Antonio Reza helps pave way for formerly incarcerated who want to become lawyers

Antonio Reza

Antonio Reza

Thanks to the efforts of Santa Clara University School of Law student Antonio Reza and others like him, a growing number of people leaving prison may be headed to law school.

Many people study law while incarcerated. They may want to learn how to challenge wrongful convictions. Or attempt to correct errors in their sentencing. Or pick up knowledge that will help them gain employment upon release. Up to this point, however, not so many have gone on to practice law. But that is changing.

Take Antonio Reza for example. He grew up in what he calls a “rough neighborhood” and lost his first friend to gang violence at the age of 12. When he graduated from high school he knew seven people who had died within a year. And none were older than 21.

His mother kicked him out of the house the day after he finished high school, and he was incarcerated at the age of 19, convicted of the felony one count of second degree armed robbery and received a strike.

“When I got out there were a lot of barriers, and a lot of doors were closed to me. Everybody counted me out. ‘You’re just a felon. You’ll go back,’ they said,” Reza says. “I just wanted to prove everybody wrong.”

Substituted success for re-incarceration

“In doing so, I did the exact opposite of going back to prison.’

And what was the exact opposite? He enrolled in Ohlone College, a community college in Fremont, Calif., played basketball, was a part of student government, got inducted into the honor society and graduated with a 4.0 grade average.

But when he attempted to transfer to a four-year college, he faced the kind of challenges that are only encountered by those with a criminal record.

“When I was applying to transfer, that little box was everywhere. For job applications, for housing, for FAFSA,” Reza says. “All I was trying to do was to get an education, and I had this barrier trying to exclude me again.

“I was so mad all this time. Literally everywhere I turned, that box was there, and every time another door was closed on another opportunity that was not for me.”

But Reza persisted, was accepted to the University of San Francisco with a full scholarship and graduated as valedictorian. “I did everything I could, because I knew I had a second opportunity and didn’t want to waste any chances,” he says.

During his years at USF, he volunteered at a halfway house and started to be an advocate for formerly incarcerated people.

Standing up for the formerly incarcerated

“I knew I had to take a stand. There’s a negative stigma around people with a record, so I wanted to break that,” he says. “I wanted to do that by showing that, ‘yeah,  just because I was a felon, don’t keep me out.’ I started becoming an advocate because people would say, I never knew you were a felon. But what’s a felon?

“I knew that by standing up, I would be making it easier for the next felon. There are phenomenal people who came before me who were formerly incarcerated. These people were trailblazing. They allowed me to get opportunities that I wouldn’t have had. They pushed the envelope, and I’m pushing the envelope just a bit further.”

Through his work at the halfway house and his studies at USF, he became determined to be an agent of change.

“I noticed a lot of changes I felt needed to be made in the legal system, and I couldn’t do  them standing on the outside. I had to be on the inside. I believe that those closest to the problem are closest to the solution.”

So, he applied to 21 law schools. And even then, he noticed the discrimination. He was accepted by quite a few but waitlisted by others that he said, based on his grades and scores, he would have been accepted to and heavily recruited – if it weren’t for his record.

Of the law schools he was accepted to, Santa Clara stood out.

“It is truly a special environment. I can bring who I really am to campus. Just to be normal,” Reza says. “The environment really made a difference. The admission staff really made an effort to recruit me. And they gave me a full ride,” he says.

Creating bar associations for previously incarcerated attorneys

Now in his first year of law school, he is planning to specialize in criminal justice reform. And in the meantime, along with his studies, he’s busy developing two organizations dedicated to giving a voice to formerly incarcerated people who are now lawyers and law students.

Reza is an executive board member and the first student president of the National Justice Impact Bar Association, a new bar association for formerly incarcerated lawyers. As a member, he participated in the Rebellious Lawyering Conference 2020, which is the largest student-run public interest law conference in the U.S. and took place in mid-February at Yale Law School.

He’s also one of the founding members of the California System Involved Bar Association, which attracted 100 attendees to its first annual conference March 7 at UCLA.

“Most attendees (at the California event) were undergraduate students who are thinking about attending law school. A lot of them were justice involved, or their family members were or their kids,” Reza said. There were three panels. One was law school admissions staff explaining how they handle formerly incarcerated applicants. The panel that Reza was on consisted of formerly incarcerated law students and practicing attorneys. The third panel was people in charge of moral character for the State Bar of California.

