Americans who have been incarcerated face major challenges when they reenter society. One of this biggest obstacles for them is finding employment. A study by the Brookings Institute found that 45% of individuals were still unemployed a year after they were released from prison. This percentage is three times higher than the overall unemployment rate in the US during the worst points of the pandemic.
Richard Bronson founded 70 Million Jobs in order to help the formerly incarcerated find employment. Within 70 Million Jobs, he also formed Commissary Club, a social network that focuses solely on formerly incarcerated individuals. Commissary Club gives them a community and social interaction where there is no stigma based on their record. We reached out to Richard to learn more about the importance of this mission and what investors should know about Commissary Club.
Note: This interview was conducted over phone and email. It has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
Can you give us a brief elevator pitch for your company?
70 Million Resources, Inc., comprises two divisions: 70 Million Jobs — the first national, for-profit employment platform for people with criminal records — and Commissary Club — the first social network for people with records.
What inspired you to take the leap and build this company?
I myself was incarcerated. When I was released from prison, like most people, I was destitute and homeless. Finding a job was incredibly difficult. At a certain point I realized my calling in life: help my brothers and sisters who were returning to society so they’d have more opportunities to lead safe, productive lives.
What past experiences prepared you to start, build, and lead your company?
Prior to going to prison, I was a very successful businessman and built a $100 million financial services firm. Upon my release, I co-founded another tech company (DoYouRemember) that was very successful. Then I began working at a prominent non-profit in the reentry space, eventually rising to a position of leadership. When I announced my intentions to launch 70 Million Resources, I was recruited by Y Combinator to join their program. This provided me with an excellent education.
What is your vision for the future of the industry you are operating in?
Attitudes are changing fast relative to criminal justice. More and more people — and companies — have come to understand that the 70 million Americans with criminal records are not monsters, but rather normal people who’ve made mistakes. This change in attitude will result in more opportunity for the population we serve. As the only for-profit player in the reentry industry, we expect to benefit greatly.
Who is on your team and how did you come together?
My team has largely been together for the past four years. Seth Sundberg, our head of operations, is my right-hand man. He is a former NBA professional basketball player who himself was incarcerated. Victor Lombard (a/k/a “Divine”) is a well-known rap musician and entrepreneur, and he oversees marketing. Adrienne Hatter is our first employee, and she oversees all programming, as well as managing the 350 partnerships we maintain with nearly all of the non-profit and community organizations involved with reentry. Chris Wood is our head of development — he also was a past Y Combinator founder. Andrew Garson heads our business development. Previously, he worked in that capacity at William Morris/Endeavor.
Do you have any competition, if so, how do you differentiate?
There are many other job boards (Indeed, Zip Recruiter) and many other staffing companies. We, however, are the only business that focuses exclusively on the formerly incarcerated.
And there are many other social network companies (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Clubhouse), but, again, we are the only focused exclusively on the formerly incarcerated.
What does your business model look like?
As it relates to 70 Million Jobs (employment), we operate a job board and a staffing business. Regarding the job board, we make money like other job boards: companies pay us to post their job listings. Regarding our staffing business (70 Million Staffing), like all other staffing firms, we serve as hirer-of-record and mark up base wages to include our profit, and pass that on to our employer clients.
Regarding our social network, Commissary Club, we make money:
- Through subscriptions
- Through advertising
- Through referral fees
What brought you to equity crowdfunding and how do you intend to use the money you raise this round to scale the business?
This is our third equity crowdfunding campaign. Our prior two were very successful. Our business has a very strong mission component which resonates deeply with crowdfunding investors.
We will use the proceeds of the crowdfunding raise to continue the build-out of Commissary Club (key hire, marketing, development costs).
What do you want potential investors to know about you and/or your company?
More than $300 billion is spent annually in the US on reentry, yet traditional approaches have failed miserably. We have “cracked the code” and know how to get people jobs. We are the only for-profit player in the space, and we have learned lessons that would take any new would-be competitor years to learn. We have had great success already, having helped thousands of deserving men and women land jobs while also driving $5M in ARR. We are ideally positioned to do both massive social good while building a big, successful company.
As you think about the business 5-10 years down the road, what do you see exit opportunities looking like? have you set any future goals for the company?
We have already begun seeing exit opportunities, in the form of large companies interested in acquiring us so they can gain a foothold in the reentry space. I believe we will be acquired within two years.
We at KingsCrowd are excited to see where Richard and his team take the company. Commissary Club is currently raising on Republic.