Information and opportunity turned Kimani Davis from a felon into the owner of his own construction company.
Tragedy turned his knowledge and experience into a nonprofit program that offers underserved and minority job seekers tools that can help turn lives around, give second chances, and lead to employment and success.
Davis is the founder of YNOTU2.org, one of several groups that will be on hand Aug. 24 at a free small business conference held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at H.E. McCracken Middle School, 250 H.E. McCracken Circle off Buckwalter Parkway.
The event is sponsored by the South Carolina Commission for Minority Affairs, which helped Davis find employment, form a company and – seven years later – create his nonprofit.
Part of the commission’s mission is to support the social and economic development of minority communities by connecting communities, government agencies and other organizations.
Davis’s story, which he will share in full at the conference, really begins after his release from prison in 2005. He and his brother, Richard, had been arrested at the same time.
After serving his sentence, the first challenge Kimani had was to find a place to stay, and avoid the people and situations that sent him to prison.
“I was looking for a complete change,” Davis said. “I had no money and going back around those people, I felt like it was a negative influence. I learned my lesson quick.”
With the help of the commission, Davis found a job. A year later, he used his knowledge to create his own company, Mercy Contracting LLC.
“My first job was $6.50 an hour in Charleston. Construction seemed to be the only field that was most forgiving for people like me,” said Davis.
Since founding his own company, Davis has worked on projects that include mess halls at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, fitness centers at Shaw Air Force Base, and as a superintendent on the Columbia Fireflies Stadium.
His brother, who was released a few years later, had a more difficult time adjusting to his status. “He felt hopeless facing life as an ex-offender,” Davis said, “and returned to his former life.”
On Dec. 24, 2012, Richard Davis was murdered during an armed robbery.
In January 2013, Kimani Davis, with the help of the commission, created YNOTU2.org to honor his brother and help others get the information they need to get a second chance.
“What made me start the nonprofit organization was I had this ambition to show other people what I did, because nobody showed me,” he said.
Other groups at this conference will present information on diverse funding, federal bonding, work opportunity tax credit, opportunity zones and more. Vendors will be on hand to make their products and services available to the small business participants.
Registration begins at 7:30 a.m. and will include lunch. Space is limited and participants can register at blufftonsmbc19.eventbrite.com.
Gwyneth J. Saunders is a veteran journalist and freelance writer living in Bluffton.