The Fortune Society is proud to partner with local companies to provide our Employment Services participants with hands-on training that can lead to full-time careers. Nuthatch, one of our small business partners, has created their Fresh Start Program with Fortune’s help. They offer a three- to six-month paid, part-time internship to Fortune participants where interns work alongside trained professionals in an industrial kitchen that focuses on zero-waste food production.
Carolyn, the Founder and Chief Nuthatch Officer, was interested in hiring people with justice involvement to work in her kitchen and formed a relationship with Fortune’s Employment Services team. Upon meeting her first Fortune intern, she was immediately impressed by their dedication to the work and company’s mission.
“We’ve had a great experience,” Carolyn shares. “I’ve found that justice-involved people are very hungry to learn and to have opportunities to succeed. It’s opened my eyes to the possibilities.”
Since beginning the Fresh Start Program, Nuthatch has welcomed three interns from Fortune, all of whom were ultimately hired and stayed with the small business for at least a year. Carolyn believes that Fortune’s level of service and support for their participants and business partners is a big reason that interns go on to succeed in full-time roles.
“Hiring people and training people is a huge cost to a small business especially. People are hard to replace and you really feel it when they leave. The support and the interest that Fortune takes, not only in the intern but in the business they work with, makes it very easy for us to put that energy and investment in because we feel supported the same way that the interns feel supported in achieving our shared outcomes,” noted Carolyn.
Carolyn is committed to building an environment where all of her employees have a stake in the business’s success. She values the opportunity to offer justice-impacted people a chance to grow and develop their skills and reinforce them by training incoming team members.
Mike is one of the Fortune interns who joined Nuthatch and stayed on to work with the company for more than a year. He had been working in food service while he was incarcerated and was interested in honing his culinary skills. He ultimately aspires to create his own food-focused small business.
Working with Nuthatch allowed him the opportunity to learn more about working in an industrial kitchen while still cultivating his creativity: “They really trusted us to try and figure things out on our own. There was a lot of work that had to be done, but there was still room for creativity. We had space to freestyle things that made sense to us and learn from it.”
Mike also echoed Carolyn’s sentiments about the cyclical training approach and found it worthwhile to work with the new hires as they began to navigate the Nuthatch kitchen.
“Someone had taught me when I came in and I was happy to pass on the knowledge,” he shares. “I was there to help and strove to motivate the new employees. It felt great to know that I was part of something that was helping other people.”
Carolyn wants to encourage other small business owners to follow Nuthatch’s path and set up a program or relationship with organizations like Fortune to hire justice-impacted individuals.
“It’s wonderful to be passionate about hiring and to want to invest in people, but you can be much more successful in doing that when you stand with an organization that is aligned with your goal. Then, it changes from ‘hiring formerly incarcerated people’ to ‘partnering with an organization that is invested in the success of people reentering the workforce.’”
Carolyn’s advice for employers who are interested in joining this hiring movement is to treat all of their employees, regardless of justice background, equally and give each of them a chance to be judged by the quality of their work.
While she understands that there can be concerns around hiring people with justice-involvement based on stigmas and stereotypes, Carolyn wants to underscore that her employees with justice backgrounds are often the most passionate and invested.
“Justice-involved people really take a lot of pride in what they do,” she emphasizes. “I think being given the opportunity to learn and be in a place where they are a key player is special. I most certainly want to keep hiring people with justice-involvement with Fortune’s support.”