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Building an Inclusive Workforce with Second-Chance Hiring

Building an Inclusive Workforce with Second-Chance Hiring

Working Fields Offers a Path to Employment and Confidence to Formerly Incarcerated People and Those in Recovery 

 

Mickey Wiles is the CEO and Founder of Working Fields, a mission-driven staffing agency that helps individuals overcome barriers to employment — such as substance use disorder, criminal justice system involvement, resource challenges, or work history gaps — and build stable futures. A U.S. Navy veteran, Mickey has worked in leadership roles at Ben & Jerry’s, Seventh Generation, and Burlington Labs, and served as Executive Director of Turning Point Center of Chittenden County, Vermont. Mickey is a person in long-term recovery and was provided a second chance after spending time in federal prison. 

For the last 18 years, Mickey has dedicated himself to helping others who need a second chance after addiction and/or criminal convictions. By collaborating with businesses across Vermont and New Hampshire, Working Fields has fostered a community of recovery-friendly workplaces that treat people in recovery or those with past convictions as they would treat anyone else.

In this conversation, The Kassan Group founder Jenny Kassan chats with Mickey about how Working Fields is contributing to the development of an inclusive, regenerative economy.

 

Jenny Kassan: How do you stay true to your business’ foundational principles while also being flexible enough to meet the shifting challenges of the day?

 

Mickey Wiles: Our foundational principles are reflected in our company values: love, humility, honesty, equity in action, stability, and gratitude. Our team keeps these values front and center by focusing every two months on the continued development of a different value. Our leadership team, which meets weekly and addresses the issues and challenges of a changing environment, always considers the company’s values in making company decisions. We embrace change, flexibility, and agility as long as we also always challenge ourselves to make decisions consistent with our values.

 

JK: Your company helps foster healthy and resilient communities. As we face large-scale challenges on a global scale, to what extent do you consider social entrepreneurship “borderless” and to what extent do solutions need to be localized? 

 

MW: Social entrepreneurship means placing people, planet, and prosperity for all at the core of business. These principles apply across the board regardless of where we operate. If we collectively operate with other like-minded businesses, then our reach is borderless. However, with this as the premise, our challenges are to be inclusive and take into consideration all individuals, recognizing that different societal groups have different needs and practices. As we expand and serve communities and varied groups of people, we need to always be aware of these differences.

 

JK: How do you see the practices and core values of your business as distinct from the “business as usual” status quo? What do you do to resist the pressure to “fit in” to the old economy paradigms?

 

MW: Avoiding “business as usual” is not a difficult task for us as our mission and vision are so different from other organizations in our space. When we remain true to our mission, we automatically are not operating as “business as usual.” We have faced situations that raise questions in light of our company values. In that case, we invite everyone in the organization to discuss the opportunity and the pros and cons. We gain input from everyone to ensure we hear all arguments. Then we make a decision based on that input and the leadership team’s assessment.

 

JK: Who inspires you in the social impact world and what is the one question you’d like to ask them?

 

MW: I’ve been fortunate to work with and learn from three fantastic leaders in the social impact world. I first worked for Ben & Jerry’s when social impact businesses were not as common as they are today. Both Ben [Cohen] and Jerry [Greenfield] led us to not accept the status quo and to challenge every decision we made to ensure it took into account our “triple bottom line” (that’s how we referred to social impact business). My next mentor was Jeffrey Hollender at Seventh Generation. His leadership demonstrated that there was an additional level of impact businesses can have on the world. I would ask all of them the same question: If you had to do it over again, what would you change and how would you counsel your younger self?

 

ABOUT MICKEY WILES

Mickey Wiles is the CEO and Founder of Working Fields, a mission-driven staffing agency that helps individuals overcome barriers to employment — such as substance use disorder, justice involvement, resource challenges, or work history gaps — and build stable futures. 

Mickey has had a long career in the private sector business community where he held various leaderships roles starting with a Boston high tech firm, Microcom, Inc. In Vermont he continued in leadership roles with Ben & Jerry’s, Seventh Generation and Burlington Labs. Mickey also held the position of Executive Director at the Turning Point Center of Chittenden County. Prior to starting his business career, Mickey served six years in the United States Navy.

Mickey is a person in long term recovery and was provided a second chance after spending time in Federal Prison. For the last 18 years, Mickey has dedicated his work to helping others who want a second chance after addiction and/or criminal convictions. Mickey is on the Board and Executive Committee of VBSR, the nation’s first business association of businesses for social responsibility. Mickey is also President of Vermont Roots & Wings Alliance, an organization dedicated to supporting the drug court system and participants in Vermont. 

 

ABOUT WORKING FIELDS

Working Fields is a mission-driven staffing agency that helps individuals overcome barriers to employment — such as substance use disorder, justice involvement, resource challenges, or work history gaps — and build stable futures. 

