How to start a cell phone repair business


cell phone repair business

Matt Rubio, Jr.

Getting out of prison and not sure what to do for work? Are you a technical oriented person who likes to fix things? If so, you might consider starting a cell phone repair business.

According to business industry research company IBISWorld, the cell phone repair industry is a $4 billion business in the U.S., and it’s expected to continue to grow. There are no major players with more than 5 percent of the market. In fact, many businesses who do cell repair are small shops or single proprietors.

It could be a good business for the right person. But who is that person?

What it takes

We asked Matt Rubio, Jr., the store manager of MD Wireless in Pleasant Hill, Calif.,  who began repairing phones in his father’s shop when he was 13 years old – 12 years ago. And here’s what he had to say about the qualities you need to be successful running a cell phone repair business.

“You need good eyesight, because the screws are very small,” he says. “You also need a steady hand and the patience to continue working on things that don’t always want to cooperate with you. You must have attention to detail and be able to focus on what you are doing.”

You also must be a quick learner, using past knowledge to work on newer phones. Retail skills are very important too, and it doesn’t hurt to be friendly.

“If you find it rewarding to solve problems, this may be the type of job you might want to get into,” he says.

Where to begin

Once you’ve decided that cell phone repair might be the job for you, you need to learn how to do it.

MD Wireless offers a four-day training course. The hands-on instruction covers basic repair for different types of cell phones, a day devoted to iPhones, an introduction to microsoldering and information on how to set up a business, create a business plan and get parts. The classes are small, and the tuition is $1,000.

Other hands-on classes are offered by:

Learning online

With tons of Internet resources these days, is it possible to learn cell phone repair for free online?

“It’s possible, but you don’t really have the help. You can go on YouTube, but it’s sometimes difficult to get answers to questions. It’s also possible to get misinformation online,” says Rubio. “We only have two or three people or even one person in our classes. So it’s one-on-one.”

He also said that once people take a course, they can go online to learn more in-depth information.

There are multiple sites with tutorials about cell phone repair. Some are free, and some cost money. Here are a couple of the better examples:

Udemy – Udemy has a variety of cell phone repair courses, including some that are free.

ifixit – The ifixit website includes an incredible number of easy-to-follow instructions on how to fix specific cell phones. Once you understand the basics, this is an invaluable resource.

Planning the business side

After gaining knowledge of, and experience in, repairing phones, it’s time to try to make money.

It’s possible to do this in several ways. You may want to approach existing cell phone repair shops to see if they need any extra help. Doing that will increase your experience level, if they decide to hire you.

Or you might decide to go out on your own from the beginning. There are two ways to start your own business. The easiest and cheapest way is to start small, and do it yourself.

“If you’re doing it yourself, you might need from $2,000 to $5,000,” says Rubio. That would be used to buy tools and parts for the various phones you expect to fix and expenses related to the vehicle used for the business.

“To advertise, most people post stuff on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace and OfferUp, and tell their friends. And they do their repairs in their home. Or in a car or a van with a stable flat surface,” Rubio says.

Once you get some experience, it’s possible to set up a store, which, according to Rubio, will cost between $20,000 and $40,000. And when you decide to open a store, he recommends carefully checking the demographics of the places you’re considering for the location of that store.

Large cities have a lot of competition, but if you were to open a store in a city of 50,000 to 100,000 in population without much else around for another 50 miles or so, you would have a good chance of succeeding, he says.

Marketing is crucial to success

Keep in mind that, like all businesses, marketing is key. You may be the best cell phone repair person around, but if you can’t attract customers, then you won’t be successful. A lot of business, at least at the beginning, may come from word of mouth, whether through friends and family, or satisfied customers.

You also need to create a marketing plan that may involve a variety of tactics but should include a website, social media (a Facebook page, for example), flyers or brochures, and business cards to hand out to people you meet. You may also want to join your local chamber of commerce, especially if you’re in a smaller city or town. This will offer lots of networking opportunities and a chance to get to know other businesses that might refer work to you.

Some cell phone repair technicians partner with someone who can do the marketing for them, so they can concentrate on what they do best – fix phones.

Want to start your own small business? Organizations offer free help to get you started

small business

Construction will be one of the fastest growing fields for self-employed workers in the years ahead.

Since this week, May 5-11, is National Small Business Week, it might be a time to think about the possibility of starting a business of your own.

