Business Ownership Initiative (BOI) received $200,000 from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Program for Investment in Micro-entrepreneurs (PRIME), supporting their Re-Entry Entrepreneurship Development Initiative (REDi).
PRIME grants support economic development by providing technical assistance to organizations that encourage training and education to build, expand, and sustain small businesses with special emphasis placed on organizations that assist businesses in disadvantaged communities. This competitive federal grant programs awarded 30 grants from over 120 applicants in 2020. This is the 5th PRIME grant for BOI – totaling $830,000 in awards since 2015, which is a clear testament to the program’s success. As SBA Indiana District Director Stacey Poynter points out, “BOI’s REDi program is a prime example of putting PRIME funds to good use building better communities” because the program utilizes entrepreneurship and business training to reduce recidivism by specifically targeting returning citizens or formerly incarcerated individuals.
According to BOI, 14,000 Indianapolis metro residents have a prior criminal conviction with incarceration. Out of the 90% of people in prison who eventually are released from prison, 34% will return within three years in Indiana and because poverty is interlinked with incarceration, supporting projects that expand access to resources, like employment and education, can greatly reduce the likelihood an individual will re-offend. However, even if postsecondary courses are offered in prison, financial barriers prevent eligibility to enroll as well as significant employment challenges once released like criminal background checks.
REDi targets individuals pre- and post-release that have a specific interest in entrepreneurship, with the goal to teach “the re-entry population how entrepreneurial skills and business ownership can be a self-sustaining and empowering strategy for a productive future post-incarceration, which not only benefits themselves and their families, but helps grow our local economy” says BOI Executive Director Rick Proctor. To Rick, “entrepreneurship is an equal opportunity employer,” and REDi expands access for its participants while removing traditional employment barriers.
To date, the program has provided more than 12,500 hours of training, over 850 hours of coaching to nearly 1,450 REDi participants, and helped launch 23 businesses.
The program is a 6-week workshop with four phases: Entrepreneurship 101, Business Planning, Starting and Growing Your Business, all of which are teaching necessary skills to compete and succeed in the market post-release. Participants have the option to engage in BOI’s free one-on-one coaching service, offered in English and Spanish. BOI provides micro-loans for small business owners with pertinent knowledge on loan acquisition.
“BOI strives to provide the opportunity for all in our community to succeed in business and in life,” says BOI Executive Director Rick Proctor. This grant received Promise Zone certification and preference points for alignment with Promise Zone Buy and Safe IndyEast goals, specifically from BOI’s approach to reducing recidivism and infusing entrepreneurship in the Near Eastside community. The geographic service area also aligns with Opportunity Zone census tracts.