Advice for those who want to become a lawyer

“It’s possible. It’s going to be hard, but it’s possible. I was told that due to my record I was never going to be able to practice law, but that’s a lie. As soon as you pass the bar, you can practice any kind of law you want. You can even be a tax lawyer, public defender, district attorney or any other type or lawyer you want. You are not limited because you are formerly incarcerated. That doesn’t mean you won’t be discriminated against. You’re going to have to bring your A game, if you’re going to be able to make it,” Reza says.

“The formerly incarcerated community is a really strong and close community. I’d like to encourage whoever is reading this to feel free to contact me. Everyone is willing to help each other out. We’ve all been through it, and we understand what it’s like, so we really try to help each other.

To learn more about Antonio Reza in his own words, check out the TEDx talk he gave at Ohlone College in November. And if you’d like to get in touch with him, please contact us.

From inmate to Leavenworth mayor: An inspiring story of a man who made a unique journey

Leavenworth mayor

Leavenworth Mayor Jermaine Wilson.

While politicians on occasion end up in prison for wrongdoing of one sort or another, Jermaine Wilson took the opposite path. He made it from prison to politics, now serving as the recently appointed mayor of Leavenworth, Kansas

And it’s an inspirational story that shows how someone can turn their life around and use their prison experience to create a better community.

Trouble started early for Wilson. Although raised in a church-going family, he was rebellious, ran away from home and committed his first crime at age 11. After spending six years in juvenile facilities, he returned to his old neighborhood and his so-called friends and started hustling drugs. One night about 18 months later in 2007 he was stopped by a police officer who found drugs in his car, was arrested for possession and ended up spending three years at the Lansing Correctional Facility on a felony conviction.

Dramatic life change in prison

But it was there that Wilson decided to make a drastic change in his life. “I called out to God and accepted the Lord in prison. And for the first time in my life I felt free,” he says. “I started to read the Bible. I started a business plan and came up with the idea of a nonprofit.”

After he was released in 2010, Wilson returned to the prison where he spent time and became a mentor to inmates. He visited churches and the juvenile facility to tell his story.

In 2015, his record was expunged, and he created Unity in the Community, a nonprofit similar to the one that he dreamed up while in prison.

“There was so much racial tension in our society, so we created an organization where whites, blacks and law enforcement could work together so that things would be good,” Wilson says. “We started feeding the homeless and mentoring the youth. A basketball event with the youth versus the local law enforcement got lots of people involved. We wanted everyone to know that it doesn’t matter what your race or occupation might be, but we’re in this together.”

As a result of the work he was doing, people told Wilson that he would be a good leader in the community and asked if he’d ever considered running for public office. No. He hadn’t but decided to try. In 2017 he received the most votes in the election for a spot on the Leavenworth City Commission.

Wilson was appointed mayor pro tem last year and the city’s mayor in January. And he didn’t waste any time putting together an agenda to help those who suffered similar experiences to his own. On his second day in office, Wilson launched a county-wide expungement for all those who were eligible.

“I partnered with the prosecutor. Lawyers provided services pro bono so they could get it done for free. The only charge will be the $190 court fee, which will be waived if applicants can’t afford it,” he says

Fifty people went through the process. The prosecutor processed the applications in mid-March, and court dates are being set.

Prison experience makes him a different sort of politician

There’s no doubt that Wilson is a unique mayor, and he feels his prison experience makes him so. “I know what it’s like to struggle. I know what’s it like to be at rock bottom,” he says. “It helps me to be a voice of the voiceless. With that experience I won’t forget people. I’ll be a representative for all of the people not just one particular group.”

Although his term as mayor only lasts one year, Wilson has other projects he’d like to accomplish. He’d love to get a transitional home for those in reentry and is currently looking for funding. He’d also like to increase the number of entertainment businesses in town, so residents don’t head for Kansas City malls. And, by the way, the north side of Leavenworth needs a grocery store.

Advice for others

What advice does Wilson have for other formerly incarcerated individuals who might want to consider getting involved in politics?

“A lot of us become a product of our environment. If you want be successful don’t be influenced by the things that are around you but be inspired by what’s inside you,” he says. “If you truly want to make a difference serve at every level and every opportunity that’s given to you. The reason that I say that is that I never had any aspirations, but the opportunity was given to me, and I served. And that has opened doors.”

Life after prison: Master guitar maker decides to tell his story

Robert VincentWhen leaving prison, should you tell the story of your incarceration or keep it a secret? And how long do you wait before you do so?

