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Posts Tagged ‘entrepreneurship’

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Photo: Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff
Carlos Omar Montes keeps all the equipment and supplies for his mobile barbershop in a 5′ X 5′ storage unit. With support from entrepreneurship programs, he’s building a new life after serving his time.

When I edited a magazine focused on low- and moderate-income issues in New England, I liked to acquire articles on helping former inmates lead a decent life after serving their sentence. Dumping someone on the side of the road with a toothbrush is hardly the way to help him start supporting himself and giving back to society (in the form of taxes, family stability, community service, etc.).

Although retired for four years, I am still drawn to such stories. Here’s one from Kelly Field at the Hechinger Report via the Boston Globe.

“Standing before a roomful of CEOs, angel investors and foundation representatives at Boston College Law School late last year, Carlos Omar Montes pitched his idea for a mobile barbershop.

“Omar’s Barbershop, he told the audience, would fill a niche in the grooming market, offering the ‘old-fashioned experience’ of hot lather and warm towels to men who are confined to group homes and nursing facilities.

“ ‘Omar’s will connect people to the happiest time in their lives, bringing them freedom, convenience and happiness,’ said Montes, dressed in a vest and tie for his presentation.

“A year and a half earlier, Montes, now 31, had been an inmate at the South Bay House of Correction in Boston. He served almost eight years in all, there and elsewhere, for possession of drugs and a firearm. Now he was in a lecture hall on the pastoral suburban campus of Boston College Law School, for the final day of an entrepreneurship boot camp that paired former inmates with law student mentors.

“Covid-19 would arrive a few weeks later. Still, Montes spent the lockdown positioning himself to move forward with his business as soon as reopening allowed — amid a recession that otherwise would have made it considerably harder for him to get any other kind of job.

“The idea of bringing higher education inside prisons got considerable momentum in the years leading up to the pandemic, becoming the subject of books, documentaries and extensive media coverage.

“But if ex-inmates weren’t getting hired before coronavirus, they are unlikely to be in the front of the line now that millions of Americans are unemployed, no matter how much education they received.

“The stigma against candidates with criminal records is so strong that, even with the skills they may have learned behind bars, many find it easier to start a business than get hired by one, said Marc Howard, a professor of government and law who helped start Georgetown University’s Pivot entrepreneurship program last year. …

“Project Entrepreneur at BC, launched last year, is one of a small number of similar efforts that take place both inside prisons and on college campuses and attempt to provide inmates and ex-inmates with the skills, confidence and contacts they need to start their own businesses. They also aim to open traditional students’ eyes to the stigmas and systematic barriers to employment former prisoners like Omar face. …

“Many employers are wary of hiring ex-convicts. According to one widely cited study, a criminal record reduces the likelihood of a callback or job offer by nearly 50 percent. The result: More than a quarter of formerly incarcerated people are unemployed, and nearly half are re-arrested within eight years of their release. …

“Thirty-five states, including Massachusetts, and more than 150 cities and counties have adopted ‘ban the box’ policies that bar questions about prior convictions from job applications. …

“Said Kevin Sibley, executive director of Boston’s Office of Returning Citizens, which helps formerly incarcerated people find education and employment, even in ‘ban the box’ states, many employers still run background checks late in the hiring process and drop any candidate who has committed a felony, ‘even when it has nothing to do with the work assignment.’ …

“Elizabeth Swanson, who has led a Babson College entrepreneurship program for prisoners for a decade, said the lessons of these prison entrepreneurship programs are not only for the inmates.

“When she asks students, at the start of each semester, what they think about prison, Swanson said, they’ll often say something like, ‘I’ve seen “Orange is the New Black.” ‘ Some are terrified to step inside a jail. But when they get to know the inmates, through letters or visits, ‘they do a complete 180.’ ”

More at the Globe, here.

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An experimental theater piece to test the Theory of Purposefully Divided Attention to Fend Off Meltdowns.
Cast: Grandma (G), Adult One (1), Adult Two (2), Adult Three (3), Small Child (Small)
Setting: Dinner table

G: Why is your hairdresser your hero?

1: She’s a real bootstrap entrepreneur. She’ll try anything.

G: Is that a blackberry in your popsicle?

Small: No, a blueberry.

