Electronics Recycler Turns E-Waste into Jobs

Homeboy Electronics Recycling is an e-waste company with a social mission. For every 75,000 pounds of electronic waste that the company collects, it creates a job for someone who typically faces severe barriers to work.

We're not talking bad references, poor interview skills or a history of insubordination, but people who have been homeless, suffered from drug addiction and have even been imprisoned for violent crimes.

Around 2011, Kabira Stokes wanted to find solutions for people in poverty and those who lacked opportunities. She wanted to fix a system that she thought was broken, especially for people who, even though they had paid their debt to society, were never truly forgiven and found it hard to secure legal employment. 

She was looking for a way to create jobs for people coming out of the prison system. According to Stokes, this is when she met a man from Indiana who was an electronic recycler. He told her that e-waste was the fastest growing waste stream in the world.

Stokes founded Isidore Electronics Recycling, a for-profit company that repaired, refurbished, dismantled and recycled old electronics. The company was actually named after Saint Isidore of Seville, the patron saint of computers and the internet. Side note: There is patron saint of computers and the internet; has been since 1997.

Two years after she launched the business, a fire burned Isidore to the ground, but the company persevered. Four days after the fire, they moved into a new 6,000-square-foot facility. The company was acquired and rebranded in 2016.

Homeboy Industries is now a nonprofit that rehabilitates ex-convicts and gang members. The company has 18 people on staff, and did about $16.6 million in revenue in 2016.

In 2017, Homeboy recycled 1.3 million pounds of e-waste, and will likely double that in 2018. About 50 million tons of e-waste will be generated in 2018, so there is definitely room for Homeboy to grow.

However, the company’s social mission remains commendable. Homeboy’s motto, which can be found on the back of company shirts, is "Nothing Stops a Bullet Like a Job."

For the last seven years, Stokes has stopped a lot of bullets.

More in Manufacturing