How Defy Ventures Taps Into Inmates’ Entrepreneurial Spirit

With the US being home to just 5% of the global population but 22% of the world’s incarcerated criminals, Defy Ventures’ CEO, Catherine Hoke, set out to transform this population into successful business owners by the time they were released, one incarcerated entrepreneur at a time.  The US incarceration statistics are depressing – more than 76% of people released from prison return within 5 years and 70% of children with an incarcerated parent follow the pattern.  Hoke hopes to break this cycle.  Defy offers intensive personal and leadership development, competition-based entrepreneurship training, executive mentoring, financial investment, and business incubation. By engaging top corporate executives, investors, and entrepreneurs nationally, Defy catalyzes broad scale personal and economic opportunities for people with criminal histories, and shatters perceptions of one of the most stigmatized and overlooked populations in America.

Launched in Texas in 2004, Defy’s statistics today speak for themselves.  Their “Entrepreneur In Training” graduates average an employment rate of 95% and an annual increase income of 83% within the first seven months of enrolling and less than 5% return to jail.  It has financed and incubated over 165 businesses and engages 3,500 executive volunteers from the private sector as judges in its Shark Tank-style pitch competitions in prisons throughout the country, mentors and business coaches.

We, at Agility, believe in entrepreneurs from all walks of life and are looking forward to contributing to Defy via participating in its business mentorship seminars and LA-area based prison pitch events. Learn how you can get involved at


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