126. How Does Entrepreneurship Turns Former Criminals Into Innovators?

People make mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes are more severe than others and because of all the laws in our country, some result in nonviolent offenders spending years in jail and struggle to find jobs when they reenter society. But entrepreneurship is giving former offenders a second chance at a prosperous life.

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Here’s a transcript of our conversation:

Connor: Hey, Brittany.

Brittany: Hi, Connor.

Connor: You know, we’ve talked about entrepreneurship a lot on this show. It’s a fun topic for both of us, and we often talk about how it makes the world, you know, a better place. It helps, customers or consumers find better products and services and better prices for those products and services, you know, but there’s another aspect to it as well that I really like and I know you do as well. So, I’m excited to get into this, today, and it’s this opportunity to give people a second chance at life, especially people who have made mistakes in their past. You know, I’ve done a lot of work for Libertas Institute on what’s called criminal justice reform. In other words, if someone breaks the law, you know, should we throw ’em in jail forever? Or should we try and find a way to help them kind of overcome their challenges and, not, commit a crime? Again, this is a really important topic to me, and it really impacts a lot of people. And, the government has passed so many laws, you know, a lot of laws that kind of ruin people’s life. Yeah. Even after they commit, you know, one mistake. And once someone gets into the prison system, it’s very hard to get out. In fact, you may get out, let’s say you’re only there for a year, but then you continue to be punished because you then have to tell everyone you’re a criminal, or you’re restricted from owning a gun or renting a home, or, you know, getting a job. And it really complicates your life. These punishments turned into, you know, very prolonged consequences. And you know, if people don’t have a job, they can’t find somewhere to live, and many of them end up on the streets, or sadly, a lot of them will go commit more crime just to, you know, earn money, quote-unquote, just to find, you know, enough money to scrape by. And so they turn to a life of crime because kind of the traditional, you know, job market and so forth, is very attached to that government punishment. And if you’ve been punished, then you know, that consequence carries over into whether people wanna hire you or not.

Brittany: Sometimes people even prefer to go back to jail. I’ve seen this happen cause I’ve also done a lot of work in this area because at least they have a meal and a house, right? Because it’s, or housing, it’s so hard, but it’s a really sad situation. but one positive side to this is entrepreneurship is actually helping these individuals, individuals rebuild their life. And I mean, we all know, like, it, entrepreneurship allows you to be your own boss, right? So if you can’t get hired somewhere because of your criminal record, you can always start your own business. And I know that’s not easy, that takes money, but there is one great example, and I think I’ve had the opportunity to interview this man. I’ve interviewed so many people on this topic, I can’t even keep it straight, but his name is Coss Marte. And my organization that I used to work for, we did a lot of work with him, and he started a gym called Con Body. And I love the name because for our listeners that don’t know, we don’t, people try not to use this word anymore, but Excon is what you use for people getting out of the prison system. So he used it and he took a spin on it. You know, we talked about the Greatest Showman, how somebody called his actus circus as an insult, right? And then he took it and made it as a positive. So that’s kind of what Coss Marte did. so it actually kind of plays up, you know, that he spent time in jail. but it gets better than that. He actually uses the techniques that he used to prison to get in shape. So that’s part of the training program is he did what he did like without all the gear, right? Because there are, there are gyms in prison, but they’re not as good as like a Gold’s Gym you’re gonna go to, you know, in, in your own town. But that gave him a second chance. And more so than that, he only hires other ex-cons or formal felons as like the political correct term these days. but same thing. but he’s offering, you know, other criminals a second chance at life. So entrepreneurship is literally helping him and others stay out of jail. So, you know, this is just one example of so many companies that are doing this right now.

