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2020 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Prison Entrepreneurship Program

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Community & Neighborhood Development, Economic Development, Human Service Organizations, Human Services, Personal Social Services

Mission: PEP unites executives and inmates through entrepreneurial passion and servant leadership to transform lives, restore families and rebuild communities.

Results: AEI President Arthur Brooks and Harvard competitiveness professor Michael Porter both recognize PEP as the #1 reentry program in America. - 3,000 Graduates - 400 Businesses Started - 100% Employment - True pathway to the middle class - 8% Recidivism (Program Graduates); 2% Recidivism (eSchool Alumni) - $4.3 million tax savings and a 794% ROI on donations of time and money

Target demographics: Incarcerated men in Texas prisons develop the life skills and knowledge to be successful and productive citizens upon their return to society

Direct beneficiaries per year: 1,100 participants on our 4 in-prison campuses, 500 returning participants reentering society, 1,200 volunteers investing their time in our participants

Geographic areas served: The state of Texas

Programs: Character Development, Leadership Training, Toastmasters, Accelerated Masters-Level Entrepreneurship Education. This enables our participants to productively re-enter society. This includes a five-month business plan competition in prison and a range of post-release programs, including housing assistance, work readiness services, continuing education, executive mentoring and business start-up assistance. We operate 5 transition houses in Houston, Dallas, and Austin and have offices in all 3 cities to provide full reentry services.

Community Stories

26 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Lance K M.

Advisor

Rating: 5

I've been volunteering with PEP for over 10 years. The in-prison program of teaching character development and entrepreneurship is unmatched. It's exciting to see participants develop skillsets to help them succeed upon release, especially the business plan pitch competition. PEP leadership excels at running a philanthropic non-profit, first, through an established set of national and local executive boards and, secondly, through making the program easy to be involved in and impactful for executive volunteers. I will continue to donate my time and money to PEP!

Jared G.2

Client Served

Rating: 5

A beacon of light in a dismal abyss. PEP is an organization of hope fueled by love and accountability. Through this program, lives are changed. Not just the lives of the participants that are incarcerated, but also the lives of their families and the volunteers alike. By pairing top-level executives, character development, and academic achievement this program offers tangible skills and the tools necessary to apply them. PEP brings changed men and women home to their families and is shutting down prisons! After losing everything, PEP walked beside me and offered me access to a Baylor University accredited business curriculum, mentorship, fellowship, and transition assistance upon reentry. I am able to work, pay taxes, and go to school because they believed in me. I am eternally grateful for this program and am proud to live between the wings. PEP for life!

2

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I have not been directly connected to PEP but I do follow the organization. I have spent several years of my life incarcerated and know first hand how the door to prison can stay open for years on end. Coming home with no support, job, or direction led me back to the life of crime that got me locked up in the first place. I knew I wanted better for myself but it was almost impossible to obtain as an inmate locked up. There is no rehabilitation that begins on day one where it is most needed, it starts the last month you are headed out and there is no real preparation for release. In my last term in DOC, I was introduced to Televerde a sales and marketing company with a unique business model. That model helped drive revenue for some of the top companies in the world and helped transform the lives of the women in Perryville. Thank God I was able to learn marketable skills and move into a career in sales but what about those who don't have programs available to them in prison? PEP is making an impact in the lives of people and helping them to achieve goals and teaching them marketable skills that will help them to become productive members of society and to provide for their families. I think PEP is amazing and I continue to pray that God will bless this organization and open a door of favor that no man can close.

2

Client Served

Rating: 5

The general assumption is that when people are sentenced to incarceration, there is some sort of mechanism in place to help these individuals rehabilitate into more positive and productive members of society. Nothing could be further from the truth. The ugly reality is that when the vast majority of people are released from prison, they have been offered zero opportunities to develop either personal or professional skills, create a success plan for the future or cultivate a support network of peers and mentors to hold them accountable, edify them and help succeed upon release.

For going on 15 years, PEP has successfully endeavored to change that narrative, and to provide a hope and a future for so many who, without PEP, would have neither. Working from the inside out, PEP engages inmates where they are, while they are still incarcerated, and begins the transformation process there, developing character, instilling integrity and work ethic, teaching life skills, leadership skills, job skills as well as helping people identify their own negative habits and thinking patterns. There is no other program, inside or outside of prison, that can match PEP's potential to truly shift the narrative on what rehabilitative justice looks like.

