Enter the characters you see below Sorry, we just need to make sure you’re business Pitch Ideas a robot. You have successfully emailed the post. Defy Ventures is a nonprofit that helps prisoners start thriving businesses. It gives inmates the tools to use their sense of hustle in more productive ways. Coss Marte is 31 years old.
His story of success is similar to that of many CEOs, except for one key detail. Marte didn’t start his business in grad school. Marte is a graduate of Defy Ventures, a nonprofit that connects prisoners with professional mentors to help them start businesses that can thrive once they get released back into society, in a six-month program known as “CEO of Your New Life. On a recent Tuesday at Wallkill Correctional Facility in upstate New York, the program was about to reach its natural end for 25 “entrepreneurs-in-training,” or EITs. Defy avoids using the term “inmate.
With dreams of becoming the next Coss Marte, the EITs pitched 50 executives on their ideas before a graduation ceremony honoring their achievement. Business Insider ventured inside Wallkill to see firsthand how the “Shark Tank”-style competition is granting second chances. Wallkill is a minimum security prison, but it still prohibits most electronic devices. Defy’s events took place free from cellphones and other buzzing and beeping distractions. The day’s events began with Defy flipping the usual script. The welcome tunnel, typically formed by inmates, was instead made up of executives. The two groups immediately started networking with an icebreaker game. Once everyone was acclimated, Defy began the pitch competition. 100 IOUs for the idea that EITs and visiting families judged to be the best.
After each EIT pitched his business, the executives deliberated to figure out who would move on to the semifinals. The 10 semifinalists included pitches for apparel and accessories, fitness and healthy food companies, a fleet of drones to survey crumbling infrastructure, and more. The semifinalists then pitched their ideas to even more executives, who logged their votes for the five finalists who would get to pitch the entire room from the stage. Once the semifinal pitches concluded, Hoke took a more serious tone. Entrepreneurship is a major component of Defy, but Hoke was giving everyone a taste of the program’s other function: character building. Walking up and down the line, Hoke reinforced the idea that accepting defeat and harboring resentment is a choice. She encouraged everyone in the room, not just the EITs, to consider the power of forgiveness. It might be tough to own up to those challenges, she warned, but “Step to the Line” was about to make the 75 participants confront their demons firsthand.
One by one, Hoke read off a list of statements. If the statement applied to the executives or EITs, they took a step forward onto the line dividing them. If not, they took a step back from the line. Hoke said the exercise is designed to build empathy between executives and EITs. Too often, she said, society wants to divide people based on their circumstances. Step to the Line” is meant to bridge those differences and reveal what people may have in common.
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