I’ve been volunteering by helping inmates learn entrepreneurial skills for the past 4 years, and I noticed something a lot of people may not realize. These men have the perfect personality traits and attitude to join a startup. There is such a stigma when employers see the little box checked that asks: “Have you been convicted of a felony”? Personally, I could have several felonies had I been caught. Most of our participants are convicted of non-violent drug charges and sentenced to years, decades and even life in prison. How many times have you been in possession of a controlled substance at a party or drank one too many beers and got behind the wheel? A lot of us has made mistakes, but dodged the bullet several times and lucky to not have the label of “felon” set in stone on our records.
I’m an entrepreneur and know the struggles of starting a company. In my experience, finding the right people to join your small and intimate team is one of the hardest tasks, especially when millennials are known to “job hop” often.
I recently hired a software engineer from inside the prison walls. It’s been such a blessing, and I would double his pay today if I could afford it. Here are the 4 reasons hiring a convicted felon can be the best investment for your startup.
- Desire – After leaving the prison walls, there is a strong desire to succeed. A lot of inmates have tremendously let their family down and don’t want to hurt them any more. On the flip side, there’s usually a strong desire to “prove people wrong”. It takes a while for convicted felons to build trust back up with their family, and succeeding within a company is a great start.
- Loyalty – I’ve never seen true brotherhood and loyalty as strong as what I see displayed in the prison walls. I feel like I’ve gained 300 brothers that will have my back no matter what the situation would be. It takes a lot of loyalty and a “what ever it takes” attitude from your co-founders and employees to succeed with a startup.
- Humble – I’ve gone through a lot of employees with a “that’s not my job” mentality. Convicted felons are the most humble people I’ve ever worked with. Think about it. It’s mandatory for them to have full-time, labor-intensive jobs that begin as early as 3am… without pay. Can you imagine how thankful your employee will be to not only get paid for their work, but to also have a grateful attitude by enjoying life after prison? Our Software Engineer, who spent 7 years in prison will take out the trash, run errands, mop floors, or any other tedious task in between programming software for our startup.
- Commitment – You won’t have to worry about them quitting. They know they have a good opportunity to work with a company that has already forgiven their past mistakes. It’s already tough to be in the market for a job, but nothing is harder than applying to jobs as a convicted felon. It’s stressful for a small company to have key people quit. The hiring and training process takes a lot of time and money, and startups don’t have a lot of either.
These are also the 4 reasons I decided to create Cornbread Hustle, A staffing agency for 2nd chances. At cornbread hustle, we open doors and create opportunity for felons and employers for the improvement of society. Help us reduce the recidivism rate and get involved!