Former inmates get business boost

Stanford students, known for many intrepid endeavors over the years, are giving back and becoming teachers themselves through a new project meant to help previously incarcerated women succeed in business.

Project ReMADE, founded by law student Angela McCray, is a 12-week program run by students and the Stanford School of Law detailing the fundamentals of starting a business.

The project, which stands for Reentry: Making a Difference through Entrepreneurship, helps former inmates create a business strategy in a comfortable environment, said McCray:

“Working for yourself actually is a really good model for the formerly incarcerated. There are certain barriers to employment for those with a criminal record, not least of which is simple bias. So if they go it alone, they aren’t subjected to those judgments or the scrutiny they may get under a boss.”

Students teach participants accounting, business principles and marketing. The women alternate between two-hour group classes in San Francisco and one-on-one meetings with mentors.

One of the purposes of the project is to decrease recidivism rates in the participants of the program. Stanford Criminal Justice Center Executive Director Debbie Mukamal said the program gives participants tools they never had in order to build themselves up:

“They are also building social capital. Through mentor meetings and classes, they are creating a Rolodex that they never had.”

There are four participants in the program, down from five as one had to drop out for personal reasons.

The San Francisco Reentry Council assisted in selecting candidates for the program.

Participants had to be enrolled in school, out of prison for at least a year and had to show dedication to wanting to form their own business.

Program participant Mary Campbell, who aspires to start a business in event planning, said the courses provided her with useful strategies:

“I have learned how to be a part of a team and to work together with a specific goal in mind. I was ready to make a major career choice in my life and really wanted to get some direction about where I fit.”

Mukamal said the program is also a good opportunity for the students who are teaching the courses because it gives them a chance to work directly with those in the justice system.

McCray hopes that the program can accept more participants next year:

“We’re the first stop. We fully expect that they’ll go on to other programs that will help hone their skills even more. We can’t make them full-fledged entrepreneurs in 12 weeks but we can give them a foundation on which to build.”