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Break the Cycle

While touring a Texas state prison, Defy Ventures founder Catherine Hoke learned that 70% of the children of incarcerated people end up in prison, too. Struck by that statistic, she created Defy Ventures to help ensure inmates don’t return to prison—and that their kids never end up there. Defy Ventures harnesses the entrepreneurial aptitude many inmates have and redirects them toward legal businesses with executive mentoring, intense MBA-like training, character and leadership development, and even financial investment. The centerpiece of the program is a business plan competition. The entrepreneurs-in-training pitch their idea in the hopes of having their startup incubated, funded, and ultimately scaled. Defy Ventures' programs aim to break generational cycles of violence, poverty, and welfare dependence and shatter the damaging perceptions that cling to formerly incarcerated people, so they can have a legitimate first chance at a new life.

Defy Ventures

Entrepreneurship Training for People with Criminal Histories

Break the Cycle

While touring a Texas state prison, Defy Ventures founder Catherine Hoke learned that 70% of the children of incarcerated people end up in prison, too. Struck by that statistic, she created Defy Ventures to help ensure inmates don’t return to prison—and that their kids never end up there. Defy Ventures harnesses the entrepreneurial aptitude many inmates have and redirects them toward legal businesses with executive mentoring, intense MBA-like training, character and leadership development, and even financial investment. The centerpiece of the program is a business plan competition. The entrepreneurs-in-training pitch their idea in the hopes of having their startup incubated, funded, and ultimately scaled. Defy Ventures' programs aim to break generational cycles of violence, poverty, and welfare dependence and shatter the damaging perceptions that cling to formerly incarcerated people, so they can have a legitimate first chance at a new life.
Philanthropy

Quick Questions

What was the initial reaction from the incarcerated men and women you first presented this program to?

When we first introduced our program to a new group of incarcerated men and women at a new prison, some are rightly skeptical. Most still choose to give us a shot, and after experiencing Defy and meeting our volunteers, they become passionate owners of our mission. We nearly always have long wait-lists for our second cohorts at prisons. Graduates apply to become Peer Facilitators, and at some prisons, our incarcerated graduates run our events with volunteers! Our entrepreneurs-in-training are hungry for a chance to learn, transform, and put their skills to work.

On the flip side, what was the reaction of mentors and executive mentors you wanted to bring into the program?

Like the EITs, some of our mentors and executive volunteers are skeptical (or scared) at first. But once they meet our EITs and experience the program, they become advocates and generous supporters. We’ve been encouraged to see how many executives care about social justice and have been looking for a way to make a difference.

How has the program evolved since you started?

We started Defy by just serving formerly incarcerated men and women (our post-release program). In 2015, we expanded to serving currently incarcerated men, women, and youth. Now we’re in five states and we hope to be in every state in America within the next 12 years!

What’s been the feedback from Entrepreneurs-in-Training?

EITs about how Defy has brought them hope and led them to see a positive future for themselves for the first time. We get so many letters from EITs sharing their thoughts—here’s an example below from an EIT named Anthony:

“Defy has taught me many things, but the most important is to believe in myself. I believed in me because Defy believed in me first. I will no longer be a disappointment to myself or others who believe in me. I am proud of who I am today. I am finally a son to my mother. A husband to my wife. A loving father, even from behind bars, to my stepson. I know I will accomplish more today than I did yesterday.”

Another letter from Emilio: “[Defy] became the key that unlocked my brain to think outside the box. The investors/mentors are the ones who encouraged and enabled me to believe in myself, and for that I am grateful and truly appreciate each and every one of you. I’m 47, and this was my first graduation ever. I have been incarcerated 31 of those years and the graduation was by far the most memorable experience of my life. You were able to bring freedom to me, and for that I thank you!”

What do you hope people take away from this organization?

People say that we’re in the second-chance business, which we are. We all know the value of this—who among us hasn’t benefited from a second chance at some point? But once you know the backstories of our EITs, you might realize that we’re more often in the legitimate-first-chance business. We believe in, and unlock, the potential of America’s most overlooked talent pool. We hope that you will join us in advocating for, believing in, and giving second chances. And if you'd like to learn more about our organization or even get involved, you can find out more information on our website.

Learn more about the product

 

Defy Ventures

Entrepreneurship Training for People with Criminal Histories

Break the Cycle

While touring a Texas state prison, Defy Ventures founder Catherine Hoke learned that 70% of the children of incarcerated people end up in prison, too. Struck by that statistic, she created Defy Ventures to help ensure inmates don’t return to prison—and that their kids never end up there.

Defy Ventures harnesses the
entrepreneurial aptitude many inmates have and redirects them toward legal businesses with executive mentoring, intense MBA-like training, character and leadership development, and even financial investment.

The centerpiece of the program is a business plan competition. The entrepreneurs-in-training pitch their idea in the hopes of having their startup incubated, funded, and ultimately scaled.

Defy Ventures' programs aim to break generational cycles of violence, poverty, and welfare dependence and shatter the damaging perceptions that cling to formerly incarcerated people, so they can have a legitimate first chance at a new life.
Read More Read Less
Entrepreneurship Training for People with Criminal Histories

Quick Questions

What was the initial reaction from the incarcerated men and women you first presented this program to?

When we first introduced our program to a new group of incarcerated men and women at a new prison, some are rightly skeptical. Most still choose to give us a shot, and after experiencing Defy and meeting our volunteers, they become passionate owners of our mission. We nearly always have long wait-lists for our second cohorts at prisons. Graduates apply to become Peer Facilitators, and at some prisons, our incarcerated graduates run our events with volunteers! Our entrepreneurs-in-training are hungry for a chance to learn, transform, and put their skills to work.

On the flip side, what was the reaction of mentors and executive mentors you wanted to bring into the program?

Like the EITs, some of our mentors and executive volunteers are skeptical (or scared) at first. But once they meet our EITs and experience the program, they become advocates and generous supporters. We’ve been encouraged to see how many executives care about social justice and have been looking for a way to make a difference.

How has the program evolved since you started?

We started Defy by just serving formerly incarcerated men and women (our post-release program). In 2015, we expanded to serving currently incarcerated men, women, and youth. Now we’re in five states and we hope to be in every state in America within the next 12 years!

What’s been the feedback from Entrepreneurs-in-Training?

EITs about how Defy has brought them hope and led them to see a positive future for themselves for the first time. We get so many letters from EITs sharing their thoughts—here’s an example below from an EIT named Anthony:

“Defy has taught me many things, but the most important is to believe in myself. I believed in me because Defy believed in me first. I will no longer be a disappointment to myself or others who believe in me. I am proud of who I am today. I am finally a son to my mother. A husband to my wife. A loving father, even from behind bars, to my stepson. I know I will accomplish more today than I did yesterday.”

Another letter from Emilio: “[Defy] became the key that unlocked my brain to think outside the box. The investors/mentors are the ones who encouraged and enabled me to believe in myself, and for that I am grateful and truly appreciate each and every one of you. I’m 47, and this was my first graduation ever. I have been incarcerated 31 of those years and the graduation was by far the most memorable experience of my life. You were able to bring freedom to me, and for that I thank you!”

What do you hope people take away from this organization?

People say that we’re in the second-chance business, which we are. We all know the value of this—who among us hasn’t benefited from a second chance at some point? But once you know the backstories of our EITs, you might realize that we’re more often in the legitimate-first-chance business. We believe in, and unlock, the potential of America’s most overlooked talent pool. We hope that you will join us in advocating for, believing in, and giving second chances. And if you'd like to learn more about our organization or even get involved, you can find out more information on our website.

Learn more about the product