And you won’t be alone. More than half of the people in this country either own or work for a small business. Those with an entrepreneurial spirit and a criminal record may find it easier to create their own employment rather than work for someone else.

It could be anything from painting houses or starting a food truck to dog walking or taking care of elderly people, but there are certain fields that are expected to grow faster than others. And they offer the types of jobs that are often done by those who are self-employed.

According to numbers published by the U.S. Dept. of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics last year, there were about 9.6 million self-employed workers in 2016, and that number is expected to increase to 10.3 million by 2026.

Fastest growing job categories for the self-employed

Among the fastest growing categories for self-employed people between 2016 and 2026 are:

  • Personal care and service: 135,000 new jobs for self-employed workers
  • Building and grounds cleaning and maintenance: 83,000 new jobs for self-employed workers
  • Construction and extraction: 78,300 new jobs for self-employed workers
  • Transportation and material moving: 60,200 new jobs for self-employed workers

While that may give you an idea where some of the opportunities will be, you may have some thoughts of your own. Maybe you have a special skill or interest – like handyman repairs, fixing cars, cooking, housekeeping or helping people with mobility issues – that you can convert to employment.

Learning how to start a business

Whatever your interest or skill, you’ll still need to decide if having a business is the right path for you. And if it is, there are a few things to learn about creating your own employment.

Fortunately, there’s free help available.

One of the best resources around is your local Small Business Development Center. There are more than 1,000 of these across the U.S., and you can search for the one nearest you in the organization’s online database. The centers are sponsored by state economic development agencies, colleges and universities and private partners and are funded in part through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and offer free consulting and at-cost training.

If you’re a woman, you may want to look into the SBA Women’s Business Centers, a national network of more than 100 centers nationwide that cater to women entrepreneurs. The SBA added six more of these centers last year and maintains an online directory that is searchable by Zip Code.

Online education

Not sure whether your own business is the way to go? You can get a better idea of whether entrepreneurship is right for you by checking out the My Own Business Institute at Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, California. The institute offers free online education for entrepreneurs with two courses in both English and Spanish: Starting a Business and Business Expansion.

Starting a Business is the course that is relevant for those thinking about doing just that. The course is divided into 15 sessions and covers such things as

  • Deciding whether a business is for you
  • Creating a business plan
  • Home based businesses
  • How much money is needed and how manage financing
  • Dealing with licenses and permits

You may take the course at your own pace and after completion get certified for free.

The SBA also offers online education through its Small Business Learning Center.

Decided that your own business is for you?

After doing the research, you’ve decided that you’d like to be your own boss, the SBA supplies a free online tool to help put a business plan together.

With that in hand, you’ll be ready to meet with a volunteer mentor or counselor who can provide advice on the next steps to take. You can find one of these people through your local Small Business Development Center, Women’s Business Center or SCORE, a nonprofit organization that pairs people who want to start businesses with one of its 10,000 volunteer mentors who have experience to share.

SBA Small Business Learning Center provides resources for starting a small business

SBA Small Business Learning CenterWhile working for oneself may provide viable employment for those in reentry, there are a lot of things to learn in order to successfully do so.

And an excellent way to come up to speed on the various aspects of establishing a small business is through the U.S. Small Business Administration’s SBA Small Business Learning Center.

On the center’s website, you will find an online classroom that provides access to advice and guidance that will help you get started in your efforts. And, once your business is established, there’s information on how to help it grow.

The material is presented in a series of short – mainly 30-minute – online courses on subjects that include:

  • Understanding your customer
  • Buying a business
  • Creating a competitive advantage
  • Customer service
  • Cybersecurity for small businesses
  • Establishing values for your business
  • Financing options for small businesses
  • Finding and attracting investors
  • How to prepare a loan package
  • How to write a business plan
  • Introduction to crowdfunding for entrepreneurs
  • Social media marketing

In order to take any of the courses, you just have to click on the icon next to the course description, fill out a registration form, and you’re ready to go.

Need more help?

The site also includes a Local Assistance interactive map where you can search for the nearest Small Business Administration District Office and other organizations that provide training, mentoring and counseling to those who want to start their own businesses. Many services are free of charge. Others have reasonable fees.

If you’ve done the research and decided that starting a small business is what you’d like to do, there’s a Business Plan Tool that provides a step-by-step process to help you put one together.

