Charlotte, NC, April 9, 2019 – Inmates to Entrepreneurs, a nonprofit that provides free entrepreneurship education and mentorship to people with criminal records, is graduating its second class of Charlotte students this week. The graduates have completed Inmates to Entrepreneurs’ free eight-week course covering modules on entrepreneurship essentials.
Inmates to Entrepreneurs, headquartered in Raleigh, was founded by Sageworks co-founder and entrepreneurship advocate Brian Hamilton in 1992. Since then, Brian and the program’s mentors have taught entrepreneurship to thousands of men and women in more than 50 correctional institutions. The organization’s courses are offered in cities across North Carolina, and its entrepreneurship seminars have been offered most recently in New York City and Atlanta. The courses are free and are open to anyone with a criminal record, not just those who have been incarcerated.
“People with criminal records who want to start fresh and earn an income to support themselves and their families often face discrimination in the job market,” Hamilton explained, “So, our idea is, let’s turn them into entrepreneurs and they can create their own jobs.”
Graduate Donald Brown from Greensboro, N.C., put in 94 job applications after being released from prison. Brown’s experience, according to Hamilton, is common, “The problem is that when they’re trying to get a decent job, their applications often get thrown into the garbage because of their backgrounds. We just want to level the playing field.”
UNC-Charlotte Criminal Justice Professor Toussaint Romain agreed, “Even after paying their debts to society, individuals with criminal records are left wholly unemployed or significantly underemployed for life. Inmates to Entrepreneurs offers people with criminal records the skills they need to participate in a system from which they have been excluded.”
Inmates to Entrepreneurs graduates have started businesses all over North Carolina, from cleaning services to auto detailing to landscaping companies. Charlotte resident Kelly Little, CIO of the Legrand Little Group, helped launch the Inmates to Entrepreneurs program in Charlotte and is actively mentoring graduates running businesses, including tattoo parlors and recycling services. “Inmates to Entrepreneurs helps people go from surviving to thriving,” explained Kelly.
“Recently, Charlotte was considered 50 out of 50 in terms of economic mobility,” noted Kelly, who also serves as CEO of The Urban Institute for Strengthening Families. “In order to transform that reality, it’s going to take organizations like Inmates to Entrepreneurs and the Brian Hamilton Foundation to provide practical solutions to current problems.”
The Charlotte graduation will take place on Thursday, April 11, at 7:00 pm, at the Movement Center on Freedom Drive. Family and friends, mentors, and community members, including Romain, will attend the event. The evening’s keynote speaker will be Chuck Howard, who started one of the largest metal roofing contract companies in the United States.
Inmates to Entrepreneurs’ mentors are all current or former business owners. To volunteer to become a mentor or to find out more about Inmates to Entrepreneurs, visit inmatestoentrepreneurs.org.
About Inmates to Entrepreneurs
Inmates to Entrepreneurs assists people with criminal backgrounds in starting their own businesses by providing resources and mentorship. Our goal is to reduce the rate of recidivism in the United States by providing an alternative path to financial stability and success. To learn more, visit inmatestoentrepreneurs.org.