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Rising from Homelessness: An Extraordinary Entrepreneur’s Journey

Meet April Sabral, a former homeless teenager turned Senior Vice President of global retail brands like DAVIDs TEA, Apple, and Starbucks. From starting as a part-time sales associate to launching, an innovative online leadership development platform, April’s journey embodies resilience and success. With award-winning books, coaching programs, and a Bachelor’s degree pursuit in Metaphysics, April seamlessly integrates positive leadership with personal growth. Recognized as a top retail expert and entrepreneur, her transformative leadership inspires all who encounter her.


What pivotal experiences shaped your journey from homelessness to becoming a successful entrepreneur and former retail executive?

People – I had many leaders in my life who encouraged me and believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself. This experience shaped my leadership style. Seeing value in others when they cannot see it themselves, is something I hold an intention around. Too many times people get written off before they even have a chance to show what they are capable of. I remember my first boss; his name was Gary. He was patient, always sought to understand was a great listener, and always had my back. I had other leaders like this over the years too many to name, but I feel this experience shaped me into the executive I became. 

Can you elaborate on your career trajectory, starting as a part-time sales associate and eventually ascending to the role of Senior Vice President, overseeing 300 stores, for renowned brands like Paul Smith, Apple, and Starbucks?

I started my career in my first retail job because it was the easiest job to get, as a young person trying to find their way. I was fortunate that as my career progressed, I met iconic leaders like Howard Shultz Founder of Starbucks, and The Fishers, who started Gap Inc while working in their stores in the UK. I seemed to be in the right store at the right time. My focus was always to ensure the customers felt valued and were serviced at a high level, along with my teams. This mindset of service and creating positive places to shop and work propelled me forward, from a store manager to a Vice President, it didn’t happen overnight, it took a couple of decades, but persistence and consistency of results were a key component to my success. What I learned was building positive relationships, along with developing the skills to be better at my job kept me growing. I never set out to be an executive let alone now an entrepreneur. I started in the UK, moved to the USA in 2000, and then Canada in 2006 where I was continually recruited to bigger roles, what I learned here was that your reputation does proceed you, so make sure your ripple is something you can be proud and ask yourself, what is the one thing I want to be known for. After reading The Leader Who Had No Title by Robin Sharma early on in my career I knew that inspiring people positively is what I wanted to be known for. He asks you to reflect on what people will say about you once you are gone, this is a good exercise it makes you think deeply about your legacy.

What inspired you to launch, and how does your platform contribute to accessible professional growth for field leaders? 

Retailu was born from a blog, and lots of calls from former team members who would ask me for a form, or tool we had created, and now they were looking for support with their team. I became a reference point, so I started a website where they could access tools like an interview guide, or a development planning tool. I would stop texting people and direct them to the website, this then morphed into some online learning videos and then into a full suite of videos that managers could access and develop themselves and their teams. When I worked at Apple, Starbucks, and Gap, we had lots of leadership training but when I worked for smaller privately owned companies they didn’t. The top reason why people leave their jobs is because of their leaders and lack of training and development to progress in their careers, retailu provides leaders with the right tools to train and retain their team so that they stop losing good people. People want development and to know their employee has a plan for their growth reatilu provides that road map.

You are an advocate of positive leadership. How do you believe positive leadership impacts both businesses and individuals’ lives?

Yes, it is huge. Positive Leadership encompasses two major pillars. When you can ignite positive emotions in your team and give them the training and skills required to be better at their job through coaching and development it drives positive performance. Positivity improves Productivity. We call this the positive engagement formula. Through this method we teach leaders that positive leadership is not fluffy it is intentional and how they ACT with their team (Accept, Create, Teach). These three pillars form the basis of positive leadership. It was how I led and developed thousands of leaders over three decades and created successful retail teams. It requires a leader to develop these skills that we now teach in workshops taken from my book The Positive Effect.

Could you provide insights into your award-winning books, “The Positive Effect” and “Incurable Positivity,” and how they serve as a foundation for your coaching, programs, workshops, and podcasts?

