We were sad to hear that 70 Million Jobs, the first national for-profit job search engine for people with criminal records, has gone out of business.
When it was launched in 2016, we thought the company was a game changer. And it became an integral part of the movement that is bringing second chance hiring to the mainstream.
Founder Richard Bronson had firsthand experience of the challenges of finding a job with a criminal record. He was convicted of securities fraud while running Biltmore Securities, a company he cofounded, and spent 22 months in a federal prison camp. Earlier in his career, he worked for Stratton Oakmont, the brokerage firm immortalized in the film, The Wolf of Wall Street, starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
Commissary Club social network became first social network for people with records
Branson’s original vision for 70 Million Jobs was to become an Indeed for ex-offenders, and he was in the process of carrying this out. In addition to the job search engine, Bronson also created the Commissary Club, the first social network for people with records. It provided a chance for people having difficulties in reentry and beyond to connect each other. It also sponsored Tha Yard, a weekly online event with special guests that included writers, musicians, business executives and activists who’d been imprisoned.
The company attracted nearly 1,500 investors and appeared to be on the road to success. But it couldn’t handle the challenges of the Covid epidemic.
Bronson explains why company failed
In a public letter to his “friends,” Bronson wrote:
“We succeeded in facilitating employment for thousands of deserving men and women and became operationally profitable. However, the pandemic had other plans for us. When it hit in force in March 2020, companies made wholesale terminations of nearly all of our people and continued their halt in hiring for two years. (Companies that were hiring, like Amazon or Target, now had their choice of tens of millions of Americans without records from which to choose.)
Our revenue dropped like a rock to almost nothing. I immediately responded by paring our expenses to the bone and began letting team members go. There was no opportunity to raise additional funding, so I began injecting my own money into the company — money I barely have – just to keep the lights on.
When the economy and job market began storming back, we were inundated with inbound requests for our services. Our perseverance seemed to be paying off. Except now we were hit with a new gut punch: “The Great Resignation.” Now our workers were reticent to come back to work. And if they did accept a job, they’d often leave after only a few days. It became obvious that we lacked the resources to weather this new storm.”
So two weeks ago, Bronson announced he was closing the company. He also said that he plans to continue to work in reentry.
Other job search platforms that cater to those in reentry
Although 70 Million Jobs may be gone, there are other places that job seekers who have criminal records can turn to.
One of these is Honest Jobs, a job search site that connects job seekers with felonies to second chance employers and was founded by Harley Blakeman, who also spent time in prison. Honest Jobs is different from any other job board in existence. It uses an algorithm that identifies the jobs that a jobseeker has the best chance of getting. It does this by reading job descriptions and identifying any conflict between the duties of the job and the job seeker’s record.
The other place to consider is Indeed, which is one of the world’s most active job sites. The company announced in February that it plans to help 30 million job seekers facing barriers get hired by 2030, with a special emphasis on those who were previously incarcerated. In order to achieve this, it is investing $10 million on these efforts. And we will bring you up to date on the details in our next blog article, scheduled for July 5.