Our mission is to assist people with a criminal background in starting their own business by providing entrepreneurship education through in-person and online courses.
Our vision is to reduce the rate of recidivism in the United States by providing a path to financial stability and success.
About the Problem
Every year, over 600,000 people will leave prison and attempt to rejoin their neighbors as productive members of society. Despite seeking employment at rates higher than the general population, formerly incarcerated individuals are half as likely to get a job because of their incarceration and face unemployment rates five times the national average. In the Google era, a simple web search ensures that no one can ever truly escape their past.
The discrimination that these would-be employees experience perpetuates a cycle of economic insecurity that forces many to return to illegal activities just to survive. It is unsurprising then that nearly two thirds of formerly incarcerated individuals find themselves back in prison in just three years. Inmates to Entrepreneurs is dedicated to helping people with criminal backgrounds start their own small businesses with free in-person and online education.
Entrepreneurship allows individuals to start their own business and rise above the systemic discrimination they face in the job market. Our work through Inmates to Entrepreneurs provides the education that individuals with a criminal background need to rise above the stigma associated with their conviction and create a path to economic opportunity. We strive to put an end to the revolving door of prisons and reverse the societal harms of recidivism.
In 1992, two great friends, Brian Hamilton and Reverend Robert J. Harris, started working at prisons to teach inmates how to start their own small businesses. Harris had been doing ministry work at the prisons, and Hamilton tagged along to a session to see the work his buddy was doing.
Why help inmates start their own business?
Hamilton recognized that many employers, if not all employers, would be reluctant to hire people who were formerly incarcerated. Putting himself in the frame of mind of someone in this situation, Hamilton’s thought was: why bother trying to get a job that does not exist — start a business instead.
29 Years Later
29 years later, what began as an adventure of two friends is becoming a national nonprofit, supported by the Brian Hamilton Foundation, dedicated to helping people start their own businesses.
Why do we use the term Inmates? We use the term Inmates because this was an accepted term at the time of our inception. Plus, it is easy to follow. We respect the accepted term of “judicially involved”, but it is a little long and not always universally understood.
Out of respect to changing terms that might be less damaging to people, aside from our name, we strive to use terms that place less of a stigma on people who have been in prison.
We are intimately aware of the systematic discrimination placed on not just those who have been incarcerated, but on the millions of people who have lesser charges but who have not been physically imprisoned.
The social injustice is massive, affecting people who have committed crimes and those who have to foot the bill for a system that is clearly broken terribly.
What People Are Saying
The great thing about Inmates to Entrepreneurs is that it takes you through the basics. You have $100 in your pocket, you’re going to hire yourself, what do you do? Let’s keep it simple, not everything you do has to cost money. How do you spend the initial money to grow your business? Thankfully, I have some financial backing but still, the course teaches how to bootstrap a business from the bottom up without spending a ton of money. It’s practical.View Programs
Inmates to Entrepreneurs gave me the confidence and information I needed to start my own Commercial Cleaning Business. Listening to the men who have similar histories talk about their experiences in starting and being successful in their own business was encouraging and practical. The opportunity to work with an instructor who understands the challenges of starting and growing a business with little to no start-up costs is extremely valuable and will be a huge asset to growing my company.View Programs
Being an instructor with Charlotte's Inmates to Entrepreneurs (I2E) program allows me to empower aspiring entrepreneurs with the business tools that they need to be successful in our society. This notion is powerful because our I2E program strengthens not only our city, but also our state and country at large. All of the program participants that I have worked with in the I2E program are intelligent, industrious, and warm-hearted. They also have some of the most innovative business ideas that I have seen throughout my career as a business owner.Become an Instructor