Sheri Munsell is a firm believer that working from home can be a blessing for individuals with mental health struggles, and she is on a mission to make it possible for more people.
Munsell is founder and CEO of Grand Rapids-based Legit Work from Home Jobs LLC, a job-finding service established in 2019, and the nonprofit Hope Gain Network, founded in 2020, which offers remote career training, advocacy and support, and soon will be launching an online database of companies that are friendly to employees with mental health challenges.
Both enterprises were inspired by Munsell’s own career journey. As she wrote on the “About Us” page at hopegain.org, she struggled to hold down a job for many years because her anxiety and depression made it difficult to leave the house. It wasn’t until 2011 that she found her first paid work-from-home opportunity, which allowed her to work in her own safe space and ultimately reduced the frequency of her depressive episodes over time.
Munsell started Legit Work from Home Jobs as a free Facebook group while she continued to work from home in customer service. She wanted to help others find the peace and joy she was experiencing via remote work.
Ultimately, with the advice and support of a SCORE mentor, she realized she could transform the Facebook group into a business that offers step-by-step help to finding remote work. People can do as many of the individually priced steps as they want to assist them in their career-finding journey.
The steps are as follows:
- Choosing the right equipment (a free consulting service)
- Work from home training video ($15 one-time pricing)
- Resume templates ($10 one time)
- Monthly job search ($10/month)
- Application walkthrough ($20 one time)
- Interviewing skills video ($10 one time)
- One-on-one coaching ($150 an hour)
Munsell said Legit Work from Home Jobs is different than the plethora of job boards that are out there.
“One of the (differences is) the expertise, but also being able to have everything in one place,” she said. “With the way that we structured our company, you will be able to get a list of equipment that you’ll need, you will be able to get the job search, you’ll be able to get the resume, you’ll be able to get training, you’ll be able to get all of the things you need from start to finish for being able to find work from home, and it really holistically approaches the work-from-home journey, which many job boards don’t do. They have a very straight focus on just searching and finding a job, and after that, there’s really no support for you.”
Munsell said so far, she has supported thousands of people in their work-from-home journey. Typical careers people have found include customer service; management; data entry; technical support; medical billing, coding and scheduling; nursing; web development; graphic design; marketing and branding; and the list goes on. Many of the jobs are in the $13-$15 per hour range, but the roles that require specialized skills can pay anywhere from $30,000-$80,000 and up in annual salaries.
The Legit Work from Home Facebook groups — there’s a main page plus several subgroups — currently have tens of thousands of members in total. Munsell said while the online community was growing at about 1,500 members a week before the pandemic, it is now adding about 2,300 members per week.
Munsell, who recently quit her customer service job to manage the business and the nonprofit, gets help from 14 volunteer moderators who offered to be part of the effort out of a passion for the work. “It’s by choice, surprisingly enough, and I’m grateful and thankful for the support,” she said of her helpers.
After starting her Legit Work from Home Jobs Facebook group in 2018 and incorporating the LLC in 2019, Munsell was hearing from more and more people with a similar story of living with mental illness and needing support, so eight months ago, in addition to her business, she launched Hope Gain Network. Through a volunteer board of directors who have training in the fields of psychology, psychiatry and counseling, the nonprofit offers support and training for individuals, both in their mental health journey and as they look for the best remote work fit. Some clients struggle with mental illness, while others are parents or caregivers of children who have mental illnesses.
Currently, the nonprofit is working to develop a mentorship program and a Companies That Care Database of workplaces that are “champions” for employees with mental health issues. Fundraising for those services is underway, and people can donate at hopegain.org. Hope Gain also receives support from United Way, as well as government grant funding, and Munsell puts 20% of the profits from Legit Work from Home Jobs LLC into the nonprofit, as well.
Currently, Hope Gain operates from Munsell’s home, but she is working to secure office space in downtown Grand Rapids. She said a name change and an expansion is in the works, with the eventual goal of opening branches in multiple cities. She is currently looking for social media and project management volunteers to help manage Hope Gain’s growth.
Munsell said it’s difficult to express how lifechanging it has been to help people through Hope Gain and Legit Work from Home Jobs LLC.
“We’re just really amazed by all the people who have come to us who have used one of the services and have said they felt like, before they used the service, that they were completely helpless and that they were never going to be able to find work. Those are the kind of stories that really mean the most to us, when we see people who just really have been completely down and out (find hope).
“I know for me, when I was feeling like I couldn’t work, my only option was to attempt suicide, and I did that three times. I talk to people every day who are in that same boat, where they really feel like they have no hope, and they have no other option. When we tell them that we can work with you, we can walk you through this, you can get back to work, you can find a long-lasting career, because we have all of these examples of people that can, it just gives them so much energy, and it gives them so much hope that they didn’t have before, and so we know that the work that we’re doing is extremely important and vital.”
People can learn more about the business by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and more about the nonprofit by contacting email@example.com.