2: Well, when you have kids, you can’t participate in every charity event or random partnership.

3: You have to prioritize, be strategic. Know when to say no.

1: But she has a great community reputation. She’s so upbeat.

G: I really think that’s a blackberry. Like Mrs. Rabbit’s in Peter Rabbit. Supporting everything in the community can add up.

1: It rolls up.

3: But you can waste a lot of time.

2: And energy.

G: People are grateful, though. If you’re strategic, you miss the kind of opportunities that you have no idea where they will lead. I like the way that popsicle drips right into the holder. It’s less messy.

Small: Do you want one?

G: I don’t want to take your last popsicle.

Small: We can make more.

G: Maybe after dinner.

Small: Let’s do it!

G: Careful — the juice is spilling. One and one and 50 make a million. It’s good to be open to serendipity if you possibly can.

2: There are only so many hours in the day.

3: Numerous small investments can’t get what one big investment would.

G: Do you want a napkin?

Small: I got a green popsicle at Whole Foods, but it dripped all over my dragon shirt. It was green.

G: There is nothing like a reputation for being upbeat and cooperative. I know where we can pick blackberries for the next batch of popsicles.

Small: But you have to add juice so it sticks together.

1: We now trade services. She does that with almost everyone. I feel like she could teach a class in entrepreneurship.

G: Teach one together, how about?

Small: Do you want a popsicle? Do you want one now?

G: Maybe after dinner. Look, that’s a raspberry. Or do you think it’s a strawberry?

Small: Do you want a popsicle now? I can go get it. We can make more later. Yes or no?

G: OK. Yes.

Small: Say, Please.

G: Yes, please.

Photo: Matthew Klein

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Suzanne and Erik went to grad school with David O’Halloran, whose consulting company was recently cited in The Irish Times for its focus on sustainable business ventures in Africa.

“For Irish entrepreneur David O’Halloran, adhering to a sustainable business model that helps develop and protect local communities and their environment is the key to enjoying long-term success in Africa’s emerging markets. In late 2006, the Galway man, along with three former colleagues, rejuvenated a business development consultancy called BusinessMinds by turning it into an incubator company that develops, finances and operates sustainable commercial ventures in Africa.

“The idea behind the enterprise is to offer investors a socially responsible approach to doing business on the continent, while also making a profit. ‘Historically, many investors in Africa have used a more short-term, exploitative business model, one which has existed since the days of colonialism,’ O’Halloran says. ‘Unfortunately, for some investors this remains the modus operandi even today. As in, they take what resources they can and then get out without giving much back to the local economies.’

“However, O’Halloran says he believes people are starting to realise that such an approach is inherently unstable and increases risk.” His organization is called BusinessMinds, Africa.

Bill Corcoran wrote the Irish Times article. Read more here.

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The blue-collar city of Buffalo, New York, has struggled in recent decades with unemployment and economic decline. A few years ago, it had a big idea for redeveloping its waterfront — a big idea that went up in smoke.

But when residents and local organizations starting thinking small instead of big, good things began to happen.

“In 2004, it was decided that the region would invest large sums of public money [at the site of the old Memorial Auditorium] to draw a new outlet for Bass Pro Shops, a national purveyor of sporting goods and fishing equipment. Local leaders scraped together $65 million in promised tax breaks, infrastructure improvements and other public subsidies to speed its arrival and to catalyze a new era of growth and commerce on the waterfront. It was all for nothing.

Since the Bass Pro deal collapsed, the harbor development corporation has shifted its focus on some comparatively tiny, piecemeal projects, such as the multicolored Adirondack chairs that dot the waterfront park, a new small restaurant that dispenses ice cream and veggie burgers, Jason Mendola’s fledgling kayak rental business and the relocation of the free Thursday at the Square concerts to Canalside’s Central Wharf.

None of those improvements required huge investments. None were heralded as keystone projects for future growth. But together, they have begun to transform the phrase ‘waterfront development’ from an oxymoron into a reality.”

Read the thoughtful article by Colin Dabkowski in the Buffalo News. I found the lead at ArtsJournal.com.
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By the way, when my mother met my father, he was an editorial writer for the Buffalo Evening News, the forerunner of the Buffalo News. She was attending law school.

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