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Second Chances

Watkins Wellness partners with Televerde to provide opportunities for incarcerated women

Watkins Wellness, a renowned name in the hot tub industry, is forging an alliance to create career opportunities. Since 2014, Watkins has worked with Televerde, a multinational sales and marketing company, to provide incarcerated women with job training opportunities.

Televerde was founded in 1994 when Ron Bell, inspired after working with incarcerated women in Arizona through an Episcopalian ministries program, had the idea to teach sales and marketing skills to these women to help them reintegrate into society.

Jim Hooker, a former IBM employee seeking a more meaningful career path, joined forces with Bell and became president and CEO in 1995, steering Televerde toward becoming a global organization.

Today, Televerde operates centers in correctional facilities across Arizona, Indiana and Florida, with approximately 60% of its workforce comprising incarcerated women.

We see [the women] as a partner and an extension of the Watkins team. They bring ideas to the table to help us improve what we are doing. They go above and beyond.”

Cori Landwehr, Watkins Wellness

“Many of these women have never had a job in corporate America prior to joining Televerde,” says Kellie Walenciak, Televerde’s head of communications. “It’s very much building them from the ground up, giving them the knowledge, the tools and the support to build meaningful careers in the sales, marketing and technology space that will make them competitive in the labor market when they get out of prison.”

Watkins’ partnership with Televerde has been instrumental in enhancing dealer training and lead follow-up strategies, according to Cori Landwehr, senior manager of channel marketing for Watkins. Leveraging Televerde’s expertise, Watkins has added two women to its workforce, customizing their roles to cater to dealer support, training and onboarding.

“It’s hands-down the best partnership we’ve had,” Landwehr says. “Dealers call them for everything. They provide a great customer experience. They look forward to helping dealers do better. Their attitudes overall are remarkable.” 

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While Televerde is a for-profit company, it launched the Televerde Foundation in 2020, a nonprofit that provides job training, life skills and career readiness tools.

“I always describe it as picking up where the business leaves off,” Walenciak says. “So if Televerde is providing you the second-chance opportunity, the business acumen and the sales and marketing skills, [the foundation] comes in and focuses on providing those added safety nets.”

Televerde’s programs have allowed its graduates — more than 4,000 women since 1994 — to maintain a 5.4% re-offense rate, drastically lower than the national average rates of 44% within one year and 68% within three years.

One of the program’s graduates is Alisha Smith, who began working with Watkins while she was incarcerated and was hired as a full-time warranty representative upon release. 

“While I was incarcerated, Televerde gave me purpose and allowed me to stay connected with technology,” Smith says. “Watkins Wellness gave me a clear path to success and showed me that inclusion is a priority and that my value is not determined by the color I wore. The unwavering support, acceptance, guidance and encouragement from these companies have given me the means to provide for my family and the confidence to be proud of my unique story.”

Ashley McDonald, director of customer experience and revenue operations at Televerde, highlights the outstanding rapport with Watkins and invites engagement from other companies or individuals, including volunteering opportunities with the foundation for things like mock interviews and resume reviews.

“We see [the women] as a partner and an extension of the Watkins team,” Landwehr says. “They are working with us, not for us. They bring ideas to the table to help us improve what we are doing. They go above and beyond.”