We don’t just place people in jobs: Our model includes robust, personalized support for workers. Every Working Fields associate benefits from direct account management, ongoing peer recovery or life coaching, and coordinated support from community partners. These services enable our associates to get and keep the jobs they want, while helping employers realize the potential of these dedicated workers. 

We work closely with community partners, particularly social service agencies, across Vermont and in Manchester, New Hampshire, to identify individuals in need of supportive employment services. These referrals have enabled us to help over 1,300 jobseekers since 2017.  

 

 

The Evolution of Investment Crowdfunding, and Where We Go from Here

The Evolution of Investment Crowdfunding, and Where We Go from Here

In 2009, I got together with Janelle Orsi to cofound a new nonprofit called Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC).  The mission of SELC was to bring legal knowledge and support to those who are working to make our economy regenerative, healthy, just, and sustainable.

One of the very first things we tackled was securities law.  Having worked with many small businesses that lacked access to capital, we knew that a change to the law that would make it easier for small businesses to raise funding from their communities, customers, and fans could have a major positive impact for our small disadvantaged businesses.

We wrote a petition to the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2010 which got the attention of small business advocates, members of Congress, and eventually, the White House.  Amazingly enough, a new law was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama in 2012 that legalized investment crowdfunding at the national level.

It took four years for the Securities and Exchange Commission to adopt rules so that this new law could actually be used. 

We were hopeful that this was the silver bullet we had been waiting for to finally move significant funding into the hands of Main Street businesses and social ventures, especially those owned and run by entrepreneurs who have been almost completely locked out of mainstream finance (e.g. women, people of color, etc.).

The results so far have been mixed.  There is still a lot more that needs to be done for federal investment crowdfunding to fulfill its promise as an equalizer of opportunity.

Check out my talk on this topic at SuperCrowd22.

Legal Compliance Options for Raising Capital

Legal Compliance Options for Raising Capital

To choose the right legal compliance strategy for your raise, you need to ask yourself four questions:

  1. Do I want to be able to publicly advertise the fact that I’m looking for investors?
  2. Do I want to include everyone as potential investors or limit myself to accredited investors?
  3. Do I want to be able to raise from all over the country or just one or a few states?
  4. How much do I want to raise?

With answers to these questions, it will be easier to narrow down the options that may be right for you.

Do you need a cheat sheet on the options you can choose from when raising investment capital to make sure your offering is compliant?  Check ours out here.

What is an accredited investor?

Here is a summary of the rules for what makes an individual an accredited investor:

An individual is accredited if he/she/they meets one or more of the following requirements:

Net Worth

Individual net worth, or joint net worth with your spouse or spousal equivalent, exceeds $1,000,000;

For purposes of calculating net worth:

(A) The person’s primary residence shall not be included as an asset;

(B) Indebtedness that is secured by the person’s primary residence, up to the estimated fair market value of the primary residence at the time of the sale of securities, shall not be included as a liability (except that if the amount of such indebtedness outstanding at the time of sale of securities exceeds the amount outstanding 60 days before such time, other than as a result of the acquisition of the primary residence, the amount of such excess shall be included as a liability); and

(C) Indebtedness that is secured by the person’s primary residence in excess of the estimated fair market value of the primary residence at the time of the sale of securities shall be included as a liability;

(D) Joint net worth can be the aggregate net worth of the investor and spouse or spousal equivalent; assets need not be held jointly to be included in the calculation. Reliance on the joint net worth standard of this paragraph (a)(5) does not require that the securities be purchased jointly.

Income

Individual income in excess of $200,000 in each of the two most recent years or joint income with that person’s spouse or spousal equivalent in excess of $300,000 in each of those years and has a reasonable expectation of reaching the same income level in the current year

Licenses

Holders in good standing of the Series 7, Series 65, and Series 82 licenses

 

 

Exploring Non-VC Funding Models

Exploring Non-VC Funding Models

Jenny Kassan was recently interviewed in B Corp’s “B the Change” series, a collection of stories of people using business as a force for good.

In this Q&A, Jenny shares her perspective and advice on why and how social entrepreneurs can escape the “bootstrap trap” and fund their business’ growth without sacrificing their values and vision.

“Bootstrapping can kill your business. One of the most common reasons for business failure is undercapitalization. At The Kassan Group, we have coined the term “bootstrap trap.” This is the trap that an entrepreneur can get into when trying to use their own resources to fund their business. They find themselves in a constant struggle. . . If you’re in the bootstrap trap, this is likely not sustainable and will lead to burnout, financial ruin, and/or the inability to serve your clients or customers effectively.”

How do you escape the bootstrap trap and design a strategy to find and engage with values-aligned investors? Find out by reading the full interview here.