Advance Memphis Staffing Service

The Advance Memphis Staffing Service provides a uniquely holistic and sustainable connection between South Memphians and Memphis employers.

Photo of Steve Nash
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  • I am not an employee of BNY Mellon, or an immediate family member of a BNY Mellon employee
  • I am over 18 years of age
  • My organization is incorporated as a non-profit, for-profit, or hybrid organization, or I have a partner that is incorporated and could accept funds on my behalf
  • I have already piloted my initiative and have some initial evidence of impact
  • My organization is headquartered and creating impact in the United States


  • Man

Where are you making a difference?

Memphis, TN (38126 and 38106)

Focus Areas (required)

  • Business & Social Enterprise
  • Development & Prosperity

Date Started


Organization Type

  • nonprofit/NGO/citizen sector

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Established (successfully passed early phases, have a plan for the future)


  • $1m - $5m

Website or social media URL(s) (optional)

1.Founding Story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this to succeed.

My family instilled in me the importance of both work and helping others. After volunteering for years at an inner-city youth ministry, I created Cycle with a Mission in 1998, which melded work & community service. Restless in my sales job, I searched for a vocational step to help adults in Memphis, a microcosm of generational poverty, connect to sustainable work opportunities. While I wanted to start a business & transfer ownership to a community, it became evident that relational empowerment was a necessary first step. Advance Memphis began in 1999 with my car and a filing cabinet, building relationships in one South Memphis neighborhood. The business came 10 years later when I started Advance Staffing to hire people in this neighborhood.

2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Extreme poverty ruins lives. Work lifts people from poverty, providing income & hope. Numerous roadblocks to employment stagnate the process. Tina J wanted to work, but impaired by a felony conviction & an addiction, couldn’t find a permanent job. Tina’s story is typical (though specific issues differ). Staffing services are the usual path but available positions don’t pay a living wage w/ benefits, keeping people stuck in underemployment cycles.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

We started Advance Staffing (AS) in 2009, after a decade of building relationships and providing soft-skills training and support to job-seekers in our neighborhood. AS is uniquely positioned to solve the problem of unemployment and underemployment in South Memphis. Unlike other staffing services, we provide six weeks of comprehensive soft-skills training to participants before they are eligible to work. This upfront investment builds trust with both employees and employers, a clear competitive advantage. Our wraparound support includes on-the-job training, hard-skills certifications, financial literacy classes, counseling, & mentorship, directly impacting success at work. We are also distinct in that we prioritize our mission to help people achieve permanent work above maximizing profit. Unlike most non-profits, we have a sustainable, revenue-generating entity within our scope of services that functions as a social enterprise, putting local residents to work and nudging them toward financial stability. It provides a huge impact in terms of employment and increased economic activity, and it also naturally helps our non-profit to become financially healthier and more sustainable.

4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of how your solution is working to solve the problem.

Tina J (mentioned above) first came to Advance 4 years ago. She graduated from our Work Life class, where we cover basic, essential soft-skills for the workplace, and where she participated in work days to practice those skills in a low-risk environment. While in class, Tina received support in her addiction recovery process and participated in anger management counseling. Tina was hired through AS after graduating, and although she hoped to become permanent, changes in her employer’s workplace policy caused her to be terminated due to her felony. Advance Memphis continued to coach and support Tina, advocate for her, and work with employers through several discouraging experiences, before she finally was hired to a permanent position at a company after working there through AS. Since then, she has been promoted multiple times, and has been through our financial education class.

5a. Too many people in the U.S. have unmet needs for financial products and services. How is your work reaching a population(s) that is currently underserved? If it is not reaching an underserved population yet, how might it in the near future?

Our participants have been underserved because of geography, race, & socioeconomic status. Since we only serve South Memphis, all of our graduates live in 38126 & 38106, low-moderate income/high poverty census tracts that have been underserved for decades. 1160 people have graduated Work Life over 15+ years, & 99.1% of grads are in a racial minority. 60% of 38126 lives below the poverty line. Our highly relational approach directly addresses the isolation that perpetuates poverty in So. Memphis.

5b. Please specify if the population you are reaching is underserved due to any of the following characteristics:

  • geography
  • work status
  • race/ethnicity
  • socio-economic class

6. Marketplace: Who else is addressing the same problem? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Government programs have never built the relational capital that Advance Memphis has, which has hindered their success. While most of the private sector has left South Memphis, a few staffing services connect South Memphians to jobs, but they are incentivized to keep people on their books; thus, many of our neighbors are stuck in the temp work cycle, unable to secure permanent, livable wages. No other non-profits have generated the employment opportunities needed to substantially grow economic activity. Our warehouse provides jobs in the area, further improving our ability to serve the market.

7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

AS has hired 843 individuals on 3,719 assignments since 2009. This success would have been impossible without the hard work of building deep relationships of trust over 20 years. The Tucker family is a perfect example. The Tuckers had dealt with poverty, lack of education, and unemployment for generations. Brenda and her 3 daughters came through Advance in 2009-2010, and have been working ever since. Seeing their success, other family began to come through the class. Jameshia is working through AS and taking financial literacy class, Sherrick is on an assignment in our warehouse, and over 15 other Tuckers have taken similar steps. In 2000, 38126 had a labor force participation rate of 44.5%. That rose to 54.9% in 2016. Likewise, in 2000, 47.1% of 38126 households made less than 10k. In 2016, that dropped to 31.7%. We believe AS has made a significant impact on these demographic trends.

8a. Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling your impact?

Focus on deep relationships in a concentrated area is the key to our success. We have focused for 20 years on 1 area (population under 30,000). Our scaling strategy prioritizes depth over breadth, i.e. time-intensive human capital investment in our target area. We currently need resources to pursue professional research around trauma counseling for neighbors. Despite hundreds succeeding at work through AS, about 40% of grads still experience chronic unemployment caused by emotional instability due to trauma. A robust trauma counseling program will greatly improve our ability to support them.

8b. If applicable, which of the following scaling strategies have you launched?

  • Organizational Growth
  • Trainings, Consultation
  • Open Sourcing

9. Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

AS is both fiscally and socially sustainable and we have a proven track record. AS began in 2009 and has been profitable each year since 2012. From 2015-2017 we paid an average of $1,082,017.52 yearly in gross wages to neighbors. After we move employees to permanent positions, we hire new grads of the Work Life program and continue the positive cycle. Our ROI was 12% for the year 2017. At the time of this writing 82 grads of Work Life work through AMSS at 17 different employers.

10. Team: What is the current composition of your team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?

S Nash – Founder & Executive Director, 1999 M Gosney, Dir. of Operations - 27 yrs research/tech. @ Smith & Nephew J Johnson, HR Director – MA in HR, 20+ years HR experience B Taylor - 5 yrs employment support @ Advance A Blanks - On-site supervisor, certified forklift trainer T Polk, C Chapple – program graduates; certified anger management counselor and addiction recovery support Board Members include David Ozier (logistics), Mike Harris (impact investing), Vonesha Mitchell (economic dev)

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 - Which of the following categories do you identify with? (optional)

  • White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French)

How did you hear about this challenge?

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Nice blog I found from this website which is on advance Memphis staffing service. It’s really interesting blog.
Regards, Sarah.

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