Small businesses have the ability to improve their communities. Entrepreneurship has given Shannon Ross the ability to advocate for his marginalized community, according to his experience: the group of people who have been in and out of jail before, also called system-impacted people.
D’s Trucks is a trucking company that Shannon co-founded with a childhood friend in the spring of 2021. However, Shannon’s overall goal of helping others affected by the system is broader than just the company.
In addition to that, he is the executive director of The Community, an organization that he founded while he was still in prison. The Community is committed to reducing the stigma associated with having a criminal record and supporting individuals whose lives have been impacted by the system. Shannon is also a consultant for Paradigm Shyft, a company that educates hiring, teaching, and working with people impacted by the system on equity and inclusion practices.
Shannon is of the opinion that businesses have the power to make positive changes in people’s lives and communities by accepting the humanity of people with criminal records.
Re-entering the workforce with a criminal record Shannon was committed to working and furthering his education throughout his 17 years in prison in Wisconsin. The opportunity to design and run a coping skills program at the Stanley Correctional Institution came about as a result of Shannon’s time spent writing about his experiences and developing a Buddhist meditation practice during the course of his sentence.
Keeping up with his university studies, which he had begun prior to his arrest, was one of the most significant challenges Shannon faced while incarcerated. In his pursuit of a Bachelor of Arts in business administration, he encountered numerous systemic obstacles, which he described in an article for the Boston Review.
Shannon’s family stepped in to help him find funding and courses he could take while in prison in light of these obstacles. He was able to graduate in 2017 thanks to his dedication to his studies and ongoing support. He received a fellowship to the School of Nursing at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee for a Master’s program in sustainable peacebuilding toward the end of his sentence. A week before he was released, he started his first semester.
The graduate program fellowship that Shannon
received helped him get back into the workforce and gave him a way to pay for school. He also continued to expand his work through The Community during the transition. Shannon is particularly passionate about ensuring that people who are still incarcerated receive the support they require through The Community’s pre-entry resources. His experience with overcoming adversity as he prepared for re-entry into the workforce inspired him to do so.
Shannon connected with Brian Adams, a childhood friend who had just quit his job and wanted to start his own business, a few months after being released. Brian took the wheel of D’s Trucks in March 2021, and Shannon was in charge of business development.
Business transforms communities Get past preconceived notions and become interested in the ways in which a company can improve the lives of individuals.
By offering system-impacted individuals opportunities for apprenticeship and upskilling, you can reach a larger talent pool.
Establish a culture of connection and understanding in the workplace to foster empathy and employee loyalty.
Providing employment opportunities for other people who have been impacted by the system is one of D’s Trucks’ primary goals. This includes making it a priority to hire people who have been incarcerated before and offering assistance with business development to people with criminal records who are interested in starting their own trucking businesses.
Shannon’s advocacy work with The Community’s Correcting the Narrative Campaign and his consulting work at Paradigm Shyft are both influenced by this work. Shannon contributes to the education of businesses through Paradigm Shyft regarding the requirements that formerly incarcerated individuals have of their employers in order to attract, retain, and carefully manage system-impacted employees.
Shannon is aware of the fact that businesses
have a better chance of attracting and keeping motivated employees when they recognize those affected by the system as individuals who possess distinctive skill sets and valuable perspectives.
Small businesses that want to help workers in the system-affected community can start by offering training programs or apprenticeships to people whose time in prison has stopped them from building skills for their jobs. Engaging in company-wide communication about destigmatizing employees with criminal records and ensuring that these team members feel welcomed, understood, and respected is another important area to focus on from a human resources perspective.
Empathy in the workplace Shannon’s time behind bars made him a humble leader who cares deeply about his staff, a trait he hopes to pass on to other community leaders of small businesses. When Shannon was in prison, he frequently had interactions with security personnel, which reflected his dissatisfaction with the fact that he was an employee who was subject to the emotions of his managers.
Shannon recalls, “Being incarcerated and dealing with security staff every day who have so many traumas and difficulties — they’d take it out on us.”
As a result, “I love being in a position where I can say, “Hey, I do have [things] in my life, but I’m never going to bring that to you.” In addition, I’m going to listen and be open.
Shannon is determined to show up for his community, employees, and consulting clients with a willingness to treat people with exceptional respect because of his experiences. Every person you come into contact with on a daily basis is going through something. We should just try to interact with one another as people right now.
Shannon’s fundamental desire to assist individuals in healing and improvement, regardless of background, is supported by this strategy. In his own life, he has witnessed how empowering it can be to effect lasting positive change when one has compassionate support from family and community.
Shannon declares, “I call myself an inevitability.” Things were given to me that made it extremely unlikely that I would fail. A person is more likely to succeed if you provide them with that support because you are providing them with the fuel they need to reach their full potential. His goal is to provide people with the support they need to achieve their full potential and the resources they need to ensure their success.
With simple steps that enable individuals from marginalized communities to thrive, small businesses have the opportunity to advance systemic change. Instead of succumbing to stereotypes, small businesses can differentiate themselves and advance by concentrating on finding talent that can contribute creative ideas, teamwork, and a novel approach to the business. Above all else, creating an inclusive and empathic workplace benefits the communities your company serves and makes the world a better place for everyone.