109 Prisoners To Seek Certificates in Entrepreneurship from Baylor University in Partnership with Prison Entrepreneurship Program
HOUSTON, & WACO, Texas (Feb. 20, 2013) – Earlier this year, 109 male prisoners began to pursue their Certificates in Entrepreneurship from Baylor University's Hankamer School of Business through a partnership with the Prison Entrepreneurship Program.
“We offer a ‘mini MBA’ program within the Texas prison system that transforms inmates into entrepreneurs,” said Bert Smith, CEO of the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP). Through the program, the inmates also develop complete business plans for a real venture that they can pursue after release.
During PEP’s Business Plan Competition at the Cleveland Correctional Center north of Houston, at 11:30 a.m., Friday, Feb. 22, these inmates will pitch their business plans to more than 50 “free world” executives, entrepreneurs and MBA students who attend PEP’s in-prison events.
Founded in 2004, PEP is a privately-funded nonprofit that engages executives, entrepreneurs and MBA students as volunteers in a values-based entrepreneurship boot camp that is offered within the Texas prison system. Each year, more than 5,000 inmates apply to be a part of PEP – but only the top 5 percent are selected for this elite program.
“Our graduates invest over 1,000 hours of work into our six-month Business Plan Competition class, which incorporates a college-level curriculum supplemented by Harvard MBA cases, the AP Writing Stylebook, Toastmasters, an employment workshop and a financial literacy course,” Smith said. “In addition, we focus at least half of our time on character assessment and development, built around PEP’s Ten Driving Values.”
“What impresses me the most is how these men not only complete this very rigorous program within a prison, but they do so while completing a full business plan for a real venture that they can launch after release from prison,” said Dr. Gary Carini, associate dean of the Graduate Program in Management & Entrepreneurship at the Baylor University Hankamer School of Business, and a member of the governing board for PEP.
Over the course of their involvement in PEP, graduates will pitch their plans more than 20 times. This includes presenting their plans before panels of executive judges in a “Shark Tank” format at PEP’s monthly events. The presentations prepare the men for making their case in the free world – including to potential employers once they are released.
“I had been arrested four times before my 21st birthday,” said Harvey M., who graduated from PEP’s Class 10. Harvey is now rolling his first food truck in Houston. “Most of the world had written me off – but not PEP. They gave me the tools that I needed to succeed and even helped me to open my own business.”
Thanks to the preparation that they receive while in PEP, 100 percent of PEP’s graduates find a job within 90 days of release from prison. More than 120 of them have started their own businesses, including at least two that are now grossing more than $1 million in annual sales. And most impressively, the organization boasts some of the lowest recidivism rates in the country: less than 7 percent of PEP’s 2009 graduates returned to prison within three years, compared to the national average of nearly 50 percent.
“After reviewing the caliber of PEP’s curriculum and the quality of their results, Baylor University has agreed to award a Certificate in Entrepreneurship from the Hankamer School of Business to every graduate from PEP,” stated Carini.
The partnership began in December 2012, when 70 PEP graduates earned their certificates by completing the PEP Business Plan Competition class and graduating in a full cap-and-gown ceremony on Dec.7, 2012.
IMPORTANT NOTE ON MEDIA CLEARANCE WITHIN THE PRISON
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) and the GEO Group (the private operators of the Cleveland Correctional Center) require that all visitors, including media professionals, request permission to attend events inside the prison in advance. Name and driver’s license number for each person are required, and a list of any equipment that you intend to bring into prison. Media will not be given access without advanced permission. Please contact Jeremy Gregg for more information at 214-727-9829 or JGregg@PEP.org.
ABOUT PRISON ENTREPRENEURSHIP PROGRAM
Established in 2004, Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP) is a Houston-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. We are servant leaders on a mission to transform inmates and executives by unlocking human potential through entrepreneurial passion, education, and mentoring. Our groundbreaking results include a three-year return-to-prison rate as low as <5%, employment rate of 100% within 90 days, and the successful launch of more than 100 businesses. www.PEP.org
ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University is a private Christian university and a nationally ranked research institution, characterized as having "high research activity" by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The university provides a vibrant campus community for approximately 15,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating university in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 11 nationally recognized academic divisions. Baylor sponsors 19 varsity athletic teams and is a founding member of the Big 12 Conference.
ABOUT HANKAMER SCHOOL OF BUSINESS
Baylor University's Hankamer School of Business provides a rigorous academic experience, consisting of classroom and hands-on learning, guided by Christian commitment and a global perspective. Recognized nationally for several programs, including Entrepreneurship and Accounting, the school offers 24 undergraduate and 13 graduate areas of study. Visit www.baylor.edu/business and follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Baylor_Business.