Welcome to “pitch day,” where inmates practice and prepare for an upcoming business plan competition managed by the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP), a Houston-based nonprofit that turns incarcerated men into aspiring business owners.
During this important dress rehearsal as they prepare for their final examination, inmates receive feedback from mostly local business leaders. At a later date, the men in the program deliver a 30-minute oral business plan presentation to a judging panel of business executives and venture capitalists from across the nation. But before inmates make it this far, they must successfully complete PEP’s three-month character development program called Leadership Academy. Then they move into PEP’s core program, the six-month business plan competition that leads to a Certificate in Entrepreneurship from Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business.
Jay Wall, a Houston-area real estate developer, says the program “is all about changing the trajectory for these young men.” They can succeed and fairly quickly. “They just need to be willing to listen,”Wall says. “We come here because we want to help, and we believe in what is going on inside these walls.”