Untapped Solutions Supports Underrepresented Individuals From Westchester

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Andre Peart was released from prison just a few years ago. Now he’s the founder of a Google-backed company.

Yonkers resident Andre Peart knew he wanted to build something once he was released from his eight-year prison sentence. 

When he was on the inside, he didn’t know exactly what that would be. But, he knew he wanted to do something big. While in prison, he learned about Defy Ventures, an organization that offers prison-based and community-based entrepreneurship. Terrell Hall, Vice President of Programs at Defy Ventures New York, helped kickstart what that would look like for Peart. 

“It was really working with this guy who met me in prison,” says Peart. “He didn’t sound like the other organizations. He gave me the basic understanding I needed of the business world.”

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Initially, Peart leaned toward owning a gym because he was studying sports science, and he did go that route at first. When he was released from prison in 2019, he became a personal trainer at Equinox and then at New York Sports Club, where he had an even better salary. But it still didn’t feel like personal training was what he was meant to do. 

“I got the job after the struggle of 20 or 30 job denials,” Peart notes. “I had a hard time getting that good job. I was still in the shelter system, so I was homeless. I needed public assistance, and it was things I never really knew about. It was realizing ‘Oh, I’m a felon,’ so the paperwork is three times as much.”

The 33-year-old knew he wasn’t the only one facing this reality, so he thought about what resources would be helpful for people in a similar position. He envisioned a LinkedIn that was only for formerly incarcerated people.

“Even being out of prison for four years, there are still many things that I need,” Peart explains. “Because of my record, getting an apartment is hard [and] buying a property is even harder. If it’s hard for me in this position, how is it going to be for people just getting out?”

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That’s how he came up with ConConnect, now known as Untapped Solutions, a networking platform for justice-involved individuals that connects formerly incarcerated people with services like job searches, online video courses, and case management. The goal is to reduce recidivism by 20% by 2030.

The business has been up and running since 2021, but has grown significantly in recent months. This past July, the company rebranded to Untapped Solutions following an investment from Google. Now, the platform supports veterans, LGBTQ+ individuals, people of color, disabled persons and other marginalized communities with gaining access to jobs and resources. 

Today, Untapped Solutions helps Westchester residents and those far beyond the boundaries of the 914. It has close to 70,000 users and 3,000 employers and service providers on the platform. The social aspect of the network lets people know that they always have a community to turn to for questions and help.

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“We started here in Westchester, so anyone here who is from underrepresented communities can get on the platform,” says Peart. 

But when the call came from investors, he wasn’t going to shut it down. They found his profile on F6S, a community that delivers billions in growth to startups and companies with funding. The organization’s first venture capital investment for $120,000 came in February 2022. Then, during the pre-seed round, it raised about $2 million. Google invested in the company when it became Untapped Solutions, providing access to additional resources like AI and sales support. 

To date, the team has grown from just two people to six individuals. The expansion to other marginalized communities has answered employers’ questions of “Do you have any other underrepresented populations I can hire?” 

“We heard that enough times,” Peart observes. “It hurt us to tell people no. We looked to see if there was a market and realized that we could help. Now we’re helping more people.”

Related: Inside the History of Ossining’s Sing Sing Prison

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