Hiring. Multimedia. Entrepreneurship.
Those were some of the areas where ventures pitched recently by returning citizens in Georgetown’s Pivot Program are looking to bring new approaches. With $10,000 in funding on the line, the students presented their plans on June 25 in the third edition of the program’s pitch competition.
Pivot, which is run by the Georgetown business school, offers a certificate in business. Students spend half the program in school full-time in business classes, then spend three months in a work placement. Each cohort supports up to 20 students, and offers a weekly stipend from the D.C. Department of Employment Services. It’s available for individuals over the age of 25 with a high school diploma or GED who were incarcerated within the last two years.
In the second half of the year, students can choose either a venture incubation or permanent employment track. Incubation students, who build a business plan, are offered workspace and business services plus pitch coaching prior to the competition. Employment students receive a full-time internship. All can participate in the Pivot competition.
Pivot Program Academic Director Alyssa Lovegrove told Technical.ly that one of the goals of the program is for companies to take returning citizen entrepreneurs and job candidates more seriously. According to The Sentencing Project, one in three US adults over the age of 23 have been arrested.
“We’re talking about an enormous number of people potentially being denied employment if we don’t start to at least look beyond the conviction and evaluate the candidate,” Lovegrove said. “Part of what we’re trying to communicate to people is that there’s an enormous amount of talent out there, and we have tended not even to look at this population .”
Earning a $3,000 prize, Next Endeavour Diversity Staffing creators LaTasha Moore and Victoria Hunt were the winners of the competition. Moore and Hunt created Next Endeavor to focus on diversifying the workplace, with a particular focus on hiring returning citizens. To achieve this goal, Next Endeavour would partner with companies looking to expand in hiring and connect them with a database of formerly incarcerated individuals.
“A diverse workforce and inclusive employee culture are core business strengths,” Hunt said in a statement.
Lovegrove added that Moore and Hunt became interested in the idea in part due to their own personal experiences as candidates in professional work settings, where they saw the issue up close.
“We know that a lot of HR teams are very focused on diversity, and also have reached a point where they recognize that a lot of the conventional ways that they’ve gone about getting diversity into their companies isn’t working,” Lovegrove said.
Here are the rest of the pitch competition results:
First Runner-Up: Pascal Laporte, Tenpen ($2,500 prize)
- Tenpen connects returning citizen entrepreneurs with the customers they need to get a business off the ground. Laporte has already launched a beta site and expects to generate $100,000 in revenue the first year.
Second Runner-Up: Kaamilya Finley, Fresh Start ($1,500 prize)
- Finely’s company attempts to bridge any gaps in communication between reentry services, offering virtual information for returning citizens. The company is a completed online prototype, currently only in need of networking and advertising to get started.
Honorable Mentions ($1,000 prize)
- Charles Hopkins is the creator of Forgotten Voices, a multimedia platform for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people to share their stories.
- Ernest Bokyin III’s SURFACE, which stands for Supporting Underserved Remarkable Families to Achieve Cooperative Economics, makes it easier for donors to access and give to the families of incarcerated individuals.
- Equipt’d, created by Tai’Anthony Carter, is a vending machine service that would sell sports equipment at local parks and sports facilities.