INDIANAPOLIS — One yard and one job at a time, an Indianapolis man is working to make a positive impact in his community.
By providing employment for ex-felons and youth, the CEO of A.C.E. Project Landscaping is focused on helping his employees build a better future.
"When I got out of prison, I was trying to figure out a way to get employed and it was hard getting employed," Montez Williams said.
Montez spent two and a half years in prison and was released in 2017.
"I knew I had wanted to start my own business and lawn care was some thing I had thought about and I wrote down it was something I wanted to do," he said.
With just enough money to buy a lawnmower and a weed wacker, he began cutting grass on the east side of Indianapolis.
From there, A.C.E. Project transformed. Kids in his neighborhood began asking him if they could get involved.
"I would rather them cut grass and put a lawnmower in their hand then having them go kick in a door and sell some drugs just to get some money, when they really didn't need much, they just needed a little bit of guidance and some money to keep them out of trouble," Williams said.
He said the opportunities he's providing are ones he wished he had as a teenager. Over the last four years he's employed around 20 ex-felons and youth, including his own brother.
Michael Williams was incarcerated for nine years and is now working alongside Montez because he believes in his mission.
"With all the stuff that's going on, just trying to help the youth, show them a better way. We've done been behind it. We've done seen it. In a second, your life can change," Michael said. "It doesn't have to be killing each other over the smallest, littlest thing, we have to value each other."
Through the A.C.E Project, Williams hopes his employees gain skills to build a good work ethic in a positive setting.
A.C.E stands for "A Child's Environment," something he hopes to improve by not only providing his employees with a job but also serving as a mentor.
"That's what shapes a child's mindset and what's going on with them, their environment is a big piece of that," Williams said. "That's why I try to make it an environment that they can come if they need to talk about something, need help with something, it's a positive environment because that's what's going to shape them at the end of the day."
Williams recently received a $5,000 award through the Reentry Entrepreneurship Development Initiative pitch contest. The program is part of the Indy Chamber's entrepreneur services.
After winning the contest, he explained he is now going through the program which provides one-on-one coaching, plus a five week training program for individuals in central Indiana who are justice-involved.
The next virtual training program will begin on October 19 from either 9 a.m. to noon or 5 to 8 p.m. The training covers four key phases to launching your business: Entrepreneurship 101, Business Planning, Start the Business, and Grow the Business.
In order to continue providing job opportunities, the A.C.E. Project needs continued community support. Click here to contact Montez Williams for a quote for your yard or call 317-332-1135.