2 Andrea W.7

Volunteer

Rating: 5

PEP is a mind-blowing experience. As a volunteer, you expect to come into the program offering advice and support. In no way did I expect the impact that PEP had on my life. I can truly say that after every single event that I have attended, I left of leaving better than I came. These men and women are smart, talented, caring individuals who truly put the work in to change themselves for the better. PEP offers a chance for men and women to learn valuable life skills as well as the opportunity for them to network with people they may have never interacted with in the "free" world. The same goes for all the volunteers as well.

2 Cyndie Cameron B.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

From my first trip “to prison” I became a believer in change. The possibility of change that is within people. I saw the process of taking what many might say are “bad” people and transforming them into “good” people. In my own heart, I have always believed that there is good in everyone but this program has solidified that. One distinct observation as I have met hundreds of inmates over the past several years is that any one of our children, and maybe even one of us, could easily be sitting in their chair.....wrong place/wrong time? A few bad choices or maybe even one bad choice?
I have maintained contact with several PEP participants after their release and am always so happy to hear that their success stories are continuing on the “outside”.
I believe “the system” is in great need of overhaul but I am encouraged that this program is helping in great ways.

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

Good day, My name is Gregory LaBeet an I am a proud member of the Prison Entrepreneurship Program.

Too many things in my childhood were off to pinpoint where my life took a turn for the worse. And I stopped trying to figure it out because the only thing that matters now is what is in front of me.

I served 10 years behind bars in total. Living in those conditions it forces you to become
a hardened person. It causes you to become less social. I was interviewed and accepted into the Prison Entrepreneurship Program within the last six months of my sentence and it was much needed.

I was six months away from release and I was so anti-social. It would take multiple interactions with me for me to start opening up to people. And let me add; multiple interactions where you show me you are the same person, then I begin to loosen up.

P.E.P. helped me to shed the shell I had built up over the years. It helped me to communicate naturally which was something I wasn't used to. PE.P. allowed me opportunities to speak in front of crowds and become comfortable with sharing my views.
That was something that big for me.

P.E.P. has served different purposes to different people, but to all of us, it has added value. Thank you very much for you assistance.

2 Richard H.4

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have spent time with PEP as a business advisor, business plan competition judge, and more. Every time I engage with the prisoners, I walk away more impressed and blessed. It is an amazing program with highly successful results.

2 Dougal C.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

They use my time and money well. The men that I interact with in this group listen to my advice and genuinely want to live the American dream.

2

Client Served

Rating: 5

I’m a product of the PEP organization and it’s initiative.

In 2015 I found myself on the bus to prison. After a tragic collision lead me to three years of confinement, I found myself searching for purpose—I was on the verge of losing hope in myself and the meaning of life. I knew I needed to completely change my path and understanding if I was going to ask for grace and redemption, but I didn’t know where to look.

The Prison Entrepreneurship Program invited me to begin that journey. They gave me the framework to break through the barriers of faulty structure that I sat upon and they worked with me to clear the rubble and start rebuilding on new values—The Ten Driving Values.

Through character development, leadership training, business education, and real-world practice; they showed me what it is to be a member of society that fights to build the community—not tear it down.

I am honored to say that the volunteers and stakeholders have helped me transition into a life pursuit, career, and business ownership that I am incredibly proud to claim. I could not have made it to the level that I stand at today—one that supports my family, first child, and a growing art and business community—without PEP.

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have volunteered with the prison entrepreneurship program for 7 years now. I started with them when they were only on one unit near Houston TX and helped them when they decided to expand to a second unit near Dallas TX. I was also part of the team that established the program for women near Austin TX. I have been an executive judge, business plan advisor, personal mentor and most importantly friend and advocate for the men and women who have gone through this wonderful program. I can't wait to see how they grow and continue to transform the lives of an underserved population.

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

As a business owner, I volunteered to be a judge for the final pitch competition. Walking into a men's prison, I was more nervous than I expected. When the pitches started, I saw that the men presenting their business plans were much more nervous than I was. We were all trying something new that day and we were all scared by it.
Their enthusiasm and their pride were contagious. By the time we got to the big announcement, the room was filled with nervous laughter. Even the men who had not advanced in the competition were nervous for their friends. I was struck by how much gratitude these men showed for my time.
I had been a foster parent for 6 years and had 11 children come through my home. I already knew the power of listening to someone, giving them the benefit of the doubt, and being kind. I also knew that sometimes the the odds are against you and there are people who have no good choices available to them. I was inspired to see so many men wanting to take advantage of the opportunity to better themselves and their families.

