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Former NC prisoner rebuilds his life while building a business

Aug 26, 2022

Lewis Whitmire proves what's possible with a Second Chance

What do you do when you've just been released from prison, you're living in a hotel room that someone else is paying for, and you only have $45 to your name?

Most people in that situation give up...not Lewis Whitmire.

"There was a Goodwill store right next to the hotel," Whitmire says, "and while I was in there one day buying clothes for myself I saw a set of rearview mirrors to mount on a truck that sold for $25. I went online to eBay and saw that the same set of mirrors regularly sold for three hundred dollars."

He bought the mirrors, opened an eBay account, promptly sold the mirrors and put himself on the path to self-sufficiency.

Whitmire, pictured below, returned to that Goodwill store with the money he made from selling those mirrors and bought other items to resell on eBay: clothes, CDs, stuffed animals, anything he thought he could flip. Nearly every penny of profit he used to buy more product, choosing to live off of peanut butter sandwiches rather than spend money on meals at the Hardees or Bojangles that were within walking distance to the hotel.

"I'd taken this really great entrepreneurship class at Catawba [Correctional Center] before my release [in 2019] and had drawn up all sorts of business plans while still incarcerated," Whitmire says, "but then the eBay thing took off and I eventually turned it into a full-time business."

Six weeks after his release from prison Whitmire had earned enough money through his new online store that he could rent a place to live in the Hickory area. His business, called Urban Archeologie, has doubled its profit margin every year and grown so much that he's had to rent office space and hire a part-time assistant. Huge bins full of clothes that have been washed, sorted and catalogued, fill entire rooms, while other areas of his office overflow with merchandise ready to ship to his customers, which average 100 a week.

"When I first started Urban Archeologie my goal was to make as much money as my parole officer," Whitmire says, then adds with a chuckle, "I passed that a long time ago."


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