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Debbie Isaacs

Founder and president, Unshakeable, Henderson, Nevada

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Stephen Voss

​I started Unshakeable in 2016 to guide women in Clark County, Nevada, who are recovering from domestic violence, human trafficking, addiction and homelessness to return to the workforce and achieve financial independence. After completing rehabilitation programs, the women we serve struggle to launch a career that will provide sustainable employment and financial independence. Among our clients, 94 percent of the women earn less than $15,000 annually when they start the program.

The problem I’m trying to solve  

Women coming out of these circumstances suffer from economic vulnerability, which is tied with emotional vulnerability. If these are not treated, these women are susceptible to going back to the circumstances they came from or falling for people who prey on them, whether it’s an abusive partner or a trafficker.

We never want a woman to have to choose between paying her electric bill and putting food on the table or buying diapers for her baby. It’s hard to get someone to think about going to work when they don’t have a bed to sleep in or they can’t read a job application because they need glasses but can’t afford them. We address the barriers, both emotional and physical, for example, that many of these women face, such as having gaps in their employment, criminal records, transportation problems or child care challenges.

The moment that sparked my passion

In 2009, I was working as a freelance producer developing pitch reels for reality TV shows to sell to networks. My husband had just passed away and I was struggling to find a reason to get dressed in the morning.

One day, I was sitting in the back of the Women in Need of Change specialty court in Las Vegas, which helps chronic women offenders get a second chance in life. The judge had asked women what they were willing to put into the program and what they were hoping to get out of it. They said things like, “I want to be able to look into the mirror and brush my teeth without feeling ashamed” and “I’m just grateful that I can wake up and recognize the same ceiling for more than one day.” After five or six of these, I was ugly crying because I realized that I and many of my girlfriends had experienced feelings of not being worthy or not belonging at some point in our lives. That’s when I realized there’s a gap between these women’s rescue, residency, recovery and the rest of it. I went in wanting to tell their story and left wanting to change it.

What I wish other people knew

All of these traumas can happen to anyone, in any town. With addiction and trafficking, there’s often this attitude of, “Well, they can just stop.” It’s not that easy; it’s not a simple choice of turning it off. We work with a population that might not make cute posters asking for help, but these women are real. They’re somebody’s daughter, mother, sister or aunt — and they deserve a chance to change their story.

Advice to others who want to make a difference

Don’t wait to develop a certain skill set. Do what you know and do what you’re passionate about. I am an ordinary person who had a passion to help people and did what I knew how to do, which is build relationships.

Why my approach is unique

Unshakeable partners with business leaders to offer in-person workshops through our Empower to Employ program. It helps women make choices for themselves from a place of strength and explore career paths that leverage their talents and passions regardless of their education.

We’re guiding them toward a career, not just a job. During individual career development sessions, career coaches assess clients’ interests and skills, identify barriers to employment, schedule job-shadowing experiences, and assist with employment applications and preparing for interviews. We provide at least two years of continuous support to our clients.

We are currently targeting to have 110 women work with us in 2022, and we have a growth goal to increase the number of clients we serve by 25 percent annually. We really stay in our lane by focusing on helping women build a career and financial independence and create a vision for themselves. Once they have that vision, there’s no stopping them. We’re focused on providing the last part of what full recovery looks like. 

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