Going to prison could leave a lifelong scar on one’s life. Nevertheless, there are people who have proved, whatever may be the circumstances, if there is a will there is a way. Following are 5 of the ex-cons who eventually turned into famous entrepreneurs.
1. Frederick Hutson
Frederick Hutson was sentenced to 51 months in prison in 2007 for distributing marijuana.
In jail Hutson used his business acumen and spent his days with business planning. Upon his release, he turned his plan into action and came up with an enterprise of his own called Pigeon.ly.
The venture connects inmates with their loved ones through phone calls and photos. Pigeon.ly is a photo-sharing platform which gives family and friends a way to search all federal prisons for an inmate’s current location (which changes frequently). For fifty cents a piece, customers upload photos and Pigeon.ly prints and ships them in plain envelopes.
2. AJ Ware
Served a four-year sentence for committing robbery with a dangerous weapon at age 25.
Ware was on food stamps when he started a house painting company with $25. He grew it to 18 employees generating close to $3 million in annual revenues, and sold it. Now, he’s the owner-operator of a racetrack in North Carolina with “a nice home, a car, a wife, kids, the whole nine yards,” as described by him.
Also, AJ Ware is the Executive Director of Inmates Entrepreneurs, a non profit organization founded in 2008. Inmates to Entrepreneurs offers business seminars and one-to-one mentoring at state prisons. According to Ware, the program guides inmates, many of whom got caught running illegal businesses, how to run a legal one.
“We teach them about business acumen and P&Ls, insurance, workers’ comp, the marketing side and the customer service side. We teach from beginning to end what to do and how to maintain their business,” says Ware.
Mitnick became one of FBI’s most wanted hackers at the age of 16. Mitnick hacked into the computer system Digital Equipment Corporation stole their software. He was a fugitive for nearly three years before being arrested in 1995 and released in 2002.
Today, he runs his own company named Mitnick Security which helps other companies to discover security lapses in their systems.
Talking about his youth, he says, “My drivers for hacking were intellectual curiosity, pursuit of knowledge and seduction of adventure. It was never about stealing money or writing malware.”
4. Charles Wendell Colson
Once infamously known as President Nixon’s “hatchet man,” Colson gained notoriety at the height of the Watergate scandal, for being named as one of the Watergate Seven. He was pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice for attempting to defame Pentagon Papers defendant Daniel Ellsberg. In 1974, he served seven months in the federal Maxwell Prison in Alabama as the first member of the Nixon administration to be incarcerated for Watergate-related charges.
Upon his release from the prison, Colson started Prison Fellowship, currently the world’s largest prison outreach organization. According to its website, the fellowship was founded because Colson “could not forget those he had left behind prison walls.”
5.Larry J Levine
Larry is a former 10 year federal inmate, who was charged for narcotics, securities fraud, obstruction of justice, and possession of automatic weapons.
Currently he is the Director and Founder of Wall Street Prison Consultants. Upon his release from the prison, he became a federal prison consultant, providing “prison survival education courses” and legal services to lawyers and offenders.