AEO Preparing Returning Citizens for Entrepreneurship

Capital One is proud to partner with the Association for Enterprise Opportunity to help returning citizens prepare for careers

Almost one in three Americans have a criminal record; however, formerly-incarcerated citizens face a sweeping set of challenges upon being released from prison. A criminal conviction limits employment prospects, public housing assistance and social services — making a return to life behind bars inevitable for many former prisoners.

These barriers have major implications for our society. A study found that the United States poverty rate would have dropped by 20 percent between 1980 and 2004 if not for mass incarceration and the subsequent criminal records that continue to haunt people years after their release. This also has an outsized impact on the Black community -- African Americans are incarcerated more than five times the rate of white people. 

While more than 650,000 U.S. prisoners are released into their communities every year, 68% are rearrested within three years of being released. 

These issues are complex but pressing, and it is why we are proud to partner with the Association for Enterprise Opportunity to launch Endeavor Ready, a program that aims to break this cycle by preparing returning citizens for careers in entrepreneurship.

“The Association for Enterprise Opportunity’s mission is a critical one — it provides pathways to meaningful self-employment and economic freedom to historically under-served populations,” said Theresa Bedeau, Community Impact and Investing Lead at Capital One. “Capital One is proud to support the Endeavor Ready program as its entrepreneurs build their businesses, establish financial well-being and secure their futures.” 

Endeavor Ready

The Endeavor Ready Toolkit offers a holistic framework to advance the path to entrepreneurship for returning citizens so they can access the economic mobility and wealth creation that entrepreneurship can provide.

Entrepreneurship addresses many obstacles facing formerly incarcerated citizens including low education levels, low-wage jobs, unemployment and mental health challenges, which often exacerbate the situation for many individuals. 

This program successfully piloted in Atlanta, New Orleans and St. Louis with 40 aspiring and current business owners. Five new businesses were started and 15 were strengthened. As of January 2020, five loans in total were made to entrepreneurs. 

“The Endeavor Ready pilot challenged us to weave core entrepreneurial training components with financial literacy and life skills, while also grounding the education with actionable steps,” Chad Sanders, Operations Manager and Re-Entry Court Case Manager at The First 72+, a partner of Endeavor Ready. “Delivering training in a trauma-informed way and then embedding credit building tools into our financial education offerings allowed us to break through an invisible trust gap.” 

Capital One is committed to building on the tools launched in Endeavor Ready. The next pilot will focus on increasing the flow of capital to returning citizens by turning our attention to the background checks done during the loan review process.

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