2

Client Served

Rating: 5

The PEP Program is unbelievable. They saved my sons life and gave my grandchildren their father back. My son was a drug addict high school dropout with no future and headed to his certain death. While he was in prison for 4th time he was invited to be a part of PEP. PEP helped him to get his GED and taught him personal skills to be a better man. Their family counselors helped to restore the relationship between myself and my son and even reunited his children with him on his graduations day. They taught him about business and when he graduated he got a certificate degree from Baylor University in entrepreneurship. After his graduation they continued to teach him and helped him get more certifications. When he was released from prison they allowed him to live at their transition house and helped him get a job making $20/hour on his 4th day out of prison. My son is now clean and sober and a homeowner.

2

Client Served

Rating: 5

My father was such a disappointment most of my life. He was so addicted to drugs and focused on himself that he would rather stand on a street corner and live in a shelter than face his responsibilities. He went to prison (again) and I was finally done with him, I gave up on him ever being a father or a functioning human being, but while in prison he was invited to be a part of the Prison Entrepreneurship Program and his entire life was transformed. While he was going through the program a group of family liaisons were in constant contact with me sharing all of his successes and my heart began to soften. I ended up forgiving him and attending his graduation where he won several awards. When he was released from prison the Prison Entrepreneurship Program was there to pick him up and take him to one of their transition houses where he eventually become the house manager. He had a full-time job within 5 days of his release from prison making $16/hr. He has been out of prison for 2 years now and is actively part of my life. Not only did PEP save my father life, but they created a new man that is actively part of my life and his grandchildren's lives.

3

Advisor

Rating: 5

I will be forever grateful to PEP. I first became involved with this wonderful organization in 2016 when my fiancé was a participant in the program. I was absolutely blown away by the support and compassion they offer to not only the participants but their families. PEP is truly life changing. I am now a business plan advisor and I feel so blessed to be able to give back to this program that has given to me and continues to give to me in so many ways.

3

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

When I first came out of prison I was told I had to come and see what PEP was all about. Unfortunately I did not get the opportunity to complete the program while incarcerated but I have seen it change so many lives. I have had the privilege to see first hand over the last 20 months the impact this organization makes.

3 Michael G.6

Client Served

Rating: 5

I have been a part of this REVOLUTION for over four years and i can honestly say that there is no amount of words with all of the world's languages put together that could describe the love and support that the Prison Entrepreneurship Program has to offer for those they serve. PEP has helped me understand what it is to be an authentic man and a servant-leader for Jesus Christ.

When i was a participant on the inside (in prison) PEP gave me the necessary knowledge and skills to better prepare for my release. They also provided countless opportunities to attain experience in a professional setting including effective leadership positions.

In addition, once i was released from prison PEP assisted me in all my re-entry needs in order for me to become employable and return to my family and community a blessing instead of a burden.

I now work for PEP as a Life Caddie serving our brothers as they come out of prison just as i was once served in my release. God surely has His hand on this organization and it is definitely a part of His glory and purpose.

4

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been following PEP for their 15 year history. From the moment I learned about the mission of PEP in 2004 I was completely blown away at the concept of this program. There have been several changes throughout the years, and they have all been positive. I have attended events in both Cleveland and Estes and hosted house dinners for the guys in the transition houses. One of the participants started-up a moving company in 2009 and I have used their business 3 times to move my family. I have seen this program not only change the men in the program, but their families as well. I witnessed a man hugging his son for the first time in 20 years at his graduation. Even though I no longer live in Texas, I still follow PEP and support them in every way that I can.

2

Client Served

Rating: 5

PEP changes lives on both sides - participants and volunteers.

It has changed my life for the better both going through the program and being on staff for over three years.

4 Michael B.15

Client Served

Rating: 5

Hi, my name is Michael Paul Brown aka "Huggies". I am a Class 22 graduate from PEP. I have been out of prison for almost four years now. This program really changed my life for the best. While I was in PEP, I was able to reconnect with all of my family, which I never thought would happen. They taught me driving values that I still apply today in my everyday life. I learned things that I never thought would happen in a place like prison. People today really need to take a look at the prison system and how people coming out are really given a small chance for survival in society. The potential of the people inthere is so amazing. I will forever be thankful for PEP and everyone involved. Marcus Hill, Pat McGee, Michael Potts, Bert Smith, Kristen Wisniewski, Bryan Kelly, Brian Troy, Gami Jasso, Phi Tran, all of you will forever be in my thought and prayers. Thank you for seeing the potential in me at the lowest point of my life. Thank you for giving me the tools needed to be a successful, God loving man. My family will always thank you. We are PEP! And I will always and forever continue to live my life between the wings!

