Inmates to Entrepreneurs: Josh Nowack

Josh Nowack grew up in New Jersey. He has a degree in accounting, an MBA and a masters degree in psychology. 

In 2018, Nowack was sentenced to six months in jail. It was the wake up call he needed to understand the challenges faced by individuals who have a criminal background. “Before prison, I was a CPA and a business management type of person. Going to jail opened my eyes to what’s out there. You think you’re a hero saving people $50,000 from the IRS – you think you’re a rockstar. But there are people out there who legitimately need help,” Nowack explained.

“Behind bars, it was amazing to see what people could do without everyday tools – the creativity and ingenuity was impressive,” he said. “An example that still sticks with me is seeing fellow inmates making meals for 4,000 people without sharp kitchen tools. After I got out, instead of finding a job to take care of me, I knew I needed to start a business to help both myself and others like me,” Nowack added.

Upon his release and inspired by the mission of helping others with criminal records, Nowack started Breaking Free Industries in Santa Ana, California in February 2020. Founded on the belief that there can be opportunity for all and the world is inherently good, Breaking Free Industries gives opportunities to those seeking a second chance by providing employment within the apparel industry. Although Covid-19 restrictions and lockdowns shut everything down for several months, Breaking Free Industries has continued to see significant growth each month.

Breaking Free Industries is strictly a second chances employer with four people now on payroll. It is the place to go for a second chance. “Even if we make mistakes with the merchandise – we give it a second chance and donate it to a homeless shelter,” Nowack commented.

In 2020, after attending a seminar conducted by Duke University on entrepreneurship, Nowack was referred to Inmates to Entrepreneurs. He registered for the organization’s first national eight-week course and graduated in September. 

“The great thing about Inmates to Entrepreneurs is that it takes you through the basics,” Nowack said. “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,” he added.

Nowack is currently in training to become a volunteer instructor with Inmates to Entrepreneurs and hopes to continue to inspire future entrepreneurs.

Inmates to Entrepreneurs’ free video course “Starter U: How to Start, Run, and Grow a Business” is available online and on Edovo’s tablets in correctional facilities across the U.S. The organization also provides online classes throughout the country.


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