Connor: There’s another example that comes to mind, and I actually didn’t know this story, until after I had been, a customer for a while. There’s this, type of bread called Dave’s Killer Bread, I love that. And the founder Dave, he comes from a kind of a family of bakers. but he ended up in prison for 15 years. And while he was behind bars, he, you know, he, was determined to turn his life around. He wanted to create a better life for himself. After he was released, he gets outta prison, you know, so his brother lets him come back to the family bakery basically gives him a job, but, you know, anyone can bake bread. he didn’t want just a job. He realized that he wanted to stand out. He wanted to do something bigger. And you know, like entrepreneur entrepreneurs know, you have to, you have to be different somehow. Yeah. You have to stand out from the competition if you wanna succeed. And so he decided to start baking this bread that, you know, would be organic. it would be made with nuts and seeds, and it would be kind of a healthier option. And his bread started to take off, but he decided he was on more than, just kind of this quest of entrepreneurship. He was like a man on a mission and he wanted to impact people just like him, or in similar situations. And so he decided, I guess just like this, the story you shared, yeah. He was only going to employ former felons or criminals who needed a second chance at life so that they wouldn’t end up on the street so that they wouldn’t be tempted to, you know, commit crime again and just land back in jail. He wanted these people to get up on their feet and, make something of their lives. And now this company is huge. Like I say, I just, you know, my wife, got the bread at the store and we started using it. And, I had no idea about this story. So the company’s really big, and it got that way because, you know, he was hiring these people who were desperate to turn, their lives around. And that’s what, you know, entrepreneurship for Dave. But then, you know, creating, I mean the, one of the great things about entrepreneurship is it creates jobs. You know, you’re basically, growing and you need other people’s help. And so he decided he needed the help of the people who needed to help themselves. And it ended up creating this really good kind of win-win situation to help people who wanted to turn their life around just like he did.

Brittany: I think there’s a really big problem in our society too because there’s a stigma, stigma’s kind of like a bad association with former criminals, and we’re scared to let them back in our society. But one thing I think you mentioned, in the beginning, is there’s so many laws that it’s kind of hard not to break a law in some way, right? So we shouldn’t be judging every single former criminal, you know, the same. And a lot of them are in prison for committing non-violent crimes, so they’re not hurting anybody, a lot. We call them victimless crimes. I think our older episode about, the government telling you what you could put into your body, we talked about a lot of people who were behind bars simply because they chose to, you know, use a plant as medicine. And so they didn’t hurt anybody, but they’re still, in jail, some of them for years and years, decades. So with these people are bound to break the sauce, but entrepreneurship is really offering these people a second chance that I don’t think they’re gonna get anywhere else.

Connor: One thing that’s kind of interesting too is that there are some people who are trying to, help people in prison before they even get out. There’s one group in particular called, Defy Ventures, and they go into prisons and they teach entrepreneurship to inmates. And I’ve actually, I’ve toured, a prison and.

Brittany: I’ve been wanting to do that. That’s very interesting. That’s kind of on my list.

Connor: And, you know, there’s little jobs that they can have in there and, you know, they’re, they’re making the prison clothes or they’re doing the license plates, or, in the prison that I toured, they had this massive wood shop. Hmm. And they were learning how to make tables and furniture and then, you know, that would be sold and they would be able to earn a little bit of money and, you know, to pay for things at the commissary and so forth. But more important,

Brittany: Explain, what a commissary is. Cause I don’t know if our, yeah, if all our listeners know.

Connor: It’s basically like a little store inside the prison. So if they want some, you know, treats or they want, you know, some paper and pen or things like that, it’s an opportunity for, if they have money or their family deposits money in their account, they have an ability to get some things that they might want to pass the time. a little bit more, enjoyably. And so there’s these jobs, in prison at the prison that I toured. different prisons do things differently, but more important than, you know, being able to earn a little bit of money, they’re not paid very much. Yeah. was the fact that they’re learning a new skill, and especially I think of these furniture makers, they were making really nice pieces, of furniture. And when released from prison, all of a sudden they have a new skill that, you know, again, it may be hard for them to find a job, cuz if some many employers are just like, oh, nope, you’ve got a criminal background, we’re not hiring you. But then there are people, like the stories that we’ve shared where they’re actively trying to help these people, get off the street, get on their feet. And so those are opportunities that exist. But I would say that they’re few and far between. Right? I think that most employers are just going to rule out, people who have a criminal background. And that’s why entrepreneurship is amazing. Imagine one of these people who, learn how to make furniture and they can’t find a job doing it with someone else. So they start their own company. Yeah. Right. You can be your own boss if you’ve got a troubled background. If you’ve got a, you know, messy financial situation or whatever, anyone can try their hand at being an entrepreneur. And that’s what I think is exciting about the, like this group to Defi Ventures, going in there and teaching entrepreneurship to people who perhaps need it the most. Right? They, and, many of them are like the hungriest, right? To try and like, bootstrap themselves, and build their life. And, these are people who could really benefit from this, type of information. This organization was started by this lady named Catherine. And, teaches people about entrepreneurship to try and change their lives. Their website says I wish we would ask ourselves what would it be like if I was only known for the worst thing I’ve done Moved by empathy. We would recognize people for who they are today and not for the mistakes they made yesterday. Millions with criminal histories would unlock their potential.

