Mission (n.):
a strongly felt aim,
ambition, or calling.
Defy-HeaderImg-WHATWEDO-Mission

Our Mission

Defy Ventures transforms the
lives of business leaders and
people with criminal histories
through their collaboration along
the entrepreneurial journey.

We’re legacy breakers: We break generational legacies of violence, poverty, welfare dependence and incarceration by equipping formerly imprisoned men and women with the tools needed to leverage their innate entrepreneurial skills into creating profitable, sustainable, legal enterprises.

We’re equal partners: Terminology matters. Society slaps plenty of negative labels that bind Defy’s beneficiaries to their pasts. They’ve paid the price for their actions; why turn it into a life sentence through damaging stigmas? After all, aren’t we all ex-somethings? So instead of referring to them as ex-anythings, we prefer to focus on who they are today, and who they’re becoming. We’re so proud to partner with and serve our entrepreneurs-in-training (EITs)!

We’re match-makers: We pair senior business executives, entrepreneurs, and other influencers with our EITs (people who formerly led drug rings and gangs)—to defy the odds by coaching our EITs to become successful business owners, employers, parents and community leaders.

We’re trainers: We provide our EITs with super intense, no-bull, life-transforming, MBA-like training, executive coaching, mentoring, parenting education, character development and career opportunities. Our signature entrepreneurship program engages EITs in a series of Shark Tank-style business plan competitions judged by renowned thought leaders.

We’re incubators: Under the leadership of our Entrepreneur in Residence, we incubate and finance graduates’ start-ups with the goal of creating scalable, profitable home run businesses that employ other Defy grads.

We’re perception-changers: By leveraging public platforms (media and national speaking engagements) to showcase our EITs’ humanity and