6 African American Women Making Their Way As Social Entrepreneurs

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The recidivism rate in the United States is among the highest in the world. It’s a perpetual cycle of criminals going to prison, released into a community that has little or no jobs for convicted felons, and within three years, a return to prison. Brenda Palms Barbar of Chicago aims to break the cycle.

Ms. Barbar set out to tackle this enormous problem and ran into the same problem that so many convicted felons encountered: employers who refused to hire people with criminal records. Rather than turning her back on those in need, she started her own organization and hired convicted felons herself. Through her aptly named Sweet Beginnings, she became employer to those she sought to help by hiring felons to produce her skin-care products. Barbar’s efforts have begun to pay dividends as the recidivism rate for those she hires is less than 4 percent compared with the national average of 65 percent.

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