We’re often asked, “So, how did this whole 2S Industries thing start?” The answer is: relationships. Almost a decade ago, I went to volunteer with an ex-offender program in West Dallas. I mentored a group of ex-offenders for six months in building their job skills. During that time we also committed to restorative justice by serving the West Dallas community and as a result, 2ndSaturday was born! It’s been incredible to watch what all 2ndSaturday has accomplished over the years, but this story is about the guys that first drew me to "the hood"…
As my guys were finishing up their program I was confident I could find honest work for them at a living wage. I was grossly mistaken. These men wanted to work, but there were still massive barriers for them well beyond being a convicted felon. These challenges ranged from having a 9th grade education to no transportation to facial gang tattoos to a lack of a confidence in themselves: a deeply held belief that the world does not want them, that they would only ever exist or be relevant in the margins. There was not a fear of work; there was a fear of predetermined, almost guaranteed failure. Because of that realization, 2S Industries was born. We essentially joined a new gang (a social enterprise) built on trust and a belief that we could create our own business model designed to hire felons from the toughest neighborhoods for an honest shot at seeing them not reoffend and reenter prison.
Previously, when I imagined the margins, I pictured orphans, the homeless, or refugees in East Africa. Perhaps you do too. What I’ve come to understand is that our guys are some of the most marginalized in Dallas. One in three black males in America can expect to go to prison. As a result, many people in society are almost conditioned to see one of our guys and instantly think “criminal”. They are on the margins of employment for a variety of reasons. Similar to the leper, many people are afraid of them because of how they look and therefore do not interact with them from a fear of being a victim of a violent crime or catch “leprosy”.
Pulled Up by My Bootstraps?
Even I had many assumptions about how and why these guys ended up incarcerated, with a mindset that they just needed to make smarter decisions. I had similar views on poverty. I honestly believed that the American Dream was attainable for everyone no matter what zip code you lived in. In addition, I had an immense pride in relating my experiences to theirs. I felt that the circumstances of my life, growing up with a single mom, having little money, living in bad neighborhoods, not being able to go to college if it weren’t for scholarships, enabled me to make false equivalences with those from real poverty. As my relationships deepened with each guy we worked with, I was humbled and even embarrassed by my initial posture. Our first 2S Industries guys were all “Bloods", former gang members of the infamous Fish Trap Projects in West Dallas. They were all born amid the crack epidemic and were deeply rooted in generational cycles of poverty. As my knowledge grew, I quickly realized that our experiences weren’t like comparing apples to apples.
As we began building our improbable business, we operated with a very simple hypothesis:
If provided a legitimate opportunity rather than “hustling”, coupled with grace, a the drug-dealing gang-member from our city’s most violent neighborhoods would respond, engage, and commit to a pathway that forever impacts their life.
With what started with five felons, a lawn mower, a worn out pick-up truck and a massive amount of hustle, our model took hold and we began to grow. This crazy business plan with an even crazier hope was actually working!
From the original “Fish Trap Five” we were able to grow each year, developing new accounts, hiring more men once deemed “unhireable”, which resulting in wages paid and families provided for. A
s we acquired more equipment and infrastructure, we developed a construction company in conjunction with our landscape company. The two stats that best resonate our success: we have employed, engaged, loved and encouraged 142 "at-risk" felons and recently surpassed the $1,000,000 mark in wages paid out and reinvested in the communities we serve!
We Need Your Help
Now it’s your turn! We are always seeking to grow our partnerships. Being entrepreneurs at our core, we need Stakeholders, advocates, and new construction and landscape projects for the business.
Also the most strategic way to give to 2ndSaturday/2S Industries is North Texas Giving Day on September 20th. Starting on Sept. 10th you can support our work in West and South Dallas by going here. I hope you’ll help us raise the $50,000 we need to move into the next era of impact!