Inmates to Entrepreneurs is a nonprofit that provides free entrepreneurship training and mentorship to people with a criminal record. While the program launched and has been very active in the Raleigh area since 2008 (and, informally, even before that), the organization just opened a Charlotte chapter in 2018. Its first free 8-week entrepreneurship course in Charlotte started on Tuesday, July 10.
Inmates to Entrepreneurs is the brainchild of tech entrepreneur Brian Hamilton, who just sold Sageworks, the country’s first fintech and the largest provider of software to U.S. banks, to Silicon Valley private equity juggernaut Accel-KKR. He’s now turned his focus to growing Inmates to Entrepreneurs nationally. Brian has always been passionate about helping entrepreneurs. In fact, decreasing the rate of small business failure was the reason he developed the Sageworks software in the first place. He’s also a regular contributor to the National Dialogue on Entrepreneurship and Finance. He writes for Inc. and Entrepreneur magazines and is regularly tapped by CNBC, Fox, and MSNBC for discussions on related topics.
So, why is entrepreneurship a good option for returning citizens? Inmates to Entrepreneurs’ vision is to reduce the rate of recidivism in the U.S. by providing an alternative path to financial stability and success. About 1.51 million people are incarcerated in the U.S today; another 4.65 million are on parole. And second chances in America are harder to come by than you might realize. As much as three-fourths of ex-offenders are jobless up to a year after release and less than half are working full-time five years after their release. Looking at this data, we should not be surprised that within three years of re-entering society, about two-thirds of people were rearrested. And, within five years of release, three out of four were rearrested. Inmates to Entrepreneurs focuses on helping people start their own low-capital service businesses as an alternative to relying on getting a full-time job.
The program’s courses have reached more than 2,000 people in North Carolina through its work both inside and outside of correctional institutions. The businesses started by Inmates to Entrepreneurs graduates provide services that include landscaping, painting, commercial and residential cleaning, mobile car detailing, catering, event planning, handyman services and an array of other things. As we always say, most people don’t ask if you have a criminal record before they allow you to mow their lawn.