It took master guitar maker Robert Vincent 10 years to tell his story. Now that he’s done it, he’s glad he did, but doubts remain about the effect it could have on his guitar business. So far, however, people’s reactions have been positive, and the story of how prison changed his life serves as an inspiration.

Reason for incarceration

Vincent was incarcerated after an unfortunate incident early in his adult life.

“I got involved in an altercation with another group of young men. One of the men in my group pulled out a gun and shot a man in the other group,” he says. “One young man lost his life. I got charged with second-degree murder along with the triggerman and was sentenced to 16 to life. I entered the prison system when I was 21 and was released in 2005.”

After serving 3-1/2 years at Pelican Bay, Vincent was transferred to Deuel Vocational Institute in Tracy, Calif. There he continued to be involved in an arts program, but what Tracy had to offer changed his life.

One day the teacher of a guitar making class asked for help, because the men were having trouble spraying lacquer on the guitars, and before incarceration Vincent had been an automotive painter. After spraying a few guitars, Vincent decided to build one himself.

Guitar making became a passion

A year later, well known luthier and teacher Kenny Hill gave Vincent a book on the design elements of classical guitar. “It struck a chord with me. I dove in and started studying as much as I could – whatever I could get my hands on,” he says.

Vincent went on to complete about 30 instruments inside prison. He donated several of them to an auction benefitting a local charity, as well as to another event sponsored by PBS in Sacramento.

“That gave me a head start. My instruments were on the market and people were interested in them,” Vincent says.

Meanwhile, his prison job assignment was to work in the arts program. He took care of the equipment and maintained the workshops spaces and started to teach the inmates guitar building. Kenny Hill would come in four times a year to critique the guitars that were being made and offer instruction and advice.

Vincent learned much from visiting artists

Working in the arts program brought him into contact with the many artists – painters, printmakers and ceramic artists – who visited the prison. “Dealing with the artists helped me grow as an artist. All of them were helpful and encouraging,” he says.

Vincent’s work in the arts program and being able to create classical guitars changed his life.

“I wasn’t just isolated for 16 years with yard talk. Because the program was so popular, the (prison’s) public relations officer would bring in tours, local politicians and college students,” Vincent says. “Communicating with other people besides guards and inmates was a tremendous opportunity for me.”

Involvement in the arts also gave his two sons – one was five and the other two at the time Vincent was incarcerated – a reason to be proud of their father. When they visited him every month, the conversation often turned to the arts. Now his older son is a practicing artist and the other a woodworker.

Harry Belafonte orders guitar for Carlos Santana

In addition, his guitars gained such a great reputation that Harry Belafonte commissioned him to build a guitar for Carlos Santana.

Arts program made it all possible

“I thought about what happened to me in the first place and wanted to better myself so that it would never happen again. I don’t know if that would have been possible without the arts program,” he says.

Upon release in 2005, Vincent went to work in his brother’s wrecking yard business and began to purchase the equipment and materials to start his own guitar making shop, which he now operates out of his garage in San Diego.

His guitars are for classical guitarists who play concerts and sell for about $7,000 each. It’s a small market, and his dealers take a major cut, so he characterizes himself as a starving artist but one with few expenses. Still he’s doing what he loves and has made a name for himself.

Finally ready to tell his story

And now, more than 10 years later, he’s ready to tell his story.

“My guitars have been pretty successful, but for years I never mentioned that I learned in prison. I was eager to tell the story, but it wasn’t perceived so well by a pretty well known dealer my first year out. So I quit telling the story after that until this year,” he says.

In fact, in the past he did speaking engagements at conferences and colleges under the agreement that there would be no Internet information mentioning his name.

“For 10 years I would Google my name every month or two to make sure my story wasn’t out there – somebody else’s version of it,” he says. And then one day, a persistent reporter from San Francisco’s KQED radio station called wanting to report his story. And it was published in June.

“I decided it was finally time to get the story out there, and it felt really good,” Vincent says. He called his dealers in New York and Los Angeles. They didn’t care about his background and were supportive.

In fact, he hasn’t experienced anything negative but is still a bit unsettled. “I don’t know whether I’ll live to regret this, but it’s a huge relief to tell the story,” he says.

Should others do the same?

“It’s a personal decision. And I really don’t know the answer to that yet,” he says.