Then you might want to contact SCORE, a nonprofit organization that pairs people who want to start small businesses with one of its 10,000 volunteer mentors who have experience to share.

And if you’re looking for funding for starting your business, here are some resources that may be able to help you.


Seth Sundberg used incarceration experience to create Prison Bars

Prison Bars

Seth Sundberg, founder of Prison Bars (center).

A growing number of inmates and those in reentry are using skills they learned in prison and in post-release programs to start their own businesses. But it’s not easy.

Just ask Seth Sundberg, founder and CEO of Prison Bars, a company that launched commercial production of its “criminally delicious” snack bars in late September.

The former professional basketball player – for the Los Angeles Lakers and 10 European teams – and mortgage company branch manager was convicted of tax fraud and served five years in prison where he worked in the kitchen.

One day he took out a box of chicken labeled “unfit for human consumption,” an experience that ultimately inspired him to search for healthy things to eat and create nutritious handmade granola bars that he sold to other prisoners. They were so popular that Sundberg not only made a fair amount of pocket money but once released thought they might have appeal on the outside as well.

Defy Ventures offered support system

Fortunately for him, about the time he left prison New York-headquartered Defy Ventures was expanding to San Francisco. This entrepreneurship development program works with formerly incarcerated individuals (and now works inside prisons as well) to help them create businesses.

While some participants need to develop the skills to run a business, for Sundberg the organization benefited him in other ways.

“I had the skill set to do the business, but had it not been for the support system at Defy and the accountability system of Defy, I wouldn’t have been able to do it,” he says. “It’s not easy to come back to life and repair relationships and everything and start a new business. Without that support and the structure of Defy this would not have happened.”

But happen it did, and now Prison Bars, which manufactures snack bars that are non-GMO and gluten free, has eight employees in its day-to-day operations. Five of them, including Sundberg, were incarcerated, and most of them he knew from prison.

After graduating from Defy in October 2015, Sundberg and a team began to make Prison Bars by hand in a commercial kitchen in San Francisco. The company also took tons of pre-orders, did events and sold T-shirts and coffee mugs to get the word out.

And the word is getting out.

“We have commitments from Bi-Rite Grocers to be in a couple of their stores,” Sundberg says. “Our primary market is local tech companies that provide all kinds of snacks for their employees and want to have a social impact. We have commitments from Google and are talking with some other large tech companies as well. That’s our primary model. We will get into retail distributions as a secondary piece.”

Need to be patient

One of the biggest challenges Sundberg is facing is the need to be patient and not grow his company too fast, but patience is something one develops in prison, he says.

One of his goals is to educate people on the issues related to incarceration, and that takes time. “Part of this is raising awareness among people who may not have been involved with incarceration. There are a lot of people who are receptive, but there’s still a lot of pushback as well,” he says. “We want to be a catalyst to start conversations.”

Now that the business is in commercial production, the next step for Prison Bars is to raise additional funding. He’s already taken out two Kiva zip loans, partly for the exposure that the organization offers.

Sundberg is currently creating bigger fundraising plans, although venture capital is not in the mix at this point. “We’re going to take on private investors. We took on two small private investors, and they’re going to get involved with the next round of funding and introduce us to more people,” he says. His goal is to expand inventory and develop new flavors.

Tips for budding reentry entrepreneurs

Sundberg has advice for those coming out of prison who may want to start their own businesses.

“One of Defy’s key points is to prove your concept quickly and become profitable quickly. A lot of guys inside have a lot of time to think and have a lot of grand visions, and those are great, but they are for company number two,” he says.

Beyond that, “Stay with it. Stay humble. Nothing is easy. The reentry piece is especially tough. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. The only way successful reentry occurs is through community. Be vulnerable and let people help you.”


Defy Ventures expands CEO of Your New Life program

Entrepreneurs-in-Training at California State Prison-Solano in Vacaville, Calif.

Entrepreneurs-in-Training at California State Prison-Solano in Vacaville, Calif.

Defy Ventures, a New York City-headquartered nonprofit that provides entrepreneurship, employment and character training to people in re-entry, is expanding its new initiative, CEO of Your New Life.

The program, which began last summer, takes the organization’s work into prisons and jails, working with incarcerated men and women to provide the knowledge and skills that will help ensure their re-entry will be more successful and less traumatic than it would be without them.

