72ºF

This Houston-based program offers a fresh start to reformed inmates

It has been described by many as a mini-MBA with a 5% acceptance rate

HOUSTON – The Prison Entrepreneurship Program is a second opportunity for reformed inmates and gives them a chance to transform their lives outside of prison with business skills and the support of mentors.

Bryan Kelley, CEO of the Prison Entrepreneurship Program, gave us more details on this local non-profit helping formerly incarcerated people with tools to pursue fulfilling and productive lives.

Prison Entrepreneurship Program
Prison Entrepreneurship Program (Prison Entrepreneurship Program)

“We bring together business executives with inmates through entrepreneurial passion and servant leadership to transform lives, restore families and rebuild communities. We use that vehicle of entrepreneurship and character development to really reform lives and take somebody from our community who was a negative influence and turned them into a positive disrupter,” said Kelley, a prison-reform advocate giving voice to ex-felons, many of whom leave prison with few chances to find housing and employment.

“It is a difficult landscape for a returning citizen. They encounter a labyrinth of obstacles that are nearly impossible to overcome. The unemployment rate for the ex-felon population, even before COVID-19 was about 28 % and I’m sure it’s even worse than that now,” said Kelley, who understands the struggles firsthand as he served almost 22 years in prison and will be on parole for the rest of his life.

Brian Kelley of Prison Entrepreneurship Program
Brian Kelley of Prison Entrepreneurship Program (Prison Entrepreneurship Program)

“The Prison Entrepreneurship Program gave me all the skills and the tool-belt necessary to do great out here, to survive and thrive. Prior to prison my life was a mess and part of that was I didn’t have anybody to show me a way, to mentor me, to show me what being an honorable man is, what being a responsible businessperson was. But in the program, we have successful people from the business community, successful in life to come in and really mentor, people who lead classes, who advice on business concepts and a new way of life,” said Kelley, who’s proud of the organization that he’s been part of since 2007.

The program’s acceptance rate is low and only the top 500 candidates will make it to their Leadership Academy, but the success rate is high with 100% employment within 90 days and a recidivism rate of less than 6%.

Inmate giving a business pitch at the Prison Entrepreneurship Program
Inmate giving a business pitch at the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (Prison Entrepreneurship Program)

“It’s three months of intense character assessment and development and then six months of business plan formation where they guys will put together a 15-page business plan and perfect a pitch. And we have a business plan competition at the end, and we’ll choose a winner,” said Kelley about the intense in-prison program, where participants will graduate in a cap-and-gown ceremony and a certificate in entrepreneurship.

Prison Entrepreneurship Program
Prison Entrepreneurship Program (Prison Entrepreneurship Program)

“We take tax consumers and turned them into tax producers. We take felons and turned them into fathers, sometimes even philanthropists,” said Kelley.

To support or donate to the Prison Entrepreneurship Program, click here.

To see Kelley’s complete interview, watch the video above.


About the Author: