December 16, 2019 — Reinvestment Fund today announced the closing of a loan to First Step Staffing, Inc., the nation’s largest nonprofit social enterprise staffing company. The $3 million loan is led by Reinvestment Fund, with participations from Atlanta Emerging Markets, Inc. (AEMI) and Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs (ACE).
“First Step is doing the critical work of providing economic opportunity for individuals facing challenges to employment and stability,” said Christina Szczepanski, Managing Director for the Southeast at Reinvestment Fund. “We are pleased to be able to support the sustainability and growth of this nonprofit enterprise whose efforts so closely align with our own mission to create stronger, more equitable communities.”
First Step Staffing, Inc., (FSS) is an Atlanta-based staffing agency that finds temporary employment in factories, distribution centers and hospitality businesses for men and women with significant barriers to workforce entry and re-entry. Most of FSS’s clients have recently experienced either homelessness or incarceration. Many are veterans who have faced difficulties readjusting to civilian life.
The company partners with other social service agencies to deliver training, counseling, and other services, but itself focuses solely on the staffing business, as a core component of its charter is the premise that a job is a crucial starting point for achieving stability for many homeless individuals.
“Utilizing the market-driven demand of contract staffing with a mission-based employment strategy has enabled us to help thousands of individuals since our inception. These jobs will pay millions in earned wages each year, providing a critical first step to financial stability and a path out of homelessness,” said Roger Peterson, CEO First Step Staffing, Inc. “We are extremely grateful for the great collaboration with Reinvestment Fund and their leadership which is making a significant difference in both the lives of those we serve and the communities where they reside.”
This is Reinvestment Fund’s second project with First Step. In January 2018, FSS expanded to Philadelphia, acquiring a local light industrial and services staffing firm. FSS converted the firm into a non-profit, reframing the business as a mission driven organization dedicated to providing job opportunities to individuals who had previously experienced homelessness. This was FSS’s first expansion outside of its core Atlanta market. Reinvestment Fund was among a collaboration of funders who financed the Philadelphia expansion.
Following this expansion model, FSS has grown from a company with 100 individuals working each week and $2 million in revenue, to nearly 3,000 individuals working weekly and a projected $42 million in revenue in 2019. FSS is nearly 95% self-sustaining, relying on limited philanthropic dollars to support services like additional job coaching and transportation for clients, which helps increase job placement and retention rates.
FSS provides the resources to obtain primary strides into employment so individuals can cover their basic needs such as rent, clothing, and food. With the additional assistance and coaching it provides, individuals who face barriers to workforce entry can overcome the challenges that stand in their way. Seventy percent of FSS clients have retained employment after 90 days (vs. the industry average of 50%) and over 30% of the current associates are US veterans.
About Reinvestment Fund
Reinvestment Fund is committed to building strong, more equitable communities by making health, wellbeing, and financial security available and accessible to families, regardless of income or zip code. We integrate data, policy and strategic investments to improve the quality of life in neighborhoods. Using analytical and financial tools, we bring high-quality grocery stores, affordable housing, schools and health centers to the communities that need better access-creating anchors that attract investment over the long term and help families lead healthier, more productive lives. Learn more at reinvestment.com.
Atlanta Emerging Markets, Inc. (AEMI)
AEMI is a U.S. Treasury-certified Community Development Entity created by Invest Atlanta in 2006 that specializes in providing gap financing for projects that create jobs and revitalize Atlanta’s distressed neighborhoods. In 2016, the AEMI board of directors approved the allocation of $100,000 to finance a pilot revolving loan fund for social entrepreneurship in Atlanta.
About Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs Inc. (ACE)
ACE is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and community development financial institution (CDFI) that provides loans and business consulting services to help borrowers throughout Metro Atlanta and North Georgia create and grow stable, sustainable businesses that generate jobs. Since 2000, ACE has loaned more than $70 million to over 950 entrepreneurs, who have created or saved more than 8,200 jobs in Georgia. ACE’s hallmark service is its combination of capital, coaching and connections. ACE is supported by grants and other forms of funding from banks, foundations, government entities and corporations to assist in its mission to help underserved business owners. ACE has offices in Westside Atlanta and Cleveland, Ga., and an ACE Women’s Business Center in Norcross, Ga. For more information, visit www.aceloans.org.