After 14 years in prison, Craig Grissom was ready for a new start in life. It was 2009, and he was 51 years old.
“My heart and mind were right, and I’ve always had a good work ethic,” says Craig. “But I couldn’t get employment because of the bad choices I had made. So I began my own business as an act of prayer and survival.”
Craig was determined to earn an “honest living” as a handyman and landscaper. He had taught himself many maintenance skills through various jobs over the years in Detroit. He first started working as a busboy when he dropped out of high school. Eventually, he worked his way up to become a restaurant manager, until his life unraveled.
After a year of self-employment as a returning citizen, Craig was hired by Central Detroit Christian (CDC) to manage a business it was launching called Higher Ground Landscaping. The business sought to hire and mentor unemployed men from the community, particularly returning citizens. In three years, Craig grew the business to more than 200 customers.
The success of the business encouraged Craig to want to buy it from CDC and make it his own, while still continuing its mission of providing jobs for men from the community.
To learn more about how to run a small business effectively, Craig enrolled in a free entrepreneurial training course offered by ProsperUS Detroit, a program lead by Southwest Solutions in partnership with other community organizations, including CDC. ProsperUS helps participants, particularly those from ethnic and immigrant communities, develop the skills they need to start and sustain their small businesses. After completing the ProsperUS program, Craig purchased Higher Ground Landscaping in January 2015.
ProsperUS continues to provide technical support to Craig. It has also given him two small business loans. Craig paid off the first loan, for $8,000, within six months.
Craig’s business will also get a significant boost from Clean & Green Detroit, a new program from Citizens Bank and Southwest Solutions. Through a $60,000 grant from Citizens, a fully stocked trailer of equipment and tools is available to community and volunteer groups for beautification and cleanup projects in the city. Higher Ground will also be using the trailer to supplement and increase its business.
“This is great opportunity,” Craig says. “I currently employ five people and we’re working from sunup to sundown, often six days a week. With the use of this trailer, I hope we can expand our operations and add more jobs.”
In addition to access to trailer for two years, Higher Ground will be awarded a contract with Southwest Solutions to do the lawn care work at a number of its properties.