Wharton Class helps launch their own business that was previously imprisoned


On a cool afternoon this spring, entrepreneur Brandon Barris sat in front of the zoom screen and headed for a panel of powerful investors. entrepreneur I made his pitch. He told the Panel that my temporary home is a socially oriented business that meets and provides Philadelphia’s key needs. LGBTQ + Citizen In a sober dwelling when they return home from prison.

Barris made his business plan and explained to the group his customer base and how he planned to be sustainable.But it’s his backstory that shows how Burris differs from the pitching of a typical entrepreneur. a Shark tank-Like competition: He himself is a member of the LGBTQ + community. He was in jail. When he came out, one LGBTQ + recovery house in Philadelphia didn’t have a room where he could find a safe place to treat his addiction.

“When I was released on parole, I couldn’t wait to escape the discrimination and hatred I faced while in prison,” says Barris. The same thing can happen. “

Details of local entrepreneurship

So, a natural entrepreneur, Barris decided to start an LGBTQ + recovery house himself. It led him here and culminated in the class of Penn’s Restorative Entrepreneurship Program (PREP) run by PhD Tom Duffin, who turned from financial advisor to social work.

In the course “Social Entrepreneurial Approach to Community Reintegration,” Penlow, Wharton, and School of Social Policy and Practice Work as an entrepreneurial advisor on your team to help you develop business ideas and investor suggestions

The entrepreneur that Duffin calls his client is called PREP. STAR programEstablished by two PA judges to provide education and support to those recently released on parole to reduce recontainment. Trenton rescue mission, Its shelters, shelters, vocational development, and behavioral health centers provide solutions to those facing Homeless And poverty.. Teaching assistants pair students and clients by matching interests and previous experience to balance the team between social work, legal and business expertise.

As a result, both sides can learn. “I [Penn students] And this community will later become a supporter, more sensitive to these needs, and more caring, “says Duffin.

Financial adviser turned to professor

Tom Duffin

Duffin grew up in Northeastern PhiladelphiaAfter that, I spent 30 years as a financial adviser while continuing to pursue education until I got my PhD. In 2010 from Bryn Mawr on social work.

He didn’t want to be a teacher until he was asked to teach a class as a PhD student. “It was terrible,” Duffin says with a laugh, “But in the end, I fell in love with teaching.” Four years ago, he sold his business and is now at Bryn Mawr’s School of Social Work. He teaches social policy and social work theory at the School of Social Policy and Social Practices (commonly called SP2) at the University of Pennsylvania.

Much of the course work focuses on the issue of mass imprisonment. The longer the imprisonment, the harder it is to return to daily life. And those who re-enter society after imprisonment face obstacles beyond simply trying to overcome job seekers. Both state and federal law restrict access to grants, loans and support programs for education and housing. They are also much less likely to get a business loan.

Criminal convicted people are often not eligible for professional and commercial licenses. In many states Voting Limited until probation or parole is completed. You have to pay for this, even if your criminal record limits your employment prospects.

Duffin witnessed this cycle in a previous volunteer activity Project homeThere, he provided financial social work to the homeless and those experiencing poverty. “Often the problem isn’t that they don’t know how to budget,” he explains. “Some of the people I’ve worked with are really good at budgeting, but math alone doesn’t work. There’s no budget to get these columns right.”

“I’ve been trying to marry two things, financial advice and social work, for a long time,” explains Duffin. “I’m trying to help them navigate the systems they’ve been colluding to make them fail.”

He considers the connection to resources to be important.by US Bureau of Labor StatisticsApproximately 20% of SMEs fail in the first year, but only half in five years. (These numbers represent companies that hired employees, not individual entrepreneurs.) Even successful companies usually don’t make a profit for a couple of years. And that number primarily represents companies founded by investors, banks, and individuals with access to community support networks.

“I’ve been trying to marry two things, financial advice and social work, for a long time,” explains Duffin. “I’m trying to help them navigate the systems they’ve been colluding to make them fail.”

His vision is the support system provided by PREP. Citizen participation And Advocacy We provide sustainable solutions to those returning to society to help individuals build their own businesses.The· Reported by US Department of Justice Nearly 70% of those released from state prisons, regardless of length of sentence, were re-arrested within three years, and by nine years 83% had returned to the criminal justice system.

