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Organizations: The Pentorship Program

Kristen Daniel was studying business at Georgia Tech and “looking for a sign.”

During her travels throughout South America and Asia, she was impressed with the success of some of the microenterprises she encountered – small businesses with less than five employees and with few startup costs, usually less than $50,000.

“I wanted to use entrepreneurialism to make a difference,” she says. “Sadly, a good friend of mine was incarcerated, but that gave me the idea for a business of my own that could have social impact.”

Four years ago, she launched The Pentorship Program, a nonprofit that uses career-development training to reduce prisoner recidivism, which hovers around 67.5 percent within five years of release.

“The primary reason many of these individuals cite is lack of employment,” Daniel says. “If they’re equipped with entrepreneurial skills, they not only stay out of prison, they also create jobs and contribute to society.”

Pentorship uses secure technology to pair inmates with business leaders who act as mentors, providing real-world feedback on startup ideas and strategies. “It took a little time for me to learn my way around the re-entry field and figure out the right channels for our resources,” she says.

The organization just completed a pilot program at Walker State Prison in Northwest Georgia with inmates who are scheduled to be released in 2015. “One inmate wants to open a barbecue pit; another plans to start a GED program for ex-offenders; and another wants to return to the family farm and develop it at a higher capacity,” Daniel says. “Entrepreneurialism is a mindset, and it requires goal-setting and confidence.”

The program also engages business leaders in community building, she notes. “We always need volunteers.” Pentorship, based in Atlanta, plans to expand its services nationwide this year.

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