A paragon, according to a quick internet search, is a person or thing regarded as a model of excellence.
It’s a description that fits Jeremy Pacacha well. He’s an example of all the good that can come from second chances. Following high school and college, Pacacha was sentenced to a short stint in prison after what he calls a “stupid mistake.” Now, as the founder and education director for Nixa’s Paragon Powersports, Pacacha is eager to extend second chances to others who have served prison time.
“The problem with society today is that everybody assumes the worst in people,” Pacacha said. “I always had the desire to rise above. People don’t have to think that just because they do something stupid, it’s a death sentence.”
He remembers a man named Chris Rickerson, who owned Wichita, Kansas-based Elite Staffing Solutions. The company helped find Pacacha a job. Despite holding two associate degrees, Pacacha struggled to find steady work with a dark mark on his record.
“I had just had a baby. I was desperate,” Pacacha said. “(Rickerson) called me at like 10:30 at night and said, ‘Hey, I got a job for you tomorrow morning.’ He said, ‘They probably can’t hire you, because of your record, but you can work there a little while and then I’ll try to find you something else.’”
Pacacha arrived the next morning bright and early. He worked hard in his role, showing himself to be such a paragon that the president of the company made a policy exception so that Pacacha could be hired. Within another 90 days, he was promoted to second-level management. He worked there for five years when he began to think of doing more.
“I knew that I just couldn’t sit around while other people were having trouble,” Pacacha said. “If I had the opportunity to get them the help they needed, I was going to do it.”
It’s how his idea for Paragon was set in motion, and it’s the people who supported him when he really needed it most who are back to help with his company: his mom and stepdad, Sheila and James Boutwell.
“Jeremy is really good at dreaming,” Marketing Director Sheila Boutwell said. She is also the Regional Manager for the VetAssist Program of St. Louis-based Veterans Home Care. “Sometimes it takes the worst of the worst for you to think about it forever and do better.”
How it works
Paragon Powersports services all things fast: motorcycles, dirt bikes, four-wheelers and ATVs (different from one another, Pacacha argues), UTVs, and eventually—hopefully—personal watercraft and boats.
The company is housed out of a workshop behind an old house on Tracker Road. It’s roughly 3,500 square feet, though the property also holds another 7,000 square-foot garage and a smaller, 2,400 square-foot garage, in which Pacacha hopes to someday conduct Paragon’s marine projects. The company also keeps a trailer that holds all the equipment to service a bike. Pacacha calls it a “pop-up shop,” and he takes it with him every Tuesday night to Wacky Jack’s Grill and Saloon in Highlandville. Folks can eat and drink from 6-8 p.m. while their powersports toys are cared for. Paragon’s main focus is on the main garage for now, though.
“When we got here, this was covered in that black truck bedliner stuff,” Boutwell says.
It’s since seen a lot of progress. Sheila Boutwell hopes it will soon hold a showroom and retail area, a waiting area, a couple of bathrooms, upstairs offices and five workshop bays, which will support four interns and an instructor each.
“Then, we can also run two shifts. If we can get at least two percent of the market share in a nine-county area—which doesn’t seem like a lot—we would be able to run two shifts with that many interns,” Boutwell said. “You’re talking 20 interns per shift, so 40 interns in a day.”
The workshop’s upstairs area will also hold a full bathroom and kitchen.
“If some on our employees don’t have good facilities, they’ll actually be able to shower here and cook meals here,” Boutwell said.
It’s a deal for someone in need of a second chance, especially since Paragon’s tuition will be totally free. In addition, Pacacha hopes interns’ pay will begin at roughly $13 per hour. There will be room to grow—Paragon interns will be encouraged to move through four different levels of responsibility.
“We’ve taken a huge leap of faith to purchase all of this and say, ‘Let’s do it,’” Boutwell said. “Let’s focus on these people. Let’s see if we can partner with enough recovery organizations—because we’re not specialists. We don’t know anything about that. Let’s partner with whomever we can and let’s teach them a skill—a marketable skill that can change their lives.”
Pacacha says that many mechanics only beginning to enter what he calls a “felon-friendly” industry can make as much as $65,000 a year in Missouri. He plans to teach Paragon’s interns the same material he learned at Phoenix, Arizona-based Motorcycle Mechanics Institute.
“When they leave here, they’ll be able to work on any kind of powersports,” Pacacha says. “Not just a 10-year-old Harley. They’ll be able to restore whatever.”
Furthermore, customers will pay half the price they normally would for professional work, though all of Paragon’s repairs and other work will be double-checked by its professional instructors. Pacacha is currently doing Paragon projects on his own, however, raising money for the company.
“It’s going to be great,” Boutwell says.
“We’ve just got to get there,” Pacacha adds.
In an effort to get Paragon Powersports out of the shop and moving, Pacacha and the Boutwells are looking for help.
“Everything keeps falling into place,” Sheila Boutwell said. “But right now, we’re looking for an investor that really has our heart and can come and partner in beside us and give us an influx, so we can get some of this stuff done really quickly.”
After all, folks are eager. Word-of-mouth travels fast in a city like Nixa.
“People keep calling us. We’ve talked to some, because they just keep showing up on our doorstep,” Boutwell said. “As soon as somebody hears about the program, they’re telling their kid, or their friend’s kid, or their neighbor down the street or whatever.”
Pacacha hopes to begin training his first intern in the next 30-60 days.
“We aren’t so worried about what they already know, because that’s what we’re going to do is train them. What we want to know is their ‘why,’” Boutwell said. “’Why do you want this opportunity? Why do you want to break the cycle that you’ve been in? Why do you want your life to look different than it did 30 days ago, a year ago, five years ago?’ That’s more of the interview process for us: ‘How bad do you want it?’”
They hope that, someday, positions at Paragon will be competitive across the nation.
“My goal is 10 facilities across the United States in the next 10 years,” Pacacha says.
So, they keep spreading Paragon’s mission. In the near future, the family plans to speak at 1 Million Cups, an entrepreneurial event held regularly at the Springfield Art Museum. In the meantime, those looking for more information can reach Pacacha and Boutwell at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We need that steady business,” Boutwell says. “There’s a lot of dreams for Paragon and a lot of passion.”