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Defy Ventures Transforms Lives and Reduces Recidivism for Formerly Incarcerated People


[The following mid-year update was written by the organization and then sent to us for further sharing.]

Defy Ventures is proud to be making Los Angeles the best place for people with criminal histories to CREATE their new lives after incarceration. Defy is partnering with the Goldhirsh Foundation’s LA2050 initiative to support people with criminal histories from the time they are incarcerated through their transition back into the community, when they are searching for employment and/or starting their own businesses.

Anywhere from 85% to 89% of formerly incarcerated people who are rearrested are unemployed at the time of rearrest. To prevent recidivism and ease the reentry process, Defy believes it’s crucial to prepare individuals with the skills, experiences, and networks that will lead them to be successful employees and entrepreneurs after incarceration.

Program progress

Since Defy was awarded the LA2050 grant in October 2023, we have kicked off a new CEO of Your New Life class of Entrepreneurs in Training (EITs) at California State Prison, Los Angeles County (also called Lancaster, due to its Lancaster, CA, location) and enrolled 33 EITs. We held our Business Coaching Day on November 8th, 2023 with 40 volunteers in attendance, Volunteers and EITs connected with one another and bonded in their shared humanity during empathy building exercises throughout the day. Volunteers coached EITs on resumes, personal statements, and business ideas, while EITs inspired volunteers with their resilience, drive, and determination.

This class of EITs is scheduled to compete in their Business Pitch Competition and graduate on April 29th!

Defy’s CEO YNL program in transitional facilities (called CEO YNL: Community) had its first graduation of 2024 in January, attended by 28 volunteers from organizations across Los Angeles. It was held at a partner community based organization in Torrance.

Family members of our EITs were also able to attend and watch their loved ones pitch their businesses and were able to vote too!

A look ahead

Next up, Defy will be holding Business Pitch Competitions and graduations for the class at Lancaster and starting a new cohort of the CEO YNL: Community program. The Lancaster event is scheduled for April 29. We then plan to launch another cohort in late July or early August to enroll up to another 50 people to become CEOs of their new lives. The CEO YNL: Community date is still being scheduled, but our website will be updated with the date as soon as it’s locked in. You can find all open event dates on our website for both in-prison and post-release events— join us!

Our work that impacts Los Angeles County extends far beyond the borders of LA County. Over 30% of the currently incarcerated persons in California are from LA County and will be paroling back to LA County. Defy SoCal is delivering our transformative programs to 6 other prison cohorts outside LA County, but those men and women may still be LA county residents one day.

In June of this year, in collaboration with Google, Defy was selected as a partner organization for them to do their annual day of volunteer work, GoogleServes. There are plans for Googlers to do resume reviews, help our EITs create LinkedIn profiles, have a professional photographer for headshots, and opportunities for networking.

Impact Stories

The impact of Defy’s work is best seen in the lives of those we serve.

“Coach” Carlos graduated from Defy Ventures’ Business Accelerator Program in Summer 2023. He is the founder and CEO of How to Battle, an elite mindset coaching business. Carlos drew on his experience of personal transformation while serving a 20-year prison term to develop a coaching practice dedicated to guiding and motivating young people to overcome challenges, reshape their futures, and excel. He pitched to Defy’s Investment Committee and was awarded almost $10,000 in seed capital.

Carlos shared, “Completing the Defy Ventures program was a transformative experience. It equipped me with the skills to start and run my own business and instilled in me the confidence to face and overcome the myriad challenges that have come my way."

Laura, another Defy graduate who was released from CIW, is now the executive director for Freedom for Immigrants. She came home during the pandemic, and has been nothing short or remarkable in her career journey.

Laura shared that the Defy program gave her the confidence and the courage that she could do more than just an hourly job. She paroled with that mindset, as she continued to tell herself these first jobs are only temporary. The program gave her the skills to have a business plan, and says that she still uses a SWOT analysis in making important decisions for her career and self.

Once again, thank you so much for your transformative partnership, and I look forward to seeing how we can broaden our impact in 2024!

Best regards,

Quan Huynh

Executive Director, Southern California

Defy Ventures

AuthorDefy Ventures