After doing time in prison, many former inmates find themselves wondering where they will be able to find a job upon release. But the Prison Entrepreneurship Program teaches its graduates that finding a job isn’t necessary when you can start your own company.
Headquartered in Houston, Texas, each year the program picks inmates from 60 correctional institutions throughout Texas. Once chosen, the inmates are transferred to Cleveland’s 506-bed facility for a five month program where they experience top of the line business education from executive volunteers, MBA students and business professionals. Only about one out of 10 applicants are accepted every year.
Once accepted, PEP’s students are immersed in business learning from income statements to marketing and profit margins. For their final exam, they must present a 30-minute oral business plan in front of a judging panel of CEOs from across the nation.
Portfolio reports that Cedric Hombuckle was one of PEP’s successful students. After serving eight of 12 years for drug distribution, he was accepted into the program with less than a year before his parole.
Now that he’s graduated from the program, he’s been able to start and grow Moved by Love, his moving company based in Houston.
PEP’s guidance extends to the former inmates even after they graduate. They are given access to programs that help with housing, clothing, transportation and medical care. Graduates can also use PEP’s business center in Houston.With the help of PEP’s tight knit support system, Hombuckle was able to get a $5800 loan and bought his first moving truck. He now has three trucks and has hired other PEP graduates.
Not all of PEP’s graduates share the same story of triumph. PEP’s chief development officer Ralph Wheeler discloses that about 90 of the 700 graduates have started a successful business. Out of those businesses, 84 percent are in operation two years later.
But PEP’s graduates still have a strong track record for outside employment as well as a low rate of repeat offenses. Wheeler says that this is what also makes the program a success. Wheeler shares that giving business knowledge to convicted felons isn’t such a hard or radical task as many already “know about the distribution of product, managing people, inventory and pricing.”
Many were entrepreneurs from the start. The program is now simply helping them to use their skills for the good of the community.