The Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP) aims to take the very desirable skillset of convicted prisoners and help channel those skills into thriving businesses. From the site:
A large percentage of inmates come to prison as seasoned entrepreneurs, having run highly successful enterprises such as drug rings and gangs.
They know how to manage others to get things done. They are passionate, intelligent and willing to take risks. Even the most unsophisticated drug dealers inherently understand business concepts such as competition, profitability, risk management and the development of proprietary sales channels.
PEP works with top business and academic talent to help inmates learn the principles of business so that they can start their own enterprises after being released from prison. PEP holds in-prison business plan competitions, runs mentoring programs, offers reintegration services, and helps prisoners secure financing for their ventures. They do this by connecting inmates with volunteer MBAs from places like MBA programs at Harvard, Stanford, Cal-Berkeley; and with seasoned entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. The results speak for themselves:
- In three years since its founding, PEP has dramatically reduced return-to-prison rates: its graduates’ return-to-prison rates are 3.7%, compared to the national average of more than 50%.
- The program has a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 150%, and has assisted 40 participants in starting their businesses.
- PEP has recruited 800+ senior level executives and venture capital/private equity professionals who serve as inmates’ mentors and business plan judges.
- The program has established affiliations with 12 top-tier MBA programs, including Harvard and Stanford, whose 400+ students serve as weekly advisors for the inmates’ business plans.
PEP, a registered non-profit, is innovating on so many levels. First, the concept is truly novel (and brilliant). Second, the program is helping to fuel innovation by giving potential entrepreneurs the tools they need to accomplish great things. And finally, PEP understands that people are capable of attaining success (in innovation or otherwise) when they’re given the right tools. Not enough organizations really get this. If they did – every organization out there would be giving their most promising employees the tools and resources they need to generate, refine, and grow great ideas into great businesses.