Meet Our Graduates

Porfirio “Billy” AmaroDefy-Students-1Defy-Students-1

THE GRADUATES

Perfirio “Billy” Amaro


After his father was murdered when he was still a child, Porfirio was drawn to street life and the neighborhood hustlers. He created a profitable drug business and spent 12 years in prison for drug conspiracy and weapons possession. Now, devoted to family, faith, and personal development, he is the founder and owner or A & N Eco-Friendly Cleaning Services, a full-service commercial cleaning company that uses environmentally friendly products and methods.

Raul BaezDefy-Students-1Defy-Students-1

THE GRADUATES

Raul Baez


After years of heavy drug abuse, Raul spent 12 years in prison for a robbery committed to feed his addiction. During his sixth year in prison, Raul experienced a spiritual transformation that propelled him to change his life. He started mentoring younger men in prison, created an entrepreneurship program, and facilitated parenting workshops. At Defy, Raul is pursuing his passion for teaching, business, and community development with his business, Back on Track, which offers financial planning services to low-income individuals throughout NYC.

“Defy has been an awesome platform for me because I can talk about my past openly without it holding me back from my future. The abundance of love I feel from my fellow students, staff, and executives has been really transformative. I now have a clear vision for my business and a roadmap to success. Just a few years ago, I was in one of the worst prisons in New York State. Now, I’m being mentored by a former CEO of UBS. The difference between where I was and where I am now astounds me.”

Shanta BrownDefy-Students-1Defy-Students-1

THE GRADUATES

Shanta Brown


Shanta made her first drug sale when she was 15 years old to support her daughter, who was one year old at the time. In 2011, she was convicted of conspiracy to possess and distribute cocaine. To be a better role model for her daughter, she left that life behind and is now a licensed real estate broker. As a Class Two student entrepreneur at Defy, she is leveraging her real estate background and her passion for interior design by creating Luxe Home Studio, a home staging company that helps clients prepare their homes for sale by making them more attractive to buyers.

“Defy has really helped me overcome shame about my felony. I’m no longer afraid to talk about it freely. I’m leaning to accept myself for who I am now, not for my past. Defy has also taught me how to prioritize myself and has given me an amazing support system of classmates.”

Rob LillyDefy-Students-1Defy-Students-1

THE GRADUATES

Rob Lilly


When Rob first came to Defy, he introduced himself as a third generation felon. He was the first member of his family to graduate from college, but followed in his father’s footsteps to prison. While enrolled at Howard University, he was arrested for criminal possession of a loaded firearm, burglary, and possession of narcotics with intent to distribute. Rob is a Class One graduate and the Founder and Owner of Power House Events, a full-service event planning company that produces memorable, trendsetting, and meticulously executed celebratory events. Stemming from his experience with his absent father, a core part of Power House’s mission is to train and hires young fathers so that they can provide for their families. Rob generated over $20,000 in revenue and created 10 jobs for dads within the first six months of launch.

“The best part about Defy is meeting a whole network of people who I’m still close with –people with my background and those with a completely different walk of life. It’s a brotherhood. We refer business to each other and rely on each other’s services to support our businesses. I love being my own boss and providing opportunities to young dads.”

Marlon LlinDefy-Students-1Defy-Students-1

THE GRADUATES

Marlon Llin


Marlon followed in his dad’s footsteps to prison when he served a 10-year federal prison sentence for conspiracy to sell narcotics. When he returned from prison, he redirected his former drug hustling skills into legal sales and boosted overall sales for his former employer by 200%. A father of three, he is now the proud owner of Mylo’s Builders, which provides kitchen and bathroom renovations, as well as wood flooring installation. Since launching in May 2012, Mylo’s Builders has worked with 25 clients and given job opportunities to 15 people.

“Defy has given me a new way of thinking. When you’ve been in the streets all your life and you have no money, it’s so easy to back to the streets and get quick money even though you’re trying to do the right thing. But Defy gave me another tool and showed me how important it is to surround myself with positive people. Now, everyone I know is in business or trying to start a business. I’ve run into Defy executives on the street and that I have a relationship with all these new people is amazing. Things haven’t been perfect in my first year as a business owner, but I have people to turn to for help. There are bumps, but I know what I want and feel optimistic that I’m doing the right thing by pursuing my dreams.”

