Starting over again is perhaps the hardest part after life’s setbacks happened. For many ex-offenders, trying to find a sense of normalcy after being convicted has its own set of challenges. One minute they were incarcerated, the next thing they know, they have been released on bail bonds. Many of these ex-offenders know that they have concerns about finding homes and a job. Many will face the uncertainties of unemployment because many companies are hesitant to hire ex-convicts.
Fortunately, many funding and business assistance programs help these ex-offenders start a new life by giving them more funding options to start businesses. These companies also offer training programs to help them get started.
Ex-felons, Great Entrepreneurs?
Andrew Medal, the founder of creative digital agency Agent Beta and a former convict, told Entrepreneur that it was his time in incarceration that prepared him for the life of being an entrepreneur. He shared that when he was released, he could not even get a job at Starbucks. But fast-forward to today: he has co-founded and built a million-dollar business. He has even created a Facebook group for ex-convicts, where he offers mentorship advice on how to start over again.
He said that prison life’s harsh conditions are what prepared him for the challenges of entrepreneur life. He shared that his experiences of prison riots, no access to the internet, and “crappy” living conditions have taught him how to fend for himself, and such is true with many ex-convicts.
Medal added that the limited resources had taught him and many ex-offenders to be innovative and resourceful despite their limited assets.
Life inside a prison is comparable to that of an unexpected journey, full of unknown destinations, Medal also said. Because of this, he said that he taught himself to no longer fear the unknown. For him, one important mindset that an entrepreneur must have is to know how to adapt to their current environment, be aware of the trends, and know when to change.
The experience was essential for his well-being. After all, many startups have to deal with many challenges, such as funding issues, changes in the economy, and trends in the market. All these he learned while he was in prison.
As an entrepreneur, you also have to have a healthy disregard for the rules. Why? Most of these rules will not apply to you when you have to push yourself to your limits and not care what society thinks. This disregard for the rules can be used for good because you will be creating a business that is entirely yours and will be benefiting the community.
He added that his fellow entrepreneurs should teach ex-convicts how to set up businesses for themselves and be positive influences in the community. Their stories can be viewed as an actual solution to prison reform.
Fortunately, there are business services for ex-convicts.
Ex-offenders can avail themselves of federal loans and grants to allow them to opt to start a business or continue their education. For example, federal education loans for felons allow ex-convicts to go back to school, and there are government grants offered online under business ideas, by nationality or personal characteristics.
They can also use crowdfunding platforms, such as GoFundMe or Indiegogo, to get financing from donors to give life to their new product ideas or inventions. Since the sites act as middlemen, donors are more confident with giving away money towards a cause they believe in. ;
They can also use online lending sites, like Prosper, a peer-to-peer lending platform that allows applicants to take out a loan online with no background check. Because of this, their criminal record will not be a hindrance.
Local communities and correctional facilities can also help ex-offenders get their funding by offering them training and mentorship. They also offer online courses that allow you to complete them at your own pace.
Starting over again is a slow process that takes a period of introspection. It takes a lot of humility on your part because you need to start from scratch. Starting a business may be your solution to clearing the slate. After all, your business will benefit the economy and will also eventually generate more jobs. Remember that your past is behind you and that to move forward, you must leave the heartaches but not the lessons.