs. The Phoenix-based former Wall Street financier was named one of Modern Healthcare’s Top 25 Emerging Leaders in 2021.

    “The higher you go in health care, the less diversity you really see,” he says, pointing to longtime health disparities in Black communities where the likes of heart disease and maternal mortality rates are higher than elsewhere. “What we’re really trying to do is start a movement to finally solve some of those things that have plagued our communities for so long.”

    Giving is more than just money: Justin Bayless believes mentoring provides “a tremendous opportunity” to invest in the community.

    Somewhat less well-known, but equally impactful, is Bayless’ commitment to philanthropy, a drive he credits to his parents’ example. His mother “instilled a culture of giving back early on. She had a belief that if you make it to somewhere in your life, it is your responsibility to throw the ladder back down and help other people, so at a very young age, I was taught around giving… when you see people who are in need, always give. If you gave, [she said], things would come back around to you as well, and it would create good energy in your life. She had a very spiritual connection to that.”

    Later, he learned too about his father’s kindness; he started a small business and had a bartering system for people in the community. At his father’s funeral, a lot of people came up to Bayless to tell “how much he changed their lives, through ways that they didn’t have to pay for anything.”

    That giving orientation was further cemented by his time at Morehouse College, which was transformative (and where he earned a degree in business administration, accounting and economics). He visited the renowned HBCU from Arizona while in high school, and “it was the first time I had seen in large numbers a significant amount of young Black men all on a mission, wearing suits and ties, enjoying their scholastic activities while also extracurriculars and just having a sense of purpose greater than themselves,” he remembers. “I knew immediately it was a place I wanted to go, and it ended up being one of the best choices I’ve ever made.”

    Now a member of the board of trustees at the school, Bayless doesn’t think “you can be a Morehouse man and not understand the sacrifices that previous generations have given for us to get to this point of where we are today in society,” he says. “And if you truly understand the nature of our people, how we’ve come through slavery to segregation to today… I don’t understand how we as a community can’t understand that our own best efforts to continue to grow are going to come from helping one another.”

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    True History

    Unsurprisingly, given his trustee seat at Morehouse, Bayless is a keen champion of HBCUs. “If you look at where do the majority of Black professionals come from in the United States—whether that’s lawyers, doctors, accountants, financial professionals—most of the time they’re coming from HBCUs,” he points out.

    Not only are these schools a professional pipeline, but they are also an important foundation, he adds. “The history of our country is under attack in some places… HBCUs are allowing true history to be told.” And they provide role models that may not be present elsewhere: growing up in Phoenix, he didn’t have a single Black male teacher in high school.

    Bayless believes there is “a different level of experience” at an HBCU, “in the classroom setting, from our peers and our educators who themselves are also doing research to better our community and our culture going forward. So, it’s just a very special thing that we really have taken granted for in this country and we really need to continue to invest in.”

    Though HBCUs play an essential role, they don’t get the financial support they deserve, Bayless believes—he notes that giving to them is between 10-20% lower than at predominantly white institutions. “I really struggle sometimes,” he says. “This may be a call to action to a lot of folks who went to HBCUs: if it’s not us, then who? We can’t depend on others to continue to support our institutions. We as a cultural group have to support ourselves… and not believe that others are going to give to make up that deficit.” Noting that “we spend more than any other group in this country,” he believes that “if we can spend on all this other stuff, we need to be able to spend on our future.”

    Giving isn’t just about money, though—Bayless sees mentoring as “a tremendous opportunity” to invest in the community. “Within Black male institutions—100 Black Men of America, other groups—we are starting to really see the value of helping younger men… and more and more opportunities for that.”

    Personal experience is an important factor in identifying where to give. For Bayless, one of those places is the Boys & Girls Club of America, whose impact he experienced firsthand as a middle schooler after his parents split up. “My brother and I spent quite a bit of time [there] playing basketball after school, waiting to get picked up,” he recalls. “As I built my business, one of the first things I wanted to do was to work with the Boys & Girls Club because of that experience… I wanted to make sure that what I did was going to impact the same young kids.”

    Today, Bayless has an ongoing partnership with the organization, helping establish an entrepreneurship program for the Boys & Girls Club of the Valley in Arizona that helps young kids start to learn the value of money, how to build their own business and participate in a pitch contest where they can win a seed grant for their business. “That’s an example of how I had the experience with an organization and went back and gave right to them.”

    After graduation, Bayless worked with Morgan Stanley for a time in New York City. He returned to Phoenix in 2008 to join his father at Bayless Integrated Healthcare, which the senior Bayless had founded in 1982 and provided primary care and behavioral health services at eight centers in central Arizona. Bayless later took on the leadership of the business and, in 2020, sold a majority stake to Magellan Health Inc. He stayed on as CEO until Magellan was acquired by Centene Corporation two years later. Late last year, Bayless announced a relaunch of Bayless Integrated Healthcare. He tells some of what he has learned in his forthcoming book, The Journey to Ten Figures: A Guide for the Dark Horse Entrepreneur.

