Black CEO of $1.7M Moving Company Grants Second Chances by Hiring Inmates Struggling to Find Work
Chandra Thomas has always believed in second chances, so much so that it’s a core part of her business J.C. Movers & Lumper Services Inc.
“When I started the moving company, it was my dream to grow it to a company that will keep young men and women off the street and provides a better opportunity for them to provide a sufficient life for themselves and their families,” Thomas told BLACK ENTERPRISE.
Thomas, the CEO and founder of J.C. Movers, didn’t want to get into the moving business and said when family members approached her to start the company, she initially shied away from it.
“But it just kept falling in my lap, so I eventually stepped out and it started as just a hobby at first, just doing side jobs,” Thomas said.
“Eventually, we decided to take it further and start a moving company, and after turning into a moving company, it was brought back to my attention that when I was younger, I always wanted to have a second chance program and so that’s how I became the source of second chances where we see young Black and Brown men and women going into jail coming back out going back to jail and I thought, OK, what’s the problem here?”
The CEO added that many times after being released, inmates struggle to land a job, leading them back to jail. Thomas wanted to provide a place where former inmates could work and turn their lives around.
Thomas initially partnered with two other individuals to start the company, but both eventually left, leaving her to run J.C. Movers alone. To quickly adapt, Thomas reached out to other businesses in the industry to work with them on creating business for each other instead of competing.
“I always been the main CEO, but I had a team that would help me kind of brainstorm and now I had to rely on networking,” Thomas told BLACK ENTERPRISE.
“I even reached out to other affiliates that were willing to share their knowledge, wisdom, and processes with me, and so we kind of have developed the pay it forward mentality, so we were helping each other, my moving company helping another moving company and we’re all just trying to survive this entrepreneur life.
“Most people wouldn’t have thought that another business in the same industry would be willing to help you, but because we realize there’s more than enough for everybody and we didn’t take on the mentality of being competitors, but we were all trying to service the client.”
Thomas told BLACK ENTERPRISE that running a moving and lumper (unloading the freight from a truck trailer) company is not easy, especially as a Black woman in a male-dominated industry, and that even customers sometimes doubt she runs the company.
“Being a woman in this industry has been a challenge,” Thomas said.
“No. 1, to be a woman in charge of men, so when you have to give them instructions, I’ve had to experience them saying you don’t know what you’re talking about, you’ve never moved before, you don’t know what we face in the field and just trying to relate what they go through on a day-to-day basis as well as just taking a call from a customer who wants to raise a concern and talk to me on the phone and is shocked that I’m a woman and I have to convince them I’m the owner.”
Despite the challenges, Thomas said J.C. Movers is a rewarding experience because of the employees she helps, the changes she sees in their lives, and the positive feedback she gets from customers.
“It’s so rewarding, and sometimes it seems like I’m in a dream because I did it unconsciously, initially, and when I finally remove myself and think about what just happened, I think, wow, I just helped this individual reinvent myself and to see them come in raw and rough around the edges and to be able to chisel away at that and to see this sweet, humble person unfold you can’t even believe what they were locked up for or experienced in life.”