Launched in California State Prison-Solano in Vacaville, Calif., and the San Francisco County Jail in San Bruno, Calif., in July, CEO of Your Own Life also operates in Greene Correctional Facility in Coxsackie, NY, and Wallkill Correctional Facility in Wallkill, NY. Defy also plans to launch the program in New Jersey’s Essex County jail system.

Here’s how it works. Forget the label inmate, prisoner or whatever. A participant is known as an Entrepreneur-in-Training (EIT), and the instruction has been created as a 10-step series designed to be administered over a 10-week period, although it could vary depending on the institution. Ideally, there will be two video-recorded courses with three hours of instruction time four days per week.

EITs also keep a Defy Journal in which they complete assignments and reflect on their thoughts and self-discoveries as they progress through the program.

The curriculum focuses on job readiness, entrepreneurship, tech basics, personal finance, etiquette, character development and re-entry planning. The faculty who have created the videos include formerly incarcerated individuals, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, Harvard and Stanford professors, and top career coaches, as well as character development experts.

In addition to the instruction, Defy hosts a couple of events per cohort within each facility where it operates CEO of Your New Life. These usually include a business night when it brings in professionals to do interviews and help with resumes, as well as a business pitch competition for those who are interested in starting their own businesses upon release.

One of these competitions took place at the California State Prison-Solano on December 17, with the top five finalists receiving prizes of between $100 and $500 that they will be able to collect upon release.

Overall, successful participants are expected to experience one or more of three likely outcomes. They will be able to:

  • gain the confidence, learn goal setting and create a vision to run their own business and secure financing to make it happen.
  • receive the assistance, coaching and training they need to create resumes, develop interview and communication skills, and effectively use email to secure meaningful employment.
  • transform themselves through personal growth in areas that include character development, parenting, self-discipline, relationships, and dealing with guilt and shame.

After release, participants can continue involvement with Defy Ventures by contacting the organization within seven days of leaving prison or jail. By doing so, they can take advantage of employment resources and further assistance in launching their new lives.

But those just coming out or prison or jail aren’t the only ones who can take advantage of what Defy has to offer. Anyone with previous criminal justice involvement may apply for a free five-month scholarship to participate in the organization’s program, which is dedicated to helping those with various levels of experience and education.

Defy’s post-release employment program offers three tiers of service, depending on the need of the individual:

  1. Tier One is for those who have education and previous work experience. It is known as guided self-help and provides job leads and referrals to other agencies and a weekly review of the participant’s progress.
  2. Tier Two offers short-term support with group or one-on-one counseling for those with barriers to employment, whether a low level of education or lack of sufficient work history. They receive job readiness and retention skills training and vocational counseling.
  3. Tier Three provides long-term support with one-on-one intervention and the services offered in Tier Two, as well as job placement resources.


Consider an eBay business as an alternative to a regular job

leather-691609_1280Selling things on eBay  can be a good job including for those in reentry. You don’t have to go through an interview, there are no background checks, and no endless searching job sites and sending in resumes. You just need an entrepreneurial spirit, a lot of patience and a determination to work hard.

Although many people sell anything and everything on eBay, it can help to have a specialty. That way you can become an expert in certain types of products, know where to find the good deals and become known among the eBay community. Some people specialize in clothes or shoes, others in cameras and still others in collectables. There are even people who mainly sell baseball gloves, including antique gloves that can bring in pretty prices.

Those who have made a career from selling on eBay each have their own techniques, but for the most part they visit discount stores like Ross or Loehmann’s, thrift shops and estate and garage sales, all in the pursuit of bargains they can sell for higher prices than they bought them for.

Just ask Jennie Smith, who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and turned to eBay when she lost a job in the insurance industry three years ago.

She began to visit thrift shops in search of the shoes and clothes she buys, and started an eBay store. But for those who might think this is easy, she reminds them that it’s not.

“It’s a lot of work. You have to go and buy the item. You have to inspect it to see that there are no holes or it’s not faded,” she says. “You have to take measurements and pictures of everything and write a description. You have to store it somewhere nice and safe and find it when you’re ready to ship it.” You also have to research similar items on eBay to see how they’re priced in order to be competitive.

If you want to sell on eBay, you’ll have to start out small, gradually working your way up to more items. And you need a place to store the things you handle.