Nick LohrDefy-Students-1Defy-Students-1

THE GRADUATES

Nick Lohr


Nick got his entrepreneurial start in middle school by buying and trading baseball cards and, later, in high school, with a successful landscaping business that employed many of his friends. In middle school, he also started selling marijuana, which continued through high school and college until he was arrested and served a three-year prison sentence. After observing the tech boom while in prison, he launched a web startup upon his release that shares information about neighborhoods in Boston and NYC. As a Defy student entrepreneur, he is launching FoodCub.com, which provides customized mobile websites to restaurants.

“With Defy, for the first time, I didn’t have to hide half of my life. At Defy everyone knows the whole story and it’s like a family. It feels like we’re all in it together. Entrepreneurship is who I am. My goal is to create something useful for the world and love doing it everyday.”

Luis MartinezDefy-Students-1Defy-Students-1

THE GRADUATES

Luis Martinez


Luis started selling drugs at age 14 under the powerful mentorship of neighborhood drug dealers. His search for opportunity on the streets resulted in three prison sentences over 13 year for attempted burglary, robbery, and criminal possession and sale of a controlled substance. He is now the proud owner of Brooklyn Joes Painters, a full-service painting, remodeling, and home improvement provider. Luis brings 18 years of carpentry and building operations to his business, and was the highest revenue producer in his Defy Incubator class.

“I was so lost when I came to Defy. Defy stopped me from going back to the streets. One of the best parts of Defy was all the amazing executives who mentored me. I learned that successful people also go through bad times in their lives. Yet, they’re willing to open up and help people with backgrounds like mine. Now, when I get stuck, I know I need to pivot and find a way out of the problem. I no longer just give up.

My business has become my life. I’m consumed by it and feel a drive I have not had since my drug distribution days. I feel alive again, know I am worth something and am really helping people. It brings me so much joy.”

Before Defy
- Making $5 per hour picking up street litter.

Today
- Business owner.
- Generated $60,000 in revenue within one year of launching his business.
- Hired 12 employees.

Taren TylerDefy-Students-1Defy-Students-1

THE GRADUATES

Taren Tyler


Taren was a third-generation street hustler, whose father and uncles were all successful drug dealers. He started hustling drugs at age 12, was arrested at age 16 and served 6 years in prison. He now works for a criminal justice reform agency and, a master barber, is launching Bedouin Barbers, a mobile barbershop.

Jose VasquezDefy-Students-1Defy-Students-1

THE GRADUATES

Jose Vasquez


While in high school, Jose began delivering packages of narcotics for a family member. He had established a profitable drug business making $2,000 per day and oversaw a team of employees when he was arrested and served 2 ½ years in federal prison for conspiracy to distribute heroin. Through Defy, he founded Happy Vida, a personal concierge service that runs errands, does personal shopping, and coordinates home care for busy New Yorkers. Jose also mentors current Defy student entrepreneurs in his role as a Program Associate on the Defy team.

“A little over a year ago, I was locked away in a cage within the federal prison—“the hole.” I was even fed through a hole and had no human contact. It’s hard to put into words how it feels to go from wearing an orange jumpsuit to now proudly wearing a suit and tie and serving as the Chief Executive Officer of my own start-up. I have 18 customers, including corporate accounts, and am using my leadership to help others. My grandma and mom were so emotional when they saw me sport my cap and gown at my Defy graduation. We had powerful executives from eight states there to cheer me on! I’m so proud of myself. I’ve earned this. I’ve overcome the trials and am living out my dream as an entrepreneur.”

THE GRADUATES

Perfirio “Billy” Amaro


After his father was murdered when he was still a child, Porfirio was drawn to street life and the neighborhood hustlers. He created a profitable drug business and spent 12 years in prison for drug conspiracy and weapons possession. Now, devoted to family, faith, and personal development, he is the founder and owner or A & N Eco-Friendly Cleaning Services, a full-service commercial cleaning company that uses environmentally friendly products and methods.