“Employment is the silver bullet that eradicates recidivism” with Richard Bronson, CEO of 70 Million Jobs
I had the pleasure of interviewing Richard Bronson, a native New Yorker, who began his career on Wall Street. After working at a number of large investment banks, he became a partner at the infamous “Wolf of Wall Street” firm, before launching his own financial services company, which he grew to 500 employees, generating $100 million in annual revenue. Unfortunately, some of his activities fell outside the law, and despite having paid everyone back, he was sentenced with and served a two-year prison term. Upon release, he was essentially destitute and homeless. Eventually, he began working at the prominent reentry non-profit, Defy Ventures, where he ultimately served as Director. He left Defy to launch 70 Million Jobs, the first for-profit, national employment platform for people with criminal records. 70 Million Jobs has created a marketplace where more than 10 million people with records can connect with some of the country’s largest employers, eager to access this largely ignored pool of talent. 70 Million Jobs is a graduate of Y Combinator, the prominent early stage investor/accelerator program. Richard attended Northwestern University and State University of New York at Buffalo, served as Chairman of the Miami Beach Ballet and trustee of Miami’s Museum of Contemporary Art. He received the Key to Miami. He also founded the mega South Beach nightclub Shadow Lounge and founded Channels magazine. He is a columnist for the Huffington Post and frequent speaker on the topic of reentry and recidivism.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My work couldn’t be more personal, as a person who has done time. Prior to my incarceration, my life was full of private planes, casino bashes and rampant drug use. Upon release from prison, I knew I wanted to help my brothers and sisters leaving jail or prison have an easier time of it than I did.
Can you share your story of Grit and Success? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
My first job out of college was working for my father in the family import business. Soon after my arrival, my father was diagnosed with cancer, which was concurrent with a major downturn in the prospects for the business. I had to take over the company and keep it alive so it could continue supporting my father and his medical plan, while tending to his affairs as his condition worsened. It was very painful on so many levels, but taught me about toughness.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
My father was a World War II US Marine — a pretty tough guy, but also very loving, in his own way. He taught me and my siblings that live was hard, and no one owed me a living. I’ve never expected anything to be easy or lucky, and it never has been.
So, how are things going today? How did Grit lead to your eventual success?
We’re not much more than a year old, but we’re very pleased with the progress we’ve made thus far, both in economic terms as well as our helping deserving people land jobs. But we’ve got a lot to accomplish — my goal is to help 1 million people become employed.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I make lots of mistakes all the time — things like forgetting names, or once, asking a potential client who is a woman if she was pregnant. (she wasn’t)
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We’re the only for-profit, nationwide company that is dedicated to helping the formerly incarcerated land a job. All of my team is incredibly passionate about our mission.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
If you are doing what you truly love, there’s an infinite supply of energy to tap into. If you don’t love your work, burn out is the least of your worries.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
My father was and remains my role model for how to be a man. The lessons he taught me have served me well in business. The founder of Defy Ventures, Cat Hoke, taught me a great deal about honesty and forgiveness.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
We believe we are saving lives on a daily basis, by helping people gain employment. Employment is the silver bullet that eradicates recidivism. Recidivism destroys lives, families and communities.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- I wish I had a co-founder. Being an entrepreneur is a lonely racket; someone to share it with would be helpful.
- I wish I had a technical co-founder. You don’t know what you don’t know.
- I wish I started my business sooner. I could have helped more people.
4–5. No further surprises.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
There are 70 million + people-1 in 3 adults-that have some kind of criminal record. Revamping the criminal justice system would be my movement. It would impact all of society for the better, and free up resources to address other societal woes.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Twitter: @Richard.Bronson @70MillionJobs
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!