5 habu1976

Client Served

Rating: 5

The Prison Entrepreneurship Program is a life-changing, family restoration organization that is a mechanism for true transformation. The staff, volunteers, and the participants of the program alike are the most incredible people i have ever met in my life. I owe my life to PEP.

Thank you for all that you do.

4 edward.amaya

Donor

Rating: 5

All nonprofits tout feel-good stories. PEP has hundreds of transformational stories, but have been tracking data-driven results to 'prove' program impact across thousands of program graduates. Incarceration and recidivism are systemic problems. Whether we realize it or not, these issues affect all of us. Ninty+ percent (90+%) of those in prison will be released. Pre/post-release programs are critical in transforming individuals from brokenness, poverty, and tax-burdens to becoming healthy, productive taxpayers who are community examples of the power that we have "together" to truly change lives.

5 MitchellEdwards

Client Served

Rating: 5

This is more than a "Program". This is more than "Entrepreneurship". This is certainly more than "Prison". This is a Fraternity of Brothers and Sisters that have put themselves through the very fires of hell and with help from each other have extinguished the flames and risen from the ashes with glorious new wings. We have a saying in P.E.P., "We live between the wings." These that have been through this "Program" go through a rigorous Leadership Academy before taking an Entrepreneurship centric business course that rivals most MBA programs through the graces of the Hankamer School of Business from Baylor University. They develop real business plans and pitch them to real Business Leaders, CEO's, Presidents, Vice Presidents and Top Executives from around the globe, culminating in a two day Business Plan Competition, but ask any volunteer or Graduated Alumni of this program and they will tell you the true value lies not in the very real knowledge learned, nor in the experience gained, but in the Loving networked Family that is an Integral part of the continued success of the program and a very real presence throughout the rest of the volunteer's and Alumni's lives alike. To have several thousands of pairs of hands and feet, eyes and ears and mouths, all speaking and doing good and working together to accomplish shared goals and reach the next level. As one. It's beautiful and it's real. I speak like I know what I'm talking about because I do. I was a Graduate of the Legacy class of summer 2019. I was in prison 7 months ago as of this writing and now I have two jobs, one of which I am blessed beyond measure to say is with this very same Organization that gave me the second wind beneath my wings. I am now in a position to help others the way I was helped. To help those that don't even know my name and have never heard of the Prison Entrepreneurship Program just because I'm in a position to do so. To give back to this world a measure of the Love that has been given to me by an extended family I will cherish for a Lifetime.

6 Brandon Green

Client Served

Rating: 5

The Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP) completely transformed my life. Before my incarceration in 2014, I was a successful independent business owner and thought I didn't need help with any part of my lie. I was so very wrong. I was broken personally and emotionally and so caught up in my perceived success that I was ignoring some glaring flaws in my personality and life. It wasn't until I began my PEP class in February of 2016, that I fully realized this. PEP operates in 4 phases. Phase 1 is character development and leadership training. Phase 2 is business education and life skills training. Phase 3 is servant-leadership and Phase 4 is Reentry success. It was Phase 1 that changed my life the most. Going through character development and finding the root causes of what landed me in prison really helped me to overcome the insecurities that drove me to my actions. Upon my release I was immediately greeted by a PEP Life Caddie who was ready to help me with whatever I needed to reenter society with success. I am a PEP lifer and forever grateful for all of the love that the staff and volunteers poured into my life.

8

Board Member

Rating: 5

I've had the great pleasure of being a volunteer and governing board member for PEP since 2005. I visited the Hamilton Unit initially because my wife and I were close to the founder, and we wanted to check it out to support her. What I've experienced has been so different than what I expected.

PEP does teach guys how to start and run a business, but it does so much more. It brings hope to men who often had little hope from the very beginning. It focuses on the person in developing self-awareness, social skills and spiritual well-being. It offers practical help on the outside getting a job, finding a place to live and (so importantly) building community. And none of what PEP does is about a free ticket hand-out. The organization does an outstanding job of carefully choosing men who are willing to invest in themselves and who want real change in their life. PEP will continue to invest only as long as the participants continue to invest.

PEP has provided an opportunity for me to become a more understanding, thoughtful and graceful person. I highly recommend taking a chance and going to prison to check out PEP's work. Like hundreds of volunteers before you, you'll be glad you did!

7 jeremygregg

Advisor

Rating: 5

I served as a volunteer member of the Dallas Advisory Board from 2007 until 2012. I found the organization to be a remarkable change-agent in the lives of some of society's most broken lives, and always knew that my time, talent and treasure were invested well when I gave them to PEP.

Review from Guidestar