A Second Chance: Functional Water Company, blk., Benefits from Its Mission of Hiring Qualified Former Felons and Recovering Addicts as Part of Its Workforce

LOS ANGELES, CA (July 18, 2022) – Better-for-you beverage company blk. is becoming known not just as the leading purveyor of functional water and other nutritional products made with fulvic minerals – shown to be beneficial in supporting human health – but also for its socially responsible missions, including hiring and training formerly incarcerated individuals and recovering addicts to key posts throughout the company.

Our company’s mission through our products and our efforts is to improve the wellbeing of our people and planet says CEO Sara Bergstein. We support dozens of charitable organizations with all of our resources including our products, money, and our time. We are dedicated to elevating individuals to increase happiness in this world. Accordingly, giving “returning citizens” a second chance is a big focus for blk. Currently, the company employs 14 formerly incarcerated individuals in everything from management positions to key roles in sales, marketing, direct distribution, administration, customer service and more. The company is committed to having up to 20% of its workforce comprised of rehabilitated former felons and recovering addicts, says Bergstein.

Love and kindness are key principals every company should have at the core of their values. By being a part of increasing happiness and self-worth one person at a time, the whole world improves. Blk’s social responsibility efforts encompasses not only environmental considerations, but also our people.

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The blk. team joins a growing number of leading organizations and large corporations – including Campbell Soup, General Mills, Kroger, PepsiCo, Safeway, Tyson Foods, U.S. Foods, Conagra, Dr. Pepper, Dave’s Killer Bread, Trader Joe’s and many others, according to the website JobsThatHireFelons.org – that have found that returning citizens can add significant value to their companies.

A Loyal Workforce

According to a report in Business Insider, since most people who have spent time in prison find it difficult to find meaningful jobs and re-enter society, they’ll likely be very grateful and loyal to the business that hires them. Plus, once hired, former felons are not likely to quit, as finding jobs and career opportunities is often difficult for them. In addition, individuals who have paid their dues may have received training in prison that is directly applicable to business. Also, employers of former felons may be able to take advantage of tax credits as part of the U.S. Dept. of Labor’s Work Opportunity Tax Credit Program.

Many businesses are hesitant to hire formerly incarcerated individuals, and that is a problem, according to a recent study, Back to Business: How Hiring Formerly Incarcerated Job Seekers Benefits Your Company, by the Trone Center for Justice & Equality. An estimated 70 million Americans, or 1 in 3 adults, have a criminal record, and currently 2.3 million people are behind bars in the U.S., 95% of whom will re-enter society. Joblessness is a leading predictor of recidivism – that is, the less likely it is for a former felon to find a job, the more likely it is they will end up back in prison, with all the costs associated with incarceration. And yet, with about 640,000 people released from prison each year, there is a huge workforce available out there to fill jobs.

“We currently work with over a dozen formerly incarcerated individuals at blk.,” says David McMaster, blk.’s Director of Business Development for Arizona and Nevada, where the company operates a DSD distribution center. McMaster, a formerly incarcerated individual himself, was hired by blk. in 2021 and was empowered to build blk.’s business and brand in the region “from scratch, including finding the warehouse, hiring employees, procurement of delivery vehicles, sales, accounting, building the team…all of it falls under my purview,” he says.

“I was an interim CEO and president of a bank that failed during the financial crisis, and due to certain statutes of limitations, I got caught up in default with the TARP program (Troubled Assets Relief Program). I own up to it, and when I went in to serve my sentence, I immediately started advocacy. I was determined to use my training and skill sets to help other incarcerated individuals to be better parents, husbands, workers and business persons, and good, productive members of society,” says McMaster. “I have been driven by my faith and desire to give back, and I continue to do a lot of criminal justice reform advocacy. And I am proud to help lead these efforts with blk. Under the company’s mission, I was given a second chance, and we are creating that opportunity for other qualified returning citizens,” he says.

“As a socially responsible company, we hope to bring to light the opportunities we have as a nation to solve some of our incarceration problems. While certain offenders definitely need to be in prison, there are alternative ways we can deal with addiction and non-violent offenders. Through, for example, home, work and other rehabilitative programs, we can better set people up for success to change the outcome,” McMaster says.

Comments from blk. employees who are former felons:

“I would like to thank blk. for the opportunity to get a second chance at restructuring my life after my incarceration. They have been very supportive. This job has allowed me to re-establish not only my financial independence, but also my relationships with family and friends. Having this job is creating a strong foundation toward my future success. Thank you, blk., for a second chance at life.” – Israel (Izzy) Ornelas, Area Sales Manager

“blk. recognizes the great amount of talent available in hiring Second Chance Citizens, as well as the great community service and support in stepping up and stepping out in this area. Blk. has surely been a blessing.” – Jim Wheeler, BDM/Graphic Design

“blk. has given me and many others a great opportunity, and I am so grateful. I hope I can give back as much as I have been given.” – Kevin, Fleet Supervisor

“Thank you for giving me the opportunity to work for a great company and not judging me by my mistake.” – Dee, Admin Assistant

“Great place to work, first time I have been valued as an employee and not devalued because I am a felon.” – Greg, Area Sales Manager

“I am very appreciative to blk. for the opportunity to work for such a great company. Thank You!” – Jorge Garcia, Delivery Driver & Merchandiser

“I cannot imagine what my life would have been without blk. Today I have my own apartment and car and I have been allowed to rise up through the ranks – recognized for my contributions. I feel good about myself for the first time in as long as I can remember. – Abi Bryski

About blk. Functional Beverages

blk. water is a functional beverage which uses only high-quality natural ingredients and helps support a healthy lifestyle. blk. is infused with fulvic trace minerals – a super nutrient and one of the most powerful polyphenols known. Fulvic has been used for thousands of years, prompting numerous peer-reviewed, independent studies, which have reported broad beneficial results relating to improved health and disease prevention – including supporting gut health, brain health, healthy immune function, detoxification, and reducing inflammation. blk. water is black in color due to nutrient-rich minerals, which are naturally dark. With a pH of 8+ and electrolytes, blk. water delivers the power of a sports drink while maintaining the purity and taste of water, without any carbs, calories or sugar. blk. is gluten-free, kosher, and vegan, making it the perfect go-to replenishing wellness beverage that tastes refreshing and clean.

blk. water is available at thousands of stores across North America, including Amazon and http://www.shop.getblk.com. For wholesale inquiries, please contact [email protected]. For more information, visit www.getblk.com.

Former felons comprise a significant part of blk.’s loyal, skilled workforce.