by Veronica Garabelli
Billie Brown had to come up with a plan B. The business model for her temporary staffing agency, EXCEL Staffing Services Inc., wasn’t working during The Great Recession. Since many companies were downsizing, temporary workers were the first to go. Richmond-based EXCEL lost 80 temp workers during one month in 2008. During that year, the company also filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
That’s when Brown decided to change the direction of EXCEL. Now focusing on obtaining and carrying out government contracts, the new business is named EXCEL Management Services Inc. “I started jumping into the federal government because corporate America was in recession, and it was the best move I ever made,” Brown says.
EXCEL works on a number of government contracts. For example, it currently has a contract to provide janitorial services at Fort Myer in Arlington. When Fort Monroe in Hampton Roads was closing, EXCEL provided administrative staff to help with the transition.
The company, which currently works with the Department of Defense, wants to expand into Army and Navy contracts. Brown also is exploring the Small Business Administration’s HUBZone (Historically Underutilized Business Zones) Program, which helps small businesses get federal contracting opportunities.
The company also began a nonprofit program, Another Chance to EXCEL, last year. The program helps first-time ex-offenders between the ages of 18 and 26 find employment. “I didn’t think they needed to pay for that one indiscretion the rest of their entire life and that something needed to be done,” Brown says in explaining why she started the program.
The program requires participants to create their own jobs since they have difficulty getting hired elsewhere, Brown says. Another Chance to EXCEL began with a “food desert” initiative, designed to help communities with few nearby grocery stores. Young jobseekers work on a community garden and distribute produce to low-income Richmond-area residents.
Currently, EXCEL provides a $100 weekly stipend to each participant, but Brown says they must raise money from other sources to keep the model working. Brown says the program can employ at least 10 participants at a time.
EXCEL last year was a finalist in the Resilience Awards sponsored by the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business
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