Founded by Sara Knoester in June 2012, Mixed Staffing and Recruiting was built on the passion for connecting diverse talent to meaningful employment opportunities in West Michigan. Knoester started building the company with $2,000 and a $5,000 investment, with her being the only employee until hiring her first team members in 2014. Today, the company has nine internal employees and over 400 external employees serving over 30 clients in the West Michigan region. To date, they've employed over 4,000 people.
As the company celebrates 10 years in business, we caught up with Knoester, who serves as President of the company, to learn more about what she's most proud of and where she hopes to go from here.
West Michigan Woman: What sets Mixed Staffing and Recruiting apart and makes it unique?
Sara Knoester: Mixed Staffing is a Certified Woman-Owned business. We are passionate about helping people and getting to know those we place on assignment. Unlike other agencies, we have a strict screening process, interviewing and on-boarding. We do not just place bodies like a manufacturing line; we slow down the process and ensure people we hire are going to be long-term employees.
The one thing we hear most about Mixed Staffing from our clients is that they can see how much we care about our employees and our clients. We do not discriminate on employee backgrounds and we believe in removing barriers for people that find it difficult obtaining gainful employment. Mixed Staffing takes a more "person-centered" approach to staffing, making sure that applicants feel valued and are matched up with a job where they can thrive and become a valued member of a company. We communicate thoroughly with our clients to ensure that they get quality employees who fit their company culture.
WMW: What main factors do you think have contributed to your growth over the last 10 years?
SK: One of the key factors in our growth over the past 10 years has been our team's commitment to our employees and our clients. Our dedication to both has given Mixed Staffing a good reputation within the community and I think people see that and know that when they choose Mixed, they are going to work with a company that lives its mission and will work tirelessly to meet the needs of our partners and do so with the utmost integrity. In addition to our service, our advocacy for those who face barriers to employment has helped us contribute to the growth because it allows us to tap into a larger pool of talent. For example, we've employed over 4,000 people in West Michigan, 65% of which have been returning citizens, 10% have been military veterans, 14% are those where English is their second language (or non-English speaking), and 7% have been those with disabilities.
Failure was never an option for me when I started the company over 10 years ago. I wanted it to mirror my own passion and drive for helping others and I truly believe that it has and people can see that, which has been a big part of our success and growth. I would also be remiss if I didn't say that another key factor to our growth has been my husband. He's been such a big advocate for me and Mixed Staffing & Recruiting!
WMW: How would you say that challenges presented because of the pandemic have changed your business moving forward? How has it encouraged you and the business to evolve?
SK: That's a great question. The pandemic changed things for us just like it did almost every business. It was very scary as a business owner not knowing what was going to come of it. I had to do some real soul searching but after a few hours of worrying, I think I was more determined than ever to make it through.
It afforded me the time to reevaluate some processes, moving to more automated and streamline systems, work on more strategic partnerships and also to gather tons of data, which was so important moving forward and really validating all the work we had done as a company prior to the pandemic. We took a completely paper onboarding process and in-person business to digital in about 10 days. We had no job orders, no employees and no idea what we were doing. We took this as an opportunity to rebrand and focus on customer service, providing additional services and never looked back. In addition, working with people is really challenging; it is not an easy job or industry.
WMW: When looking back on the last 10 years of business, what makes you most proud?
SK: In looking at the last 10 years of business, I'm most proud of never giving up. I started Mixed Staffing at 24 years old without any money or knowledge of what I was doing. I'm proud to know that through a positive attitude, perseverance and determination, I never gave up. I'm proud that we advocate for those who face barriers to employment. I'm a born leader who advocates for those who don't often have a voice that is heard.
Along the way, I've overcome many, many hurdles and hardships but because of God, and my desire to help and my passion for people, I'm able to overcome each and every one of these obstacles. Fast forward 10 years and Mixed Staffing has seen its biggest growth yet in the past two years, despite a pandemic and surging unemployment rates. I'm proud that we've grown 96.38% in the last year. I'm proud of the over 4,000 people we've employed, the reputation we've built and the relationships we've gained. I'm so proud to be in the 49507 area code, and the first and only agency here. I'm proud of my team, my family and business growth.
WMW: Where do you see yourself and your business 10 years from now?
SK: In the next 10 years, we hope to expand throughout Michigan and maybe even beyond. I hope that we are able to continue advocating for those who face barriers to employment. In addition, I hope we can be a part of a larger scope that challenges others facing a labor shortage to change their mindset, look at their job descriptions and evaluate their hiring practices. I hope we are able to grow 10 times, and continue to make a difference in the world by providing great partnerships to employers and great customer service to our employees.
To commemorate 10 years of business, Mixed Staffing and Recruiting is hosting a celebration on July 21 from 3 – 5 p.m. for past, current, and future clients at the Linc Up Gallery, located at 1167 Madison Ave SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49507. RSVP here.
To learn more about Mixed Staffing, visit Mixed Staffing and Recruiting.
Written by Sarah Suydam, Managing Editor for West Michigan Woman.
Photos Courtesy of Mixed Staffing and Recruiting.