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Old 06-01-2011, 11:35 PM
scoopster scoopster is offline
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Default State program helps ex-cons become entrepreneurs


State program helps ex-cons become entrepreneurs

Freshly released from prison, ex-offenders often find it difficult to overcome the challenges of finding a job. They're usually dogged by inquiries about their past, their criminal records or lack of formal education. For those with an entrepreneurial spirit, though, starting one's own business means not having to answer questions about the past. "Educating them that, 'This is your business. You don't have to face questions about your education or your record' is something that we emphasize," said Vanita Nevis, who is leading the state Department of Development's Entrepreneurship and Small Business Division's efforts to help ex-offenders start a business. A little more than a year ago the Entrepreneurship and Small Business Division offered its first workshop for ex-offenders, teaching them what it takes to get a business started. "We have programs for women, for people over 50 and we realized, 'Why not this audience as well?" said Nevis. "What we want them to realize is that you're not restricted from starting a business because of a record." She said many of the ex-offenders who inquire about the program are former drug dealers, which actually can help them in their new business pursuits. "We tell them, 'You had a business mind let's put that business mind to work,'" said Nevis. Out of the first workshop, which drew 30 attendees, there so far have been two successful businesses created, she said. Nevis said one of the challenges in starting the initiative was getting partners involved. After approaching many entities and agencies, groups such as the Urban League, Salvation Army and the Adult Parole Board are now onboard. Those groups all have programs to help ex-cons apply for jobs, write resumes and to offer tips on how to succeed in job interviews, but none had programs helping ex-offenders start their own business. "They saw that there is a need for this," said Nevis. Last month the division held its second annual workshop in Columbus. "We saw a bigger turnout, with 63 people attending," said Nevis.

This program is probably funded by the "Second Chance Act"
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