However, social entrepreneurial programs like PREP show that putting business tools in the hands of previously imprisoned individuals can have a significant impact on their future success.The· Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP) Being active in a Texas prison, selected prisoners receive four months of business education. The program employs more than 2,600 graduates, boasts a 100% employment rate within 90 days of leaving prison, and a recidivism rate of only 8.3% in three years.

Against the ventureMainly active in New York and California, he offers former prisoners a two-month training program and then qualifies for a 12-month entrepreneurship program to compete for grants. The one-year recidivism rate for graduates is less than 8%, but is 30% across the United States.

Big pitch

During his class pitch session at Zoom, Duffin recruited investors from the Philadelphia Social Impact Investment Community and provided criticism and advice to presenters.There was Garrett Melby, co-founder of GoodCompany Ventures, A non-profit organization that works with social entrepreneurs. A member of the Philadelphia Social Venture Circle. The Philadelphia Social Venture Circle invests in early-stage companies that impact society. These social impact investors, or “angel” investors, have provided criticism, advice, and the potential to fund their clients.

The panel also included CEO and founder Frederick Hatson. Pigeonly, A platform for searching, finding and communicating with imprisoned loved ones. Hatson provided his own guidance as a previously imprisoned entrepreneur.

Coincidentally, all male clients took about 10 minutes each to present their business plan. There was then a discussion with the panel about the strengths and weaknesses of the pitch and what their next steps should be.

“I [Penn students] And this community will later become a supporter, more sensitive to these needs, and more caring, “says Duffin.

Lamont Coker, a client from Norfolk, Virginia, Good Guys Renovation, West Philadelphia-based contractor. Coker was attracted to the class as an opportunity to upgrade and expand SMEs while building marketing skills and presentation skills.

Client Antonio Richardson-Jones, 28, proposed a non-urgent medical transportation service called Corroborate. He wants to provide reliable community-based transportation for people of all ages who need medical appointments, such as substance abuse treatment and mental health care.

Richardson-Jones suffers from the negative health consequences of missing a medical appointment, the lack of public transport for many people with disabilities, the high cost of medical transportation, and his service struggling between him. A presentation that emphasizes the gift of independence offered to those who are. “It was a great experience, and I learned a lot,” he says. “I got a lot of inspiration from the students.”

Another client, Karim Williams, is a 40-year-old founder and CEO. Trustda brand, The line of clothing whose spirit is trust and community.Williams, born North Philadelphia I grew up in West PhiladelphiaStarted its business in February 2020 with a desire to foster love for fashion and trust within the community. Williams has access to Facebook and Instagram, his clothes are sold at 48th and Market, and he also runs the food truck Trust Da Taste.

Williams collaborated with Naomi Borchovic, a second-year pen in the communications major who launched her own streetwear venture like a client. “It was perfect because I was able to help more through the process of branding streetwear,” she says.

Details of the local black entrepreneurial spirit

Burris collaborated with Lizze McDonald, a first-year master of social work students at SP2, a student at the University of Pennsylvania. She made her first social work placement in a drug and alcohol program, which may also be relevant to the client’s plans. “The LGBTQ community isn’t well serviced in this sector,” Burris said of his project. “I hope I can change that with the help and knowledge I have learned from this experience, and I am beyond gratitude.”

Since the end of the class, PREP has been able to continue to provide support systems with the help of volunteers, provide expert consulting, and enable clients to function their ideas and hopefully turn them into successful businesses. We provide the opportunity to raise funds. Both McDonald and Boruchowicz hope to continue working with PREP.

Still, Duffin is not naive. He knows that clients need access to capital in order to succeed.Duffin was able to get a commitment to provide guidance to clients from a panel of impact investors, but they Financially Back entrepreneur.

The course will run again in the spring of 2022. By then, Duffin hopes to round up commitments from potential sources of funding to assist both these current and future clients.

“It was a challenge,” he says. “But I feel that all seven clients got something of real value through the process. There is no doubt that the process itself was an intervention. In my view, they would return to jail. It was support that was much more likely to hinder. “

Header Photo: Kamal Williams (red hat) and his fellow classmates gather during a virtual PREP class.

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