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.