Cheri Garcia believes in second chances. Two months ago, the former high school cheerleader launched Cornbread Hustle, a staffing agency for convicted felons. She and her operations manager, Michael Elliott, have placed more than 30 former inmates, primarily in lawn care, construction, and bakery jobs, the Dallas Morning News reports. Garcia, a 29-year-old Dallas entrepreneur and publicist, had more than her fair share of second chances turning her life around. She dealt methamphetamine to pay for her own habit but never got caught. She was arrested for stealing, driving while intoxicated and so many other lesser infractions that she lost count. Yet she never did time.
Cornbread Hustle is a for-profit enterprise that takes a buck or two of a staffer’s hourly income but often provides transportation to and from work and tries to iron out conflicting demands of parole officers and employers. Most jobs pay $11 or $12 per hour. Garcia says her company is making money, thanks to free rent , and gaining traction. Volunteer of America Texas, a nonprofit residential prisoner re-entry program, wants Garcia to help 250 men and women at a halfway house, says the agency’s Jennifer Leney. “Cheri’s great. We’re really excited.” Thanks to fellow entrepreneurs with soft hearts, Cornbread Hustle has more jobs that Garcia could fill if parole officers were more flexible and if she had a way to pay for more drivers. “When I work with these guys, I see how hard it is,” Garcia says. “I’m trying to get them a job, but their parole officer won’t let them go to the job site because of ankle monitor restrictions. If you’re the first person to give them a chance on the outside, they don’t want to let you down. It’s a personal thing. Embarrassing me in front of an employer would shatter their world.”