Ohio State graduate Harley Blakeman, 28, overcame some self-inflicted hurdles, and is now an entrepreneur who wants to help others who made similar mistakes.
Blakeman created the website HonestJobs.co to make it easier for those who have criminal records like him find employment.
“Most companies don’t put it on their website that they can or can’t hire felons,” Blakeman says. "They don’t really openly state it. You just have to go in and interview with as many companies as you can and hoping that one will give you an opportunity.”
At 16, Blakeman dropped out of high school in north-central Florida and started using and selling drugs. He served 14 months in prison for trafficking prescription drugs, shoplifting and theft.
“I had really bad circumstances in my life,” Blakeman says. “At 14, my mother got addicted to drugs and alcohol and left my life for several years. At 15, my father passed away, and I kind of slipped through the cracks."
Blakeman came to Ohio to live with relatives and turn his life around. In 2017, he graduated from Ohio State’s Fisher College of Business.
Despite his accomplishments, though, Blakeman did not receive any job offers. So he created his own website to connect employers with employees who have criminal records.
“We have created a job platform where jobseekers for free can come and apply for jobs and employers can also post jobs,” Blakeman says.
Blakeman says thousands of users have found jobs through 230 employers across the country, including Scotts Miracle Gro, White Castle, ServiceMaster and Donatos. He designed the website's algorithms to match jobseekers to fit with a company’s policies around criminal records.
Blakeman says he does not turn anyone down.
“A lot of the employers using our service can’t hire everyone, but there are employers on our platform that can hire anyone,” Blakeman said.
Blakeman also personally employs three previously incarcerated people in his company.
“A lot of times what you see is, over the years, people mature and develop and people honestly deserve a second chance,” Blakeman says. “Everyone deserves a second chance at some point in their life.”
Blakeman says he expects the business to become profitable within the next couple of years.