The Positive Effect introduces the three pillars of our leadership methodology. It teaches leaders how to be supportive, by connecting and valuing their team, to be responsible, with their time and thinking, and using frameworks like the accountability wheel, the three R’s, Release, Reach and Reframe, and lastly to be selfless be a coach. It teaches leaders how to BE not only what to do. It is filled with personal stories of when I was running teams that explain how to build successful teams and cultures, the second book Incurable Positivity focuses on mindset. Because without a positive mindset, it will be hard to lead a team positively. The influence we have on others and our lives with our thinking is HUGE, I don’t think people realize the importance of this. Both books frame our workshops and coaching methods.

Incurable Positivity now has a workbook and journal to accompany it and help readers dive deeper for self-study. When we wrote Incurable Positivity it was to serve as a handbook you could carry around with you to pick up and practice, we call Incurable Positivity a lifestyle because learning positivity is a skill whether you are leading others or yourself. 

Your clientele includes prestigious brands like Jimmy Choo, L’oreal, and Victoria’s Secret. What strategies do you employ to help leaders shift their leadership and mindset within these esteemed organizations? 

We have taught the positive effect of transformational programs which encompass the three pillars I shared earlier; we teach leaders ways of being not only ways of doing. Because I believe that life is 80% of who you are and 20% of what you do. When we understand this, we work from a different perspective, and even our personal lives become more fulfilling. This transforms leaders into caring, intentional, and aware leaders who are fueled with a purpose and mission. It’s almost like permitting them to show up with a positive frame and skills to lead their teams successfully.

What motivated you to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Metaphysics from the University of Sedona, and how does this academic pursuit complement your approach to personal development and leadership?

I have been a long-time student of Ernest Holmes’s teachings and I wanted to go deeper into the study, it complements my teachings as metaphysics at its core is the study of what cannot be seen. Energy and Vibration along with Thinking create results. The universal laws are exact, and I wanted to become more disciplined and also open up opportunities in my future where I could better serve the community at large. The law of cause and effect teaches us to realize we are a co-creator and when I learned this was kind of a relief, I realized I had the power to create the life I wanted. It is not that simple as it requires daily practice, but it gives me a foundation to stay grounded in. I have always been fascinated by Louise Hay, Wayne Dyer, Abraham Hicks, and these teachers all teach from this perspective.

How do you incorporate the laws of cause and effect into your business leadership and personal growth programs?

In the create pillar, leaders learn how they create with their thinking and how their limiting beliefs can get in the way of reaching their goals and the companies’ goals. Mindfulness has come into the workplace in a big way and I believe that in the future leaders will truly understand how to manifest with more intentions which is good for business. In my own business, it helps me think about where I spend my time and how I utilize these principles to work smarter, not harder, and create success that’s built on a solid foundation.

You are celebrated as a sought-after speaker and thought leader in the retail industry. What insights do you offer regarding retail trends and the transformative power of positive leadership?

Everyone likes to say that retail is dead, not the case at all. Retail is always and will continue to evolve. When one brand shuts its doors another one opens them. The largest influencer in a successful business is the leader. If you cannot lead a team and retain a team you cannot grow your business. Retailers know this need, however unfortunately sometimes can not afford to implement the training however this is where supports them with affordable off the shelf training. In terms of trends, thrift is projected to reach 70B in sales by 2027, this is going to continue to grow. The stigma around thrift has disappeared. It is sustainable and fun to shop thrift. I see this growing even greater with franchisees like Uptown Cheapskate growing. Other examples of this are a Facebook marketplace and Poshmark in the US. 

Recognized as one of the top retail influencers by RETHINK retail and among NYWeekly’s top 23 entrepreneurs, what do these accolades signify about your impact and commitment to excellence in your field? 

They show recognition for sure, but what I care about is doing the work. There is so much work to do, to teach leaders about their ripple. Retail gets a bad rap, and full of the lower educated demographics, US retail employees rank lower in terms of holding a degree however they are the backbone of a community. When young people enter the workforce retail is their first job and they deserve someone who believes in them and has the skills to manage them. I always say retail is the school of people skills we teach people how to sell, how to serve, and how to work in a team. Managing others comes naturally to some but to most, it is a skill that has to be developed this is where we can continually ensure that this population has the right education some of them are managing millions of dollars. I have a vision where all employees feel valued by their boss and that’s the work we will continually do, it is more than just selling shoes. People build brands and we build people. 

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