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Staffing agency matches felons with job opportunities

Human Resources
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By Bill Poovey
bpoovey@scbiznews.com
Published Feb. 9, 2016

As president of a startup staffing business, Melissa Posey’s workplace is at home, in her car or wherever her telephone rings. She specializes in matching job seekers who have criminal records to jobs. Her M3 Development Group LLC counts 11 Upstate businesses as clients that have used and are using her felon referrals, in some cases hiring them permanently. Posey said her growing, 2-year-old firm that provides permanent, contract and temporary will eventually have a storefront in Greenville.

A 47-year-old single mom, Posey said she was desperate to find a job after working at a staffing firm where she witnessed applicants who had skills being frequently turned away because of criminal pasts.

“Guys would come in with their head up to get a job working on a garbage truck,” Posey said. “Then I see the guys go back out with their heads between their legs because of their record. That just hurt my heart. It’s been two years. So I stepped out on faith, just said, I need to do something. I’ve got to help. You can’t treat people inhumanely. Everybody deserves a second chance.”

M3Development Group President Melissa Posey  (left) watches as Abin Lee Lowman, a former federal prison inmate who she placed at Snoozer Pet Products, sews at the plant in Piedmont. (Photo by Bill Poovey)

M3Development Group President Melissa Posey  (left) watches as Abin Lee Lowman, a former federal prison inmate who she placed at Snoozer Pet Products, sews at the plant in Piedmont. (Photo by Bill Poovey)

So I stepped out on faith, just said, I need to do something. I’ve got to help. You can’t treat people inhumanely. Everybody deserves a second chance.

– Melissa Posey, president
M3 Development Group LLC

Posey’s business model and startup strategy didn’t involve a search for investors. Posey said she went to a professional acquaintance in Piedmont, Snoozer Pet Products co-owner Brian O’Donnell. She said she knew O’Donnell trusted her hiring judgment.

“I came to Brian on one Friday,” she said. “I said, ‘Brian, if I start my own business, would you give me an opportunity?’ He said absolutely. It was just like that. Wow!”

O’Donnell called and said the business needed sewing machine operators.

“They are hard to find. It’s a dinosaur,” Posey said. She went to the halfway house and asked the staff if any residents had sewing skills. After interviews, she placed several of them at Snoozer.

O’Donnell said he has since been hiring Posey’s referrals and that eight out of the 52 employees at his family-owned business are referrals.

“We’ve done very well with them,” O’Donnell said. He said the business “needs sewing people. We are having a hard time finding skilled workers and what we need. Melissa found a halfway house “where they have all been trained for sewing. And so we have had some really good success … They were taught some pretty good skills. They fit pretty well with us. They are conscientious. They are here every day.”

Posey said she has made placements in manufacturing, construction, food services, accounting, health care, truck driving, environmental, information technology, office and administration. Her clients include Contour South Inc., Adams Recycling, and Southeastern Underwater Services.

“What you find with those people with challenging backgrounds is they will show up for work because somebody gave them a chance,” Posey said. “It’s less turnover for me and less headache for the client because you are not having to rehire somebody every 15 to 20 days because somebody doesn’t show up for work and doesn’t care about their job. These guys care about their jobs.”

One of Posey’s former inmate clients, Abin Lee Lowman, said he had been assigned to a halfway house in Greenville upon his release from the federal prison at Buttner, N.C., and was working in a minimum wage job before he met Posey.

“I didn’t know her at all,” Lowman said. “She had hired another individual from the halfway house and when I saw her I just told her what I can do and she told me that she could help me and she helped me.

“I have approximately four years of sewing experience. I was sewing before I came to the halfway house. I worked at pretty much a dead-end job, minimum wage and more hours before I met Melissa. This is a great situation compared to the situation I was in.”

Lowman said Posey “went out of her way to help me get out here, and I got out here, and it’s been blessings ever since.”

Posey, who is also a volunteer in Circles, a community program that assists poor families, said she didn’t have available income to take time starting a business.

“I had no choice. I couldn’t find a job. I had to create myself a job,” Posey said. “Of 14 clients that I do have, 11 of them accepted my felons.”

She said inmates assigned to a halfway house “have to get a job. There is no sitting around or laying around. They are honored to make $10 an hour. Most of them are from this area.”

Posey said small-business owners are generally “open minded. I am not going to sit here and tell you I am going to find you a perfect candidate. I would be telling you a lie. I’ve been doing this probably 11 or 12 years, and I guarantee you 99.9% of the people I have run across have got something on their background.”

Reach Bill Poovey at 864-235-5677, ext. 104.

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