American Jewelry and Loan: Working with Diversity

AMERICAN JEWELRY AND LOAN is one of the most highly recognized pawn stores in the country thanks to being the subject of a reality television series seen in 52 countries. An engaging website where fans can connect with owners Les and Seth Gold from anywhere is, therefore, a critical part of their business model.

Seth, who launched the website in 2009, is always looking for innovative ways to market their e-commerce, eBay, and Etsy stores. Attractive product photography and well-written product descriptions bring in greater profit, but talented e-commerce professionals are difficult to find. He was intrigued when he heard about a unique program that might help him connect with talented staff. “When I learned about the Power to the Grid program,” he recalls, “I knew that it’d be a win-win.”

Created in 2014, Power to the Grid is a business focused on the hiring, training, and placement
of individuals who fall on the autism spectrum. These individuals often have strong job skills
and qualifications, but social and communication challenges are an obstacle to traditional employment. “When these individuals are in school, there are special accommodations to address their needs, but when they graduate from high school, it can be a real challenge for them to find meaningful employment. In essence, they fall off of the grid,” says Stefan Kogler, founder of Power to the Grid.

One of the Power to the Grid team members who has been working at American Jewelry and Loan
since January 2016 is Michael Sanchirico. Michael is a whiz with a camera, has great skills with software like Photoshop, and has a great mind for marketing. Yet for years, the talented artist and writer toiled at a retail job: sweeping floors, unloading trucks, and feeling frustrated that employers couldn’t see his potential.

Now, he collaborates with employees at American Jewelry and Loan to create product photography and post items for sale on pawndetroit.com. It’s a position ideally suited for him, after having
previously struggled with the hiring process.

“I sent out so many resumes, but I never got a ‘yes’ after an interview,” said Michael, who lives in Brighton and has a bachelor’s degree from Western Michigan University. “Power to the Grid has been invaluable.”

Michael works at American Jewelry and Loan with other Power to the Grid colleagues including Sean
Rosen. Like Michael, Sean has completed college and considers himself a perfectionist. Speaking of his
attempt to find work in a grocery store he says, “You know when you hear people say ‘You won’t last a
day’? Well, that was me.” Now, Sean lists jewelry and cites his attention to detail as the secret to his success in his new role. “I think I’ve finally found somewhere that works for me.”

American Jewelry and Loan was the first business to pilot an on-site training center. This allowed the
Power to the Grid team to work alongside existing employees for mentoring and training as well as
testing the program’s model.

“Some people have said we were brave to do this. We weren’t brave. We knew it would work,” Seth Gold said. “Every new employee goes through training. Everyone is new at some time. These guys are part of our business now. They’re teammates. And we value their work.”

Pawnbrokers who would like to know more about this workforce diversity program or might be
interested in replicating it in their own stores are encouraged to contact Les ([email protected])
or Seth ([email protected]). You can also learn more at PowertotheGrid.com.