You can’t have a successful business without relationships. And sometimes the most profitable ties are measured in more than just money, like the unusual relationship between a high-powered CEO and a former inmate from Chicago.
Brandon Laster will be the first to tell you he made some mistakes. The Chicago man was released from federal prison in May of 2018. Days after his release, he started a job, and just a year into the job, he’s going from employee to part-owner of a $1.8 million franchise that services 600 customers a week. Brandon credits his turnaround and his success to his mentor, Pat Swisher — founder and CEO of Enviro-Master, a commercial restroom hygiene company with a unique focus on public health.
“He changed my life,” says Brandon. “I owe my success to Pat Swisher.”
In 2002, Pat Swisher, then-CEO of Swisher Hygiene, spent 18 months in federal prison and was deeply changed by the experience. He realized that his fellow inmates were more than their rap sheet and decided to apply the same thought to anyone he would meet moving forward — especially in business.
“Going to prison is a very humbling experience,” says Swisher. “Once you get out, the deck is stacked against you. But the people that have become my franchisees, they obviously trust me. That means a lot to me. I will do anything to help them, in any way I can.”
Collectively, Enviro-Master franchisees service approximately 30,000 businesses each week, generating $60 million in annualized revenue. Franchises like Enviro-Master give their owners the best chances for a profitable career in an industry with limited competition, recession, and technology threats.
For Pat Swisher, instead of considering how potential franchisees measured up only on paper, he now looked at how they measured up as people, and had grown from past mistakes, in life and in business. That’s what Swisher discovered when he received a handwritten letter from a federal inmate, Brandon Laster.
“Getting to know Brandon through his letters, I felt like he had really changed,” says Swisher.
“I was honest,” says Brandon. “I told him I was in prison and that I made some mistakes. I told him I want to be somebody who has integrity and who leaves a positive mark on society.”
The letter was just one of about 50 pieces of correspondence Brandon sent to CEOs of major companies around the country. He received more than 30 responses and job offers from companies such as Nike, Walgreens, and U.S. Foods.
Though he was thankful for the offers, the jobs were mostly for janitorial, warehouse staff, and other minimum wage roles with little hope for advancement. Brandon knew he had to be realistic, but he also believed he could achieve more.
“That’s what stood out about Pat Swisher,” says Brandon. “He didn’t offer me a job, he offered me a career as long as I was willing to work hard.”
Second Chance for Success
“Brandon is a great salesperson,” says Reyes. “He has a lot of energy and is very persistent. He’s not afraid to roll up his sleeves.”
After seeing his son work passionately to turn his life around, Brandon’s father, Benjamin Laster, decided to get involved. Having achieved franchise success with a national restaurant brand, Benjamin recognized the benefits of Enviro-Master’s scalable business model and strong fundamentals, including multiple revenue streams, residual income, and unlimited market potential. This, along with Inc. 5000 and Entrepreneur magazine accreditation, made Benjamin’s decision to invest in Enviro-Master an easy one.
“He’s done a tremendous job with Enviro-Master, and that motivated me to get involved,” says Benjamin. “This will be something he can build his future upon and I’m very proud of him.”
Brandon and Benjamin will become partners with Reyes this month, and their business is projected to grow quickly.
Paying it Forward
One of the first things Brandon did with his new career was to help another former inmate. Brandon got the man an interview with Reyes, who hired him. “He’s still with us, and he’s one of our best technicians,” says Brandon.
At the end of the day, the time Brandon spent in prison still weighs heavily on his mind. He also feels hopeful and blessed to have people in his corner, like his father, Swisher, and Reyes.
“To be able to come out of prison, to get involved with such a great company, and to go from being an employee to ownership; it’s just a dream come true. I’m grateful that I can be a story to inspire others.”
For more information on Enviro-Master Services franchise opportunity, please visit www.enviro-master.info/franchise.