“I started out with just one room and a couple of shelves but have ventured into the hallway closet and the garage. Now I have 1,100 items in my store,” Smith says. “I just picked up 52 pairs of shoes at the Goodwill outlet. Ralph Lauren boots, Aerosoles. Some of the shoes still have tags on them, and I could sell some of them for as much as $80.” She never buys anything that she can’t sell for at least four times what she paid for it.

Although Smith still works part time in insurance, she spends about 40 hours each week on her eBay business, including the time she’s shopping for goods. She also packs between eight and 20 items each day to ship out to her customers, another part of the business that consumes time.

Selling on eBay is not just about picking something up and selling it. You have to ask yourself, would you buy this? Is it good enough to sell, she says.

Although it takes a certain mindset, those who are successful can make a pretty good living. Smith pulls in between $4,000 and $5,000 per month before eBay’s fees, which average 17 percent.

To learn the business, she recommends a website called The site’s podcasts are full of tips and information to help you make a living through eBay, and she still watches them on a regular basis.

Another good resource for learning about selling on eBay is YouTube videos. For example, search on YouTube for eBay selling tips and start with the videos that have the most views. Also, check to see what books about creating an eBay business are available at your public library. Many have books on the subject from the Dummies and the Complete Idiot’s series.

A good way to begin an eBay business is to check out things that you, your family and friends own but may no longer need or want. That can be your initial inventory while you develop your business.

In order to sell on eBay you must set up a PayPal account. To obtain a PayPal account, you need to have a checking account, so if you don’t have one already, you’ll have to first open one.  Then you can start taking payments from people who will want to buy the things you sell.

We would greatly appreciate it if any formerly incarcerated people who are successfully selling on eBay would be willing to share some tips and advice with our readers. Please add your comments below.


Shoe repair business offers career opportunity for ex-offenders


Pablo Martinez at work in Carlos Shoe Repair Shop in Martinez, Calif.

Those looking for a job doing something that improves the environment, helps people save money and won’t be outsourced to India might want to consider learning how to repair shoes.

Particularly in these recessionary times when people want to recycle and reuse, the shoe repair business is booming, and there seems to be a lot of opportunities available. 

Learning to fix shoes, however, is a true skilled trade and takes months of training, either as an apprentice or as a student at one of two recently created cobbler schools – one in the San Francisco Bay Area and the other in Denver.

Although it takes effort, there are jobs for those who learn. “I get calls from all over looking for people who can do this. We had a call from a St. Louis shop that was looking for someone and wanted to pay $36,000 per year plus benefits,” says Tom Rhine, who created Rhine’s Cobbler School in Denver to teach his trade.

His school is a 10-month program, but students can take smaller segments if they just want to learn one aspect. He teaches how to use the tools, nails, adhesives and equipment; how to repair rips and replace soles and zippers. He also teaches sales skills and how to run the business –  just about everything one would need to know to operate a shop like his. For the entire program he charges $5,000.

In Martinez, Calif., about 35 miles northeast of San Francisco, Pablo Martinez is creating the Carlos Cobbler School. He says he sees a real need for more people versed in shoe repair and knows of at least 20 shops in the Bay Area that are looking for employees.

Martinez is currently setting up the classes, which will include a shoemaking and sandal making class, as well as instruction in how to repair shoes. He’s working on a schedule for the classes, which are expected to start this spring but hasn’t decided how much he will charge yet.

In the meantime, he also has apprenticeships that require a seven-month commitment in which he will teach two apprentices at a time the trade without charge. 

For those with no funds or who don’t want to relocated to Denver or the San Francisco Bay Area, another option is to find a cobbler who wants to take on an apprentice. The Shoe Service Institute of America, the organization for people who repair shoes, suggests doing this.

All SSIA member wholesalers – companies that sell supplies to shoe repair shops – know who might be close to retiring or who might want to take on an apprentice. These companies are not everywhere, but many of them do regional or national business. A list can be found at

And once trained, you may either stay and work for the place that offered you an apprenticeship, find a job with one of the owner’s contacts or start to think about saving up, or finding a partner, to start your own shoe repair shop. But that will cost somewhere between $40,000 and $75,000, depending on whether you buy new or used machinery. Or maybe, if the person you’re apprenticing for is ready to retire, he will turn the business over to you and let you pay him from your earnings. One repair shop owner said a shoe repair business could make up to $100,000 per year.

