In a room filled with twenty-five high-powered executives, Robert Cassato gave his 3-minute pitch confidently and smoothly from the stage, north of Manhattan for the Defy Ventures competition.
Defy Ventures is an organization that helps prisoners to begin businesses as they serve their sentences.
The organization is nonprofit-oriented.
The business competition is under Defy’s program called “CEO Of Your New Life.”
Which Business Idea Won Defy Ventures Competition?
His idea was so strong enough to make him the winner in the “entrepreneurs-in-training” (EITs) category. This category attracted 50 participants at Wallkill State Prison.
The 25 executives volunteered to act as judges for the pitches. They identified and helped in repairing crumbling entrepreneurial talents.
Cassato’s idea garnered him an IOU worth $500, which he will receive immediately he’s freed. (His parole hearing will take place in June 2018.)
All the top five ideas earned similar IOUs. The second and third place winning getting $400, and $300, respectively and so on.
The EITs participants spent at least 6-months developing their entrepreneurial ideas from scratch.
Before the main event, the participants used to have weekly meetings, during which they would practice their pitches in front of one another. They would then offer feedback on everyone’s presentation.
Some even decided to collaborate or cross-promote each other, with one participant featuring his clothing line designs in a fellow inmate’s youth magazine.
Before being jailed, Cassato was a loan officer. But while in the correctional facility, he practiced 5-6 days a week during the not less than a 6-months period, to perfect his pitch.
He was practicing for about 3-4 hours a night.
What Is the Significance Of the Defy Ventures Program?
Founded by CEO Catherine Hoke in 2010, Defy has given the likes of Cassato another chance at professional success.
Statistically, about 68% of American prisoners will re-offend within three years of release. Over the 7-years Defy’s:
- The recidivism rate was as low as 3.2 percent.
- The employment rate was 95 percent.
Inmates who participate in Defy’s program get MBA-like training from qualified executives who:
Help EITs identify the potential that’s in their ideas.
Act as lifelines whenever the thought of beginning a business from scratch seems difficult.
And since Defy aims to rehabilitate the entire person, the program also offers:
- Life Coaching.
Although Defy may be the largest, it isn’t the only program offering such services. In California, for instance, The Last Mile assists inmates in starting their own tech-oriented businesses through:
- Entrepreneurship programs.
Therefore potential entrepreneurs, serving long sentences miss valuable info pertaining the product and market research.
For instance, somebody who has been behind bars for the last 15-years probably does not have sufficient exposure to the smartphones.
Over its years of operation, Defy:
- Has enlisted 4,400-executives to mentor about 3,600 EITs across the country.
- Has held 15-competitions with ten more planned.
The Wallkill class happened to be the first in New York State.