Last month, a group of 31 incarcerated individuals graduated from an entrepreneurship program offered at Northern State Prison in Newark. Reentry Ventures Entrepreneurship Program is offered in partnership between XP Startup Labs, From the Block to the Boardroom, and the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey.
Developed by XP Startup Labs cofounders C.J. Meenan and Jill Callahan, Reentry Ventures’ entrepreneurship program is a huge hit with incarcerated students, who expressed heart-felt gratitude and renewed hope for their futures after completing the program by developing their business startup plans.
While “Dare to disrupt the status quo.” is XP Startup Labs’ call to action, Reentry Ventures is the result of 2 companies looking to disrupt the status quo. “Teaching at Northern State Prison with Tracey Syphax, founder of From the Block to the Boardroom, is an honor,” says C.J. Meenan. “Not only is it the right thing to do, but it’s also one of the most rewarding experiences of my career. The students at Northern State Prison are extremely engaged and excited to learn.”
In the last five years, Reentry Ventures’ entrepreneurship program has grown from a startup Masterclass offered online at XP Startup Labs to an in-prison program — and will continue its growth into 2023 with in prison education, online courses, and social networks to guide the formerly incarcerated into the future upon their release through its broader sister program, Street Startups.
Reentry Ventures’ growth has been largely driven by C.J. Meenan, a startup strategist and entrepreneurship educator with nearly 30 years’ experience teaching the principles of entrepreneurship, having lectured at Stanford; Wharton; NYU; Colombia Teacher’s College; Georgetown; Babson; FDU Silberman Business College; Carnegie Mellon and more.
“Reentry Ventures wouldn’t be the success that it is without the strong partnership with From the Block to the Boardroom founder Tracey Syphax,” says C.J.
“Tracey is a celebrated entrepreneur and author who speaks on how he’s turned his life around by utilizing the same entrepreneurial methods that we teach.”
C.J. goes on to say, “I’ve taught entrepreneurship from grade school to grad school and find that the most eager are incarcerated students. Reentry Ventures delivers the knowledge students desire, without a doubt.”
In the words of one recent Reentry Ventures graduate, “I wondered for years why they didn’t have entrepreneurship classes. It was important for me because this is the best way to get employed with a criminal record. I am so happy and grateful [to] C.J. and Tracey.”