Rising Star: Prison Entrepreneurship Program

Catherine F. Rohr, CEO
Houston, Texas

A large percentage of inmates come to prison as seasoned entrepreneurs, having run highly successful enterprises such as drug rings and gangs. What if these influential leaders were provided with the training and resources to establish and run legitimate companies?

The Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP) links executives and inmates through entrepreneurial passion, education and mentoring. The program engages the nation’s top business and academic talent to constructively redirect inmates’ energies by equipping them with values-based entrepreneurial training–enabling them to productively re-enter society.

In three years since inception, PEP has dramatically reduced return-to-prison rates: its graduates’ return-to-prison rates are 3.7%, compared to the national average of more than 50%. The program has a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 150%, and has assisted 40 participants in starting their businesses. PEP has recruited 800+ senior level executives and venture capital/private equity professionals who serve as inmates’ mentors and business plan judges. Additionally, the program has established affiliations with 12 top-tier MBA programs, including Harvard and Stanford, whose 400+ students serve as weekly advisors for the inmates’ business plans. The program’s innovative work has won several awards, and has received coverage on NBC Nightly News and in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and Entrepreneur Magazine.

PEP’s five-year vision includes:

  • Growing its budget from $2MM to $15MM
  • Graduating 1,000 inmates per year
  • Assisting 500 graduates in launching successful businesses
  • xpanding staff from 17 to 125 employees

PEP is hiring successful, motivated entrepreneurial-types. Ready to jump ship? Email: