For example, Rob Lilly was a third-generation felon. Even though he was the first member of his family to graduate from college, he followed in his father’s footsteps to prison. After his release, Lilly couldn’t get a job with his criminal record, though he had a marketing degree.
Lilly found that his only legal alternative was to start his own business. Lilly not only wanted to help himself, but also others who grew up without a father. He founded Powerhouse Events and Catering, an event planning company that trains and hires young fathers so they can provide for their families. In his first six months, Lilly generated more than $20,000 in revenue and created 10 jobs for young dads.
Successful entrepreneurs must become strong leaders. The fact is, if you can’t lead employees and clients, your business probably won’t gain much traction.
A great example of this principle in action is Lionel Manigault. Manigault was a born leader, but as a teenager, he put his skills to use as a gang member. After he was shot and hospitalized at the age of 19, he went to prison for weapon and drug-related charges. Manigault realized he’d have to embrace a new way of thinking to get off the path he’d previously taken.
In 2013, Manigault founded AM’I Live, a company that develops multimedia marketing tools for creative individuals. Since its inception, AM’I Live has served 40 customers. Manigault says he used his team-building skills to hire four employees and earn more than $40,000 in his first six months.
Transforming Lives Through Entrepreneurship
One thing these three entrepreneurs have in common is their desire to help others transform their lives. “Alone with my thoughts [in prison], my perspective changed,” Marte said. “I started to believe that my purpose was to give back rather than to destroy individuals around me. Since my release, people in my community see me as a force; one who is establishing a mission to demonstrate personal transformation by creating a legal, successful business.”
The mark of a great entrepreneur is knowing what to go after — and going after it. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what your parents did or if your parents were even around. If you’re willing to work hard to create something that will benefit the people around you, you can live a life of freedom, passion, and success.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Catherine Hoke is the founder and CEO of Defy Ventures, a national nonprofit that provides entrepreneurship training, executive mentoring, startup funding, career development, and job development for people with criminal histories. To find out more about how Defy Ventures can help you or someone you love, click here (defy105.com). Connect with @DefyVentures on Twitter.