For more information on the Rhine Cobbler School visit or contact them by phone at 303-832-6345. 

Carlos Cobbler School will soon have a website at In the meantime, you can contact him at 925-228-6232.


Defy Ventures program graduate launches internet business

Fabian Ruiz launched Infor-Nation Corp. after participating in Defy Ventures entrepreneurship program.

Not much more than a year ago Fabian Ruiz was in prison serving 21 years for killing the man who shot his older brother. Today he is an entrepreneur and founder of Infor-nation Corp., a company that provides Internet services to those still inside.

From committing a major crime at age 16 to creating a company was a long, circuitous journey, but Ruiz’s story shows that with determination and a little help along the way people who’ve been incarcerated can make it.

During his stay in prison, Ruiz participated in a variety of programs and earned his AA degree. After finishing the college program, he studied to become a paralegal by taking correspondent courses through Blackstone Career Institute and spent the next decade working as a paralegal in the law libraries of various prisons.

It was through working as an in-prison paralegal that he got the inspiration for his business. “The Internet was very useful for me, but in NY prisons there’s no Internet access,” Ruiz says.

“I was fortunate that I had family and friends who I corresponded with and had them go online and look for info for me in places like LexisNexis. That info was pretty valuable, and I always had an idea in the back of my mind that if they won’t let the Internet in, I would create a business facilitating that service for prisoners.

Joining Defy Ventures

When he was released from prison in 2011 Internet access was still not available to prisoners in New York prisons, and no one had started a service to cater to inmates who needed to search for things online.

At the same time, a friend told him about Defy Ventures, a New York City organization that helps a select group of formerly incarcerated individuals learn how to become entrepreneurs. Defy Ventures was founded by Catherine Rohr, who also created the Prison Entrepreneurship Program at the Cleveland State Prison in Texas.

Ruiz decided to apply for the Defy Ventures program, and after an information session and screening process, he was selected to be one of 100 participants in the organization’s first class.

Following a 45-day introductory training program during evenings and weekends, he was among the 50 participants chosen for an internship, in which professional mentors and trainers coach participants as they prepare to launch their own businesses.

At the end of the first six months – Defy Ventures is a yearlong program – Ruiz participated in various competitions in which he had to present business pitches and business plans. The people who win these contests, and those who the organization’s investors are confident can succeed, go into Defy Venture’s business incubator. Ruiz was one of only nine members from his class who made it that far.

“In the incubator, you start the business, and Defy Ventures provides different services like lawyers who formulate contracts and people who do marketing and website assistance,” Ruiz says. It also provided a mentor to work with Ruiz, and he was fortunate that his mentor is the COO of a multimillion-dollar hedge fund.

“He (my mentor) would come to class and see what we were learning, and then we’d have an hour to talk about things. Then we’d have meetings at his office and figure out how to get my financials together,” Ruiz says. “We would go on picnics with Defy, and it developed into a pretty good relationship.”

The final phase

The last phase of the class was to incorporate. Ruiz incorporated his business, Infor-nation Corp., in June but didn’t actually start the business until August.

Infor-nation Corp. offers remote Internet search, remote email management and remote Facebook management, charging a set fee for each service.

He used the $2,000 in grant money he received from winning a Defy Ventures business competition to print and distribute the company’s initial brochures to inmates in prisons, who then fill out their info and what they’d like to have done. He began with four New York prisons, but the New York State prison system did not allow him to provide email and Facebook services.

Ruiz is now looking to expand into New Jersey and has contacted 17 correctional facilities in that state. New Jersey doesn’t seem to have a problem with email or Facebook, so he will be able to offer his full range of services in prisons there.

At this point. Ruiz is working on Infor-nation part time while also being employed part time as a paralegal for a group of criminal trial attorneys.

What’s the most important thing he learned from the whole experience? “You can’t do it on your own. I’ve always been the type of person who tries to do everything on their own, never asks for help,” he says.

“There are different phases in Defy Ventures that concentrate on hard skills and soft skills. They teach textbook stuff and find out which kinds of characteristics you have that are strong and which are weak. It was doing those things that I realized I have to break out of old patterns and do new things to get results.”

