Processing Your Payment

Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.

Updated: March 20, 2023 / 2023 Business Leaders of the Year

Business Leaders: Margo Walsh uses life experience and persistence to place workers with a history

Photo / Tim Greenway Margo Walsh, founder of MaineWorks
Margo Walsh Entrepreneur of the Year The 2023 Business Leaders of the Year  
More Information

The concept behind the name MaineWorks is deceptively simple: Put people to work, right? But in the world led by CEO Margo Walsh, it’s a little more complicated.

Her for-profit B-Corp reaches out to those on the margins that society may want to cast off, such as people who’ve been incarcerated and those in recovery. Walsh’s decision to put alcohol on a shelf was a catalyst behind Maineworks.

“I was a small-time girl from Cumberland who got sober in ‘97 is what happened,” she says about the company’s lift-off. But serendipity had a hand as well.

Because her model is truly unique, as the only program of its kind in the country, Walsh is often in the spotlight. It’s a place she tries to step out of, with mixed success.

“I’m just the idea person,” she insists, sitting in front of a wall of oversized photos of MaineWorks employees taken by her close friend and photographer, Joanne Arnold. “They run the show.”

“They” are the roughly half dozen men who make up the leadership team, including Business Manager Cecil Solaguren and Operations Manager Wes “Buddy” Salvucci.

Walsh, who was named a Mainebiz Woman to Watch in 2014, fondly calls MaineWorks’ base of operations on Forest Avenue “the island of lost boys.”

“The ship sank and everybody’s on the lifeboat,” Walsh says of her close-knit crew.

Mainebiz: You worked in the investment banking division at Goldman Sachs. It seems like a big stretch to go from that to establish a place like MaineWorks.

Margo Walsh: Building on my first internship at Bankers Trust, where I was doing a project about hiring for diversity in 1986, I was part of founding diversity initiatives at both Goldman Sachs and Hewitt Associates. At Goldman Sachs in Connecticut, I founded a roundtable on diversity and I loved it. It was me taking an interest in the people being left out. When I started MaineWorks my intention was to support the most marginalized people who, in this country, are people with felony convictions. From that premise, our hiring has expanded to include other marginalized populations. All of these groups are easily exploited by traditional day labor staffing models, and it was my intention to dignify this type of employment.

MB: How did that play into your decision to start Maineworks?

MW: Really, the impetus was, I was put in a world of service work as part of my recovery. By 2000 I was back in Maine and I volunteered at the Cumberland County Jail at the Milestone wet shelter. I noticed young men in pre-release; most had felonies from Maine State Prison. They’d end up working at Denny’s — it was right next door. I knew people in the construction industry. So I said, ‘I’ll hire them. The only requirement is, they had to be felons.’ It was a disruptive business model. I wanted to do something absolutely against the grain.

MB: How did you assemble your team?

MW: It’s organic. We didn’t recruit anybody; they all walked in off the street with lived experience.

MB: Why did you start a for-profit business instead of a nonprofit?

MW: We put people to work in construction because it’s merit-based. It’s not a charity case. It’s the only program of its kind in the country. I had the idea and an unbelievable optimism about humanity. It’s a perpetual half-glass full. [Wesley Salvucci, the field operations manager, chimes in: “Even people in recovery want to be on their own.”]

MB: What’s your business model? You were the first certified B-Corp in Maine in 2019, which legally obligates you to consider the impact your business decisions have on stakeholders and workers. Does that inform your mission?

MW: My business model is growing a social enterprise network, i.e., like a bakery we sell a product — people. It’s a very B-Corp philosophy.

MB: Is this your final act?

MW: God, no. I have so much to do. We have to connect the billions of dollars available from well-intentioned philanthropy and get people off the streets. That’s my next thing.

Photo / Tim Greenway
From left, Reilley Lombardi, Allied-Cook and former MaineWorks employee; Margo Walsh, founder of MaineWorks; Adam Redhair, MaineWorks; and Wesley Salvucci, field operations manager at MaineWorks.

Sign up for Enews

Related Content


Order a PDF