SXSW is a conference about technology, film, and music that often gets criticized for its excess and general lack of awareness of global problems. Upon visiting the conference, however, I realized that there is more to the yearly event famous for Lady Gaga’s strange performance art or propelling Twitter to a household name. This brand is one of the many great companies and organizations that are leveraging the great power of technology to do some major good.

Social Imprints is a full-service printing company that is working to provide career opportunities and a living wage to people who need a second chance. What started as an advertisement for an admin assistant in 1999 has grown into a company that hires (almost exclusively) those that are formerly incarcerated, recovering addicts, low-income individuals, individuals with less than a high school education, and recently discharged veterans. With 80% of their work-force being from at-risk populations, Social Imprints lives their “brand with purpose” motto every day.  This type of hiring allows Social Imprints to focus on where these individuals are going in their careers, and not where they come from. Their model also provides the necessary support for these individuals to stay on the right track and avoid any sort of relapse into their former life.

With 80% of their work-force being from at-risk populations, Social Imprints lives their “brand with purpose” motto every day.

This type of hiring model doesn’t come without some risk, however. “Just like any hiring process, there’s a chance that your hire won’t end up working out. But with our hiring, there’s always a chance of relapsing into their former life”, says founder Jeff Sheinbein. Less than 10% of their employees relapse which, all things considered, means an extremely high retention rate for any type of company.

Being in Silicon Valley, Social Imprints is also in a unique position to work some of the world’s largest and most well-known brands. Their clients include Wikipedia, Pinterest, and LinkedIn, and by partnering with such large brands, it has allowed Social Imprints the ability to grow into a larger space and produce all of their printing in-house, ultimately allowing for more room to hire staff. In the future, Social Imprints hopes to launch a spin-off software company based on their in-house production software, developed by none-other than their “unique” employees.

Social Imprints is poised to grow into a large business and, most importantly, give more bay-area people a chance at a second life.

Photo Credit: Nicolo Sertorio 

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