    Give Back

    As the father of three girls, Bayless is now endeavoring to instill the same values of generosity he learned from his parents. “I’m trying to teach them early on about helping others, why it’s important for us to help others, what the value is and making sure that [they are aware] society hasn’t given everyone the same opportunity.”

    His efforts are paying off, judging by a Christmas-time experience at the mall with his oldest daughter. He had taken her there with $20 to spend as an exercise in learning the value of money. After visiting several stores, she saw a display of Christmas angel donation opportunities for less fortunate kids. “She quickly became emotional about it and said, ‘Well, I don’t want another kid not to have anything,’” Bayless recalls, “so she gave her entire $20 to the Christmas angel.”

    Parents are responsible for helping their kids understand “early as possible, one, the value of money,” he says, “and then, two, how important it is to give back and help others who are less fortunate.”

    So where should someone looking to find somewhere to make an impact beyond their existing circles start? Volunteer, Bayless recommends. “There’s a ton of organizations that will allow you to volunteer to learn about [them],” he says. “If you’re concerned your dollar is not going to go to the place that you think it’s going to go, or you’re concerned about the administrative function, whatever it might be, volunteer, spend some time getting to know the people, getting to know the programs, getting to know the constituents, getting to know the stakeholders.”

    It’s important to find something that you’re passionate about, “something that you see having an impact in your lives, in your community—something that you can really wrap your hands around and see with your own two eyes.” People who tithe do so “because they’re in the institution. They understand what the needs are,” he says. “Ultimately it comes down to what you’re comfortable with and making sure that you can see the impact.”

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    Planning Process

    While giving is about the heart, it also needs to involve the head to be most impactful. “People need to understand there’s a planning process in giving,” says Bayless. “You should be really thoughtful about it: what’s the long-term vision of your charitable philosophy and giving plan? Really take the time to kind of roadmap that out.”

    Part of that could involve considering estate planning, “something we should talk about more as a community because we don’t do this.” Estate planning not only sets up your family for the future but also provides an opportunity to support charitable ventures (including leaving money to institutions like HBCUs). Without a plan for handling your assets after you’re gone, you may leave problems, not prosperity. “I’ve heard horror stories about families having issues in court,” says Bayless.

     “It’s not something you want to get into. So, please take the time to go out and build an estate plan, a will, a trust, understand those mechanisms—and you can have a giving plan that is quickly implemented within that.” What we don’t want, Bayless says, is “to have those assets go back into a system that ultimately doesn’t help the future generation break the same cycles that we’ve been in.”

    The bottom line: “We need to have a giving mentality but also a planning mentality.” Bayless applies that philosophy in his business, setting aside 20% “to really have an impact on this world and to give back. I’ve had the benefit of having a tremendous amount of support from mentors, from community organizations that helped me get to the place that I am. So, the first thing I did was set aside and carve it out.”

    A financial adviser can help organize your giving and even identify some possible tax benefits for doing so. “Find out what your budget and your comfort level is,” Bayless advises. “Then make sure it’s allocated accordingly and that you stay to that plan.” Emergencies may require you to make some changes, “but a lot of the time, you want to forget it even exists. Just let it go and don’t even think about it being there.” 


    Carla Harris [senior adviser at Morgan Stanley] was my first boss out of Morehouse and has been a mentor. She has taught me a lot. There were several professors at Morehouse: Dr. Emmanuel Onofade was the first Black male accounting professor who really was no games and helped me make the decision to become an accountant, because accounting is the language of business. Then, I’ve had a tremendous amount of local mentorship in the Arizona community, folks from all walks of life who I think saw some promise and really helped me, and I’m really thankful that they did.

    Right-sizing the healthcare world

    Through his not-for-profit initiative Journey Venture Studios, founder and president Justin Bayless hopes to release a new wave of young entrepreneurs to help revolutionize the healthcare industry.

    He has long been frustrated that much entrepreneurialism in the Black community is restricted to the sports, media and entertainment worlds. “When we think about other entrepreneurs—the Zuckerbergs, Elon Musk and so forth—we haven’t facilitated the same leaders and giants in other industries, which are large, large industries—tech, health care, industrial.”

    The reason—the current funding mechanism. Less than 2% of all investment funding goes to minority and women founders, “so how do we right-size that?” Bayless asks. “The first thing we have to do is get more entrepreneurs to [take] that risk early on.” Most young Black men and women don’t have the financial resources to do that, which is where Journey Venture Studios comes in.

    It offers a nine-month leadership development program in Phoenix that provides accommodation, transport, a salary and benefits to help them develop a healthcare project for pitching to prospective investors. The first two participants were due to present the results of their project developments this spring. One is an artificial intelligence platform designed to help premenopausal women with their brain function, while the other is a care navigation app for severely mentally ill Medicaid patients. “Our first two founders have done an amazing job, and we have four more starting in September,” says Bayless

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