Brittany: I love that.

Connor: She’s saying, you know, it’s easy to kind of label someone cuz they were in prison. Like, oh, you’re a bad person, but I’m not. But we’ve all done, you know, bad things. Yeah. And many of us have done criminal-level bad things and just not been caught And I mean.

Brittany: You actually bring up a good point. I wanna sneak in real quick about Defy Ventures, and that is they do an exercise the first day they go into a prison called Step to the Line. I may have said that wrong, but that’s the principle of it. And they have the Defy Ventures people on one side, the ones who aren’t in prison, and they have the prisoners who’ve qualified for the program on the other, and they ask them about certain things. Have you ever done this step to the line? Have you ever done this step to the line? And by the end, they’re all almost unequal. It’s not all crimes, right? But a lot of them are like, have you ever, you know, used cannabis things like this? And they, by the end, they’re all almost to the line.

Connor: Have you ever lied to someone? I mean, how many of us would?

Brittany: Right? How many of us wouldn’t make it to that line? So it’s a really good visual representation of, oh, we all do this stuff, but some of us get caught and some of us don’t.

Connor: Yeah. I was, chuckling before you chimed in because I just had this flashback memory. when I was younger, I had a problem with stealing.

Brittany: Really, I would not have guessed.

Connor: I was a klepto. And, I had one job in particular at a grocery store.

Brittany: Oh, Dear.

Connor: Kind of funny for me to remember, but I, you know, I wasn’t caught and I, you know, changed my behavior. And, at one point in the future, I sent some money anonymously back to this grocery store to apologize. But on my sweeping rotations going up and down the aisle, my strongest temptation was the jelly belly aisle where, you know, those open lids with the scoops, right?

Brittany: Pre COVID. right?

Connor: Pre COVID. And, you know, I would reach my hand in there and sneak a pocket full of jelly beans to make the rest of my sweeping rotation more enjoyable. And there were other instances like that. I struggled with that as a teenager. And, but I was never caught. I never went to juvenile detention. I never developed a record. and, you know, I was able to change my behavior, move on and, imagine if things had gone differently if I got caught if some prosecutor wanted to throw the book at me if they wanted to make an example of me, what my life trajectory would’ve been. And you know, what if Connor, author of the Tuttletwins books instead was, you know, branded his whole life as Connor, this horrible person who steals things, stay away from him, don’t give him a job he might steal from you. And so I really like that point that they, made on their website that, you know, we shouldn’t be known for the worst things we’ve done. We’ve all done bad things. There’s an opportunity to change, to move on to improve your life. And so I think entrepreneurship plays into that.

Brittany: Yeah, I think, I mean, entrepreneurship, and we’ve said this so many times on this show, but is one of the most powerful tools for transformation just in general. And you don’t have to be a former criminal to see this. You know, we’ve told stories all throughout our series of people who’ve bettered their lives because of entrepreneurship, and not only bettered their lives, they bettered other people’s lives. You know you said your wife buys, Dave’s killer bread. That’s great. Like, and it’s healthy bread, right? You’ve improved your own life. So it’s, again, entrepreneurship is just one of the most amazing tools for change we have.

Connor: Love it. Well, as always, guys, make sure that you are, subscribed, to the podcast. You can head to Tuttletwins.com/podcast, to find the show notes for all of our recent episodes. We appreciate, as always, all of you listening, make sure to share the podcast with a friend. we’d appreciate it. Thanks for listening. Until next time, Brittany, we’ll talk to you later.

Brittany: Talk to you later.

 

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