To find out more, visit:


Stanford law student helps female ex-offenders launch businesses

Angela McCray (center) with the first ReMADE class (left to right): Mary, June, Chloe and Mahnani.

With so many barriers to employment, many ex-offenders find that starting their own business provides a better option than working for someone else. While entrepreneurship has its own challenges, those with creative ideas and determination can succeed, perhaps with a little help from programs like the one created by Stanford Law School student Angela McCray to help female ex-offenders get a head start.

McCray launched Project ReMADE, which stands for Rentry: Making a Difference Through Entrepreneurship, early this year. An MBA, CPA and a member of a family of entrepreneurs, McCray was inspired by a corrections class she took at Stanford. In a paper she wrote for the class on how to reduce the recidivism rate, she proposed a program to help entrepreneurial ex-offenders, and the endeavor developed from there.

Project ReMADE consists of weekly meetings, which alternate traditional classroom training in such business skills as marketing, accounting and how to get funding with meetings with mentors. Each participant is matched with a law student, a business student and a member of the business community who help her put together a business plan.

McCray also recruited students to teach workshops and act as mentors and worked with the San Francisco Reentry Council to locate potential clients. Five were chosen for the initial 12-week program, but one later dropped out.

Participants must have a high school diploma or GED, have been out of prison or jail for at least one year and be working or in school.

The program is just the beginning of the process. “We focus on giving participants the social capital they need and a framework and a mentor so that they can work more fully with their plan and their ideas,” McCray says. “They can’t develop a business in 12 weeks.”

They do develop a business plan, however, and that plan is formally presented before a panel of representatives from organizations including Working Solutions, the Small Business Development Center and Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center. “Our goal is to connect them with the organizations that can help them carry on from there,” McCray adds.

The first class of entrepreneurial women established plans for a creative design company, an event planning firm, a clothing line for the LGBT market and a supplier of domestic services that range from cleaning to closet organization.

McCray plans to start recruiting the next batch of five future entrepreneurs in the fall, when classes at Stanford resume.


The Pentorship Program encourages entrepreneurship among inmates

Georgia Tech MBA student Kristen Daniel is the founder of The Pentorship Program.

Kristen Daniel, an MBA student at Georgia Tech, has created a unique organization to inspire inmates to think about becoming entrepreneurs upon their release.

The Pentorship Program, a startup nonprofit, aims to pair inmates with entrepreneurs, who communicate by email and physical mail through the organization’s staff.

So-called pentees must have a GED or high school diploma or be enrolled in the GED program at their facility. They must have an interest in a specific business idea or invention and have no internal prison/jail gang affiliation. Pentors must be an entrepreneur, with an organization or business of any size that has been in existence for at least 18 months. They must have no prior convictions for illegal business activity and be committed to responding to their inmate pentee in a timely manner.

Daniel first became interested in prisons and prisoners her senior year in college when she wrote a paper about privatizing the prison industry. After two years of work following college, she took off on a long journey teaching English in Chile and Korea. During her travels she saw endless examples of entrepreneurship among families who had little access to education and were economically disadvantaged but had the drive to start businesses, no matter how small.

Upon her return a friend was arrested on drug charges. Daniel told him about her plans to start an organization to encourage inmates to think about entrepreneurship, and he told his cellmates what she was doing. They began asking questions about the types of business they wanted to start after their release, and The Pentorship Program was born.

The going has been a bit slow during the organization’s first year-plus, but Daniel is laying the foundation to expand the program’s operations. The Georgia Department of Corrections is interested but was going through organizational changes. “Now that they have more job placement programs in place, they want me to come and do a rollout of the program,” she says.

She also is looking for an entrepreneurship organization to partner with, possibly SCORE, which has been doing email mentoring for a long time and has started a program for veterans. She also hopes to expand it nationally and that The Pentorship Program will serve as a model that others can adopt for their own areas.

In the meantime, her work progresses in Georgia, where one out of 13 citizens is incarcerated, on parole or on probation. And because it’s so difficult for ex-offenders to gain employment, she believes that entrepreneurship is something that those who have an interest should consider.

As she says on her website, “Entrepreneurship is the great equalizer that, if pursued correctly, allows individuals the opportunity to pursue the American dream regardless of race, gender, socio-economic background and past criminal history.”

It’s a path that many, with encouragement from programs like hers, may choose to follow. For more information on The Pentorship Program, visit