“Having the mindset, ambition and motivation to be an entrepreneur is a gift, and it’s important that gift is used in the right way” – Jacob Hill
Jacob Hill, an award-winning serial entrepreneur and ex-offender, founded Offploy CIC in 2016. Prior to this, he had founded “The Lazy Camper Ltd” while studying at the University of Huddersfield. However, after getting into debt and being arrested for selling drugs at a music festival, he lost his business and was given a 28-month custodial sentence. While in prison, he realized that many entrepreneurial people lacked self-belief and awareness of their potential. This inspired him to launch Offploy upon his release, with the goal of reducing reoffending by placing people with criminal convictions into meaningful, mentored, and sustainable employment. Offploy, a Community Interest Company (CIC) has won various regional and national awards, secured backing from Richard Branson, and attracted substantial financial support from private investors, including £270,000, and fellow students, including £30,000.
The son of two retired police officers, Jacob reflects on his time in prison, saying “Prison was the best thing that happened to me in my entire life – even my parents agree”. During his sentence, he discovered that there were many entrepreneurial people in prison, who, despite lacking education, possessed a strong work ethic and investment skills. It was during a conversation with a fellow inmate that he came up with the idea for Offploy. This inmate had obtained qualifications for entry to a foundation degree in sports management, despite initially claiming to be incapable of doing anything. This realization led him to understand that self-belief and an awareness of possibilities, not lack of capability, were the main barriers to success for people with criminal records.
After realizing the need for coaching and guidance for ex-offenders to find jobs and employers to navigate hiring them, Jacob Hill launched Offploy CIC in 2016 with the 50-page business plan he wrote in prison. The launch wasn’t easy due to difficulties in opening a business bank account because of his criminal record, but with support and backing from a major investor, he was able to do it. Offploy CIC, based in Yorkshire, aims to reduce reoffending and make society safer by placing people with criminal convictions into meaningful, mentored, and sustainable employment. To achieve this, the company takes candidates through a 9-phase preparatory process, including three phases of education. The team of employment advisors, 70% of whom are ex-offenders themselves, provides specific courses to help candidates meet the needs of their intended employer. As of April 2023, Offploy CIC had supported 2931 candidates, and an additional 160 people were receiving support throughout the UK, not just in Yorkshire.
In the Spring of 2021, the organization was contracted by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to prepare 348 prison leavers from across England for employment. Of those, 85 were enrolled in an intensive 6-week training course, while 263 participated in a 16-week 1:1 peer mentoring program that covered CV preparation, job applications, interview skills, and handling rejection. The contract also enabled Offploy to engage an additional 8 ex-offenders to act as peer mentors. According to Jacob, “when it comes to trying to prepare prison leavers for ‘life in the real world’, no one can empathize and advise better than those who have been in that exact same position.”
Offploy CIC is increasingly working not only with candidates but also with employers and local community organizations to change attitudes towards ex-offenders and remove the stigma often associated with prison leavers. The organization’s mission is to “build support networks, provide referrals to community agencies – such as housing and financial support – and offer practical help to secure a life away from crime.” As Will Quince, the Welfare Minister at the time, observed, “Offploy must be congratulated for doing everything it can to help give offenders the best possible chance upon release, allowing them to earn an honest living without returning to a life of crime.”
Offploy CIC believes that a contented and engaged workforce is key to its success and attributes this to its flexible working conditions, promotion of a culture of trust and support, and commitment to communication and the well-being of its employees. In March 2023, the organization invested in a Conga solutions software system to reduce pressure on staff, enabling them to spend less time on paperwork and more time on helping people. This investment has resulted in an 80% reduction in paperwork, a decrease in the administrative burden on staff from 16 hours to 30 minutes per candidate every 16 weeks, and a 300% increase in candidate support.
As a sustainable business it addresses SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure), 10 ((Reduced Inequalities), 12 (Sustainable Cities and Communities), and 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions) as well as 17 (Partnerships for the Goals)
Finn Partners (2023). Offploy selects Conga to slash paperwork and increase social impact. Press Release, 22nd March.
Lavigueur, N. (2018). I’m glad I went to prison says young entrepreneur Jacob Hill. Yorkshire Live. 26th April.
Mulla, I. (2021). Ex-offender employment specialist Offploy enlisted by DWP to help prison leavers. Yorkshire Post. 9th June.
Yoshioka, M. (undated). Jacob Hill’s astonishing journey from entrepreneur to prisoner and back again. Centre for Entrepreneurs.
© Harmonious-Entrepreneurship.org / Harmonious Entrepreneurship Ltd. (2020-2023). Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the author(s) noted is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Harmonious-Entrepreneurship.org/ Harmonious Entrepreneurship Ltd with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.