A young entrepreneur whose life was turned upside down after he was jailed for selling drugs has launced a new venture to help ex-offenders.
Jacob Hill is spearheading Offploy, a social enterprise established to help organisations realise the commercial and societal benefits of ex-offender employment.
Having been an entrepreneur since he was 16 years old – and notably launching the Lazy Camper brand – he is no stranger to the world of start-up companies.
But in 2014, when faced with significant debts he couldn’t repay, he made the regretful mistake of selling drugs at a music festival and went on to serve 294 days of a 28 month prison sentence.
It was during his time inside that the idea for Offploy was born.
“The rehabilitation revolution has been debated at parliamentary level for some time,” he said. “But the level of stigma surrounding ex-offender employment still prevents many businesses from getting on board. We’re here to make sure it happens.”
With 760,000 job vacancies currently unfilled in the UK (Department of Work and Pensions), Jacob is a big believer that the answer lies partly in ex-offender employment.
“Many custodial sentences are served by good, honest and skilled people who have made a foolish mistake, explained Jacob, a former Brighouse High student.
“They want to repay their ‘debt’ to society and build an honest, secure future for their families. As a result, we see tremendous levels of loyalty among these candidates, when they’re recruited.”
Jacob – who has also acted as an Ambassador for the Virgin Media Business Pioneers scheme – is now talking to a number of large organisations about their ex-offender employment strategies. Interest has been shown from sectors ranging from food manufacturing to healthcare.
Jacob has been awarded grant funding and support from charity UnLtd. This came hot on the heels of private investment from successful Hull businessman Nigel Stabler, who offered ongoing strategic mentoring as well as the injection of funds, back in April.
Renowned entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson has also shown his support. He hit the headlines recently when he encouraged businesses to do more to support ex-offender rehabilitation – a strategy already embraced by Virgin Trains.