First Class: Inmates to Entrepreneurs to Graduate 29

Of the 38 who enrolled in the free course, 29 Greensboro residents with criminal convictions will graduate Thursday from the Inmates to Entrepreneurs small business ownership course at the Nussbaum Center for Entrepreneurship.

The class is the first of its kind offered in Greensboro, although Inmates to Entrepreneurs has been running successfully in cities across the state since 1992.

Typical graduation rates hover around 60 percent, said founder Brian Hamilton. The graduation rate for the inaugural Greensboro class came in at 76 percent.

“So the Greensboro graduation rate is excellent,” Hamilton said. “Out of every 10 people who come in, we estimate that two to three start and run businesses. Since entrepreneurship is extremely tough for anyone, we are pretty happy with that. The key now is to get the program to everyone in the U.S.”

The organization’s eight-week course is offered in cities across North Carolina and its one-day entrepreneurship seminars are being offered across the country through a national tour that kicks off in New York City next month. The courses are open to anyone with a criminal record, not just those who have been incarcerated.

“Our long-term vision is to create a volunteer program with national scope where people with a criminal background who have subsequently started businesses and who feel passionate about helping others in their shoes can offer mentoring,” Hamilton said. “We believe that the second chance offered in owning a business is a powerful force against a return to old habits or mistakes.”

Keynote speaker for the graduation will be Bobby Martin, a North Carolina entrepreneur who sold his business First Research to Dun & Bradstreet for $26 million and recently published “Hockey Stick Principles,” a book about how to convert good ideas into great businesses.