(Photo by Flickr user kev-shine, used under a Creative Commons license)
Have you ever been arrested? Or have you ever at least done something that would have gotten you into serious trouble? Almost everyone has at one time made a decision that could have drastically changed the outlook of his or her life. Have you ever considered how different your life would be had you been incarcerated? What would your family think of you? Your friends?
More importantly, how difficult do you think it would be for you to get a job?
For over 100 million Americans, these are daily struggles, as 1 in 4 people have some kind of criminal record. Even after they have completed their sentences, negative stereotypes prevent them from making progress in today’s world. Admit it, wouldn’t you feel reluctant to hire someone with a criminal record?
Because it’s so hard to find jobs, it’s easy for these people to fall back on old habits. In fact, 75 percent of released inmates will be re-arrested, and 90 percent will be unemployed at that time.
But there is an organization looking to change everything and defy the hurdles that are placed in front of those needing a second chance — a small, talented team of legacy-breakers that believe in redemption. They are Defy Ventures, and their mission is clear: to help people become business owners and leaders in their communities.
— Michel A. Sayo (@HeySayo) September 16, 2015
Here are 3 ways Defy Ventures is accomplishing this:
1. Training and Mentorship
The same skills these formerly incarcerated men and women previously relied on to lead gangs or sell drugs — resourcefulness, a “hustler” mentality, influence, tenacity and the ability to lead — are the same skills that define some of the best CEOs and business leaders, and are directly related to success in sales, marketing and entrepreneurship. Defy transforms that energy into something positive using the slogan “Transform Your Hustle.”
Defy Ventures prepares their EITs (Entrepreneurs in Training) through an intensive, eight-month education program that pairs former inmates with business executives and active entrepreneurs. They learn business basics, like writing a business plan and preparing financial statements, then ultimately pitch their ideas in front of Fortune 500 companies and venture capitalists, Shark Tank-style. The goal? To win seed capital and fund their visions.
Recently backed by Google and other tech giants, Defy is leveraging technology to reach and connect its learning platform with as many former inmates as possible. Using online tutorials, webinars, videos and apps, they can connect their EITs to online course material and educators. Defy Ventures currently operates in 11 states, and just set up a new location on Mission Street in San Francisco.
3. Community and Support
Defy’s goal is to empower its students, help them prove that they can be more than ex-cons, and focus on the positive impact they can create for themselves and their families.
According to the organization’s website, as of September 2015 Defy’s impact has resulted in over 100 new businesses and 200 new jobs. Where the national average of re-arrest is 76 percent, the rate of Defy students is less than 3 percent.
In a country where the incarceration rate is the highest in the world, Defy is looking to transform lives through partnership and collaboration, as well as make business creation a part of the rebuilding process.