This is the last blog from my USA travels, but the end of this experience is just the beginning of the next phase.
My travels began and ended in New York so I wanted to share my first and last meeting in this blog.
A month ago I had the pleasure of being able to meet up with Coss Marte, the Founder and CEO of Conbody. Whilst in prison he developed a personal workout that he was able to do in his 9ft x 6ft cell. Over a 6 month period he lost 70lbs and realised that he could use this insight to set up a business upon release. He has gone on to set up Conbody which employs high quality trainers utilising their skills and his business model. All of his staff were formerly incarcerated and since release none have re-offended and are a valuable asset to his business.
He is a graduate of the Defy Ventures “CEO of your New Life” program. It is an employment, entrepreneurship, and personal development training program that supports the incarcerated and formerly incarcerated to become successful, legal entrepreneurs and employees.
Coss is a humble yet driven individual and has plans to expand his business and has recently launched an on-line subscription service to reach a wider audience. It was an honour and a pleasure to meet him to learn of his amazing progress.
My final meeting was with Tommy Safian, the Founder and Executive Director of Refoundary, based out of the Old Navy Yard in Brooklyn. Fefoundary have piloted a 18 month paid fellowship in Los Angeles and New York to develop life skills, financial education and craft skills in a fully supported pathway to a crime free future.
The program aims to create long term career opportunities utilising their artisan fellowship in upcycled furniture, craft goods, entrepreneurship and skills. Their model enables the candidates to be employees of the company in the first three phases, being able to earn a regular wage whilst learning “on the job” how to develop their business skills. Over the first 12 months the candidates continue to be an employee and by selling their own upcycled and craft products they generate revenue for the business they are gaining a greater insight and a track record for the future.
The model allows the candidates to then decide to take up their incubated business fully or seek employment drawing on their 12 month experience to be an asset to a company. The success of these 2 pilots has enabled
10 businesses to be incubated in LA and NY
125 people are now employed
One of the incubated business is Cambui Custom Craft. I had the privilege of meeting with Gene, the founder who owns a joinery workshop producing high quality furniture. He has been able to hone his skills and turn them into a means of earning a living.
Gene is a great advocate for the program and states
“As I work with materials other people have thrown away, I FEEL I’M RECLAIMING MYSELF. When others see I’ve made something of beauty and value, and they buy it. I feel like they see the beauty and value in me, too”
Clearly Gene has been on a tremendous personal journey and I was humbled and privileged to learn of his story first hand and see some examples of quality of his craftsmanship.
check him out on instagram: genemanigo
The success of the program is a credit to Tommy and the drive and passion of the team to provide a high quality and intensive supported re-entry program. It tackles head on the key reasons for recidivism: secure employment, financial literacy and personal development to gain a strong foothold back in society and showcase their value and worth.
So to finish..
This experience has been one that will live with me forever. I have been astounded, humbled, excited, informed, inspired and met people that I hope I will be able to develop stronger bonds with, even from afar. People that are willing to grasp a better chance when presented with it will succeed with the unwavering support of these individuals and organisations.
In my opinion we are all human and deserve the best life we can have.
I’ll finish with a quote from Winston Churchill
“The true guide to life is to do what is right”