Blackstone Career Institute changed life of former inmate

Michael Harris, legal administrator/paralegal, Saldivar & Associates, PLLC, Phoenix.

Michael Harris

The thousands of hits we’ve received – and continue to get – on the article we wrote about Blackstone Career Institute three years ago indicates the appeal of the paralegal correspondence course it offers to those in prison.

It fact, it can change their lives, as it did for Michael Harris, who was incarcerated in Arizona and is now a legal administrator/paralegal at Saldivar & Associates, PLLC in Phoenix. And he’s just one example.

At any given time, more than 1,200 incarcerated students are participating in the Institute’s Correspondence Paralegal Program for Inmates. The old-fashioned paper-based course – no Internet is required – has been delivered to more than 1,800 institutions since the program began in the late 1970s.

Using time in prison to one’s advantage

But back to Harris. When he was sentenced to three years in prison, he was determined to make good use of the time.

“My wife and I made a strategy of how we were going to make this time work for us. I had never been able to return to school to finish a degree but wanted more education,” he says. “So I researched to find a school that would give me something worthwhile and offer a chance to do it through correspondence.”

Although Harris, like many others, had originally signed up for the monthly plan payment, an inheritance his wife received soon after his incarceration helped him pay off the cost of the course in one lump sum, which made things easier. If you pay on a monthly basis Blackstone only sends out the materials once it receives payment, but if the tuition is paid in full at the beginning, the books for the entire course are sent in the initial shipment.

Completing coursework

Of course it depends on the person and his or her background, but Harris said he only read five to 10 pages per day and developed a test strategy in which he went through the course work marking the answers to the practice questions. It took him a total of 24 months to complete the course, a bit more leisurely than he could have done it.

“I went through 16 books for the paralegal course. You could easily do one a month very comfortably,” he says.

Making money in prison

Not only did he set himself up for a career once released, Harris also used the skills he gained to make money while incarcerated. He found that several fellow inmates, including himself, needed to file for bankruptcy, and he helped them do it, work which, he says, kept him really busy.

His selling proposition: “By being in there (in prison), I could get the Federal court to waive the filing fee. I would tell guys to give me $200 and I’d get the $335 filing fee waived.”

The bankruptcy filing business even got him the support of prison employees.

“Prison officials were curious about what I was doing so they’d kind of peek in and say, “Hey what’ve you’ve goin’ there,” and I’d explain it. Most of the guards were in financial distress and would start asking me questions, and I’d refer them to online resources. Doing work for them would have created potential conflicts of interest, so I didn’t go there, but through their curiosity they were supportive,” he says.

What did the course mean for Harris while he was in prison”

It meant that it wasn’t wasted time. While everyone else was counting the days, I was using the time to my advantage,” he says. “It was also very instrumental in keeping my marriage together because in my absence my wife knew I was doing something that was going to benefit us all in the end.”

Prison experience makes better paralegal

And what did it mean once he got out?

Harris had worked for a law firm before he went into prison but at a lower than paralegal level, so the Blackstone paralegal certificate gave him credibility to get a better job.

Because he works in a firm that specializes partially in criminal law, Harris’s prison experience gives him insight that others in his firm don’t have.

“I’m able to connect with the client in a way that the attorney can’t. I’ve been there and done that,” Harris says. “When clients are in custody and I meet their families and I say I’ve been there, they say, “No you haven’t.” But when he finally convinces them that he has, they know he really understands their situation.

Advice for others

His advice for those still incarcerated:

  • Structure your time and make it work for you.
  • As felons we’ve been selling ourselves our whole lives. Most of us are quite the characters. Take that skillset and turn it into an asset instead of a hustle.
  • Get engaged in your community and network through nonprofits. Put yourself out there and make yourself available to others and it’s amazing what comes back when you do that.

If anyone else has taken the Blackstone Career Institute’s Correspondence Paralegal Program for Inmates, we’d love to hear from you. Please add your comments below or contact us directly.


Vanderbilt students design Triple Thread Apparel to train ex-offenders

Lead printer William Williams prepares a screen to print custom T-shirts. (Photo by Chris Cole.)

Students at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., have created a business to help give job skills and experience to the ex-offenders they share a home with.

Their home, Dismas House, a unique halfway house which may be the only one of its type in the nation, was created nearly four decades ago by a former university chaplain to bring students and ex-offenders together. He believed that both groups have much in common as they begin to embark on new lives.

While Dismas House has been around for a while, its business was created more recently. In fact, it was just a few years ago that Kyle McCollom was returning to his dorm after sharing an evening meal with the residents – a meal where the discussion centered on how difficult it is for ex-offenders to find employment. As he walked past a student wearing a custom T-shirt, he had the sudden inspiration to create a T-shirt company that would employ Dimas House residents. Others were enthusiastic about the idea.

“At the time I wasn’t living at Dismas House, but I decided to move there to learn from the guys how a workforce development enterprise could help them,” McCollom says. “I don’t know their world. I don’t know what they go through every day. Ex-offenders often have trust issues, because they’ve been promised so many things. I needed to gain their trust, and one of the ways I could do that was to move into the house.” He ended up living there for eight months, and during that time worked on preparations for the Triple Thread T-shirt company.

Like most new ventures, it wasn’t easy. And like many new ventures one of the greatest challenges was raising enough capital. The students did that by a two-month Kickstarter campaign, which brought in $11,000, a grant from the Corrections Corporation of America and another grant from the Clinton Global Initiative, which gave them the money they needed to buy their first equipment.

Triple Thread was officially launched on Sept. 10, 2010, when 300 people came to celebrate the new business and its initial employees. Since then, more than 30 Dismas House residents have been trained to work in the business. Ex-offenders stay for a period of three to six months at Dismas House, and during that time, some of them work part time at Triple Thread with the understanding that they’re spending the rest of their day looking for employment that will sustain them once their Dismas House residence is over.

While employment at Triple Thread is usually finished when the ex-offenders leave Dismas House, the company’s first employee, William Williams, is still around as the lead printer and a partner in the endeavor.

Although the original marketing plan for the company’s T-shirt sales targeted colleges across the nation, efforts have since been switched to Nashville and the city’s nonprofit organizations, schools and businesses. Mail orders, however, are coming in from places like Austin and St. Louis, and a new online design program will allow customers to create designs electronically.

The response of the Nashville community has been incredible, according to McCollom. “The concept of using a sustainable source of revenue to solve a social problem is very appealing,” he says. “It makes Dismas House as a nonprofit a more enticing opportunity for foundations. We’re saying invest in our nonprofit, and we will have returns year after year, and by increasing revenue we’re increasing opportunities for employment. We’re very thankful for the help that the Nashville community has given us as investors, customers and supporters.”

Perhaps other organizations working with ex-offenders may want to explore the idea of setting up a screen-printing business. The PanZou Project in North Miami, Fla., runs one to help rehabilitate gang members and ex-offenders, and there may be others doing the same.

If you’re considering creating a custom T-shirt business to provide employment for ex-offenders in your local area, check out the American Screen Printing Association. This association is actually a for-profit business, but it offers a series of free how-to articles and videos on its website covering a wide variety of topics ranging from how to set prices to technical issues encountered while printing. Once you establish a business you can join the organization for free and be listed in its online directory.

Those really serious about launching a business of this type, however, can save themselves time and headaches by hiring someone with a background in the screen-printing industry. Kyle says he wasted a lot of time trying to teach himself the business by watching YouTube videos, but nothing beats a general manager who knows what they are doing.

For more information on Triple Thread, check out To learn about the PanZOu Project, go to, and to find information on the American Screen Printing Association, visit


I Have a Bean created to hire ex-offenders

I Have a Bean employees show off the coffee they are so proud of in their roasting plant.


At Jails to Jobs we’re always on the lookout for employers who are ex-offender friendly, but it’s rare to find a company established with the express purpose of hiring them. During a search through the Twitterverse looking for like-minded people to follow, we discovered Second Chance Coffee Co. of Wheaton, Ill, a company whose mission is just that.

It all began in 2005 when Pete Leonard, one of the company’s founders and current CEO and roast master, led a mission trip to Brazil to help build a church. There he discovered the best coffee he had ever experience. Inspired by the fact that the farmer who grew it was able to make such incredible coffee by roasting the beans over an open fire using rudimentary equipment, Leonard decided to teach himself how to roast coffee on his Weber gill.

At about the same time, his brother-in-law was arrested and imprisoned and upon release couldn’t find a job. That, along with getting to know a volunteer at a Chicago halfway house, and a desire to expand his coffee roasting business compelled Leonard to create Second Chance Coffee Co.

In 2007, Leonard and his partners incorporated, rehabbed a commercial building into a micro-roasting plant and designed a software-controlled coffee-roasting machine to create coffee with exceptional quality sold under the “I Have a Bean” brand. “It usually takes two years to learn how to roast coffee,” Leonard says. “It only takes 30 minutes to learn how to operate our machines, but it will still take two years to learn all that’s going on behind the scenes. People can learn the fundamentals but produce perfect coffee the first time they roast it.”

With the facility in place, he began to hire what he calls “post-prison” people through his partner’s halfway house connection. All of his employees are ex-offenders. In fact that is a requirement of the job. “We look at people’s references and at FBI background checks to make sure they’ve been in prison,” he says. “In this economy all kinds of people are looking for work. Some of them apply who haven’t been in prison. They need to check that box.

They also need to be part of – or a graduate of – a post-prison program, which could be anything from AA to drug rehab or any of the available city or state post-prison programs.

From the 35 post-prison employees who have worked at Second Chance Coffee Co. over the past few years, a few stand out. “Our very first roaster, Jim, a former drug dealer in Chicago who was in prison for 19 years, now has a family and is working for a large utility company, making $85,000 per year managing mechanics,” Leonard says.

Another employee, John, is a part owner of the company. “He has done an enormous amount of work for us. He’d been a six-figure white-collar earner but worked for us for a number of months for free. His contribution was far in excess of what we’ve been able to pay him, so we gave him part of the company,” he adds.

And we can’t forget the coffee itself. I Have a Bean is now at 11 Whole Foods Markets in the Chicago area and was the No. 1 selling coffee – out of 90 different types – at the four stores where it first was sold. Most sales come from the company website, however, with the coffee roasted to order and shipped out that day.

The formula must work. Second Chance has doubled its business every year and is expecting continued growth. To handle that growth, Leonard plans to create 50 plants across the nation. “Organizations dealing with post-prisoners are begging us to open roasting plants in their communities,” he says.

Based on his calculation, Leonard says that if each roasting plant hires 21 full-time and another 20-part-time employees, he’ll be the biggest post-prison employer in the world. “We want to be an example to every other company that they can take a risk and employ those people who have checked the box. There doesn’t have to be any difference in quality if employees have been in prison or not.”

For more information or to order some Ethiopia Harrar, Colombia Antioquia Don Rigo Estate, Mexico Ojo de Aqua Decaf or other coffee visit


Dave’s Killer Bread is inspiration for ex-felons

Dave at work making Dave’s Killer Bread.

I’m convinced that there are ex-offender success stories all around us. You just have to be on the lookout for them.

It happened to me the other day at Safeway. I was in the bread aisle trying to decide what to buy, when a bold wrapper like I’d never seen before caught my eye. The words “Dave’s Killer Bread” screamed out from the shelf. My first thought was maybe this was made by an ex-offender or maybe it’s just “killer” good. As it turns out, it is both.

First about the bread. The loaf I bought, Powerseed, is all organic, full of fiber, slightly sweet – thanks to the inclusion of three types of juices – and contains countless seeds, a better mixture and more of them than I think I’ve ever seen in commercial bread.

The bread is impressive, but the guy who developed it is even more so. Dave Dahl spent a total of 15 years in four trips to prison for crimes of theft and dealing methamphetamines. Although he was trained in computer aided drafting/machining while incarcerated and thought he would continue that career upon release, the poor food in prison inspired a desire to work in his parent’s bakery business once again, as he had when he was younger.

Dave longed for tasty wholesome bread just like that baked by his father, a Seventh Day Adventist who pioneered sprouted wheat breads and was determined to change the world by encouraging healthy eating through the products he sold at his neighborhood bakery in Portland. That bakery later became NatureBake and was sold to his son, Dave’s brother.

Once released from his last prison stint in late 2004, Dave decided to rejoin the family business with his brother and was put in charge of bread development. The result is Dave’s Killer Bread. The company now makes 17 different types of breads, all organic and mostly low fat and high fiber. The tag line, “Just Say No to Bread on Drugs,” will give you an idea of just how far baker Dave has come.

His bread is sold at stores in Oregon, Washington, California, Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Utah and Nevada and can also be mail-ordered online at

In addition to making great bread, Dave has made it a point to help others like himself. From a handful of employees, the company has grown to about 240 workers, 30 percent of whom are ex-felons.

And my story just shows that there are job leads and ideas in places you’d least expect – like the aisles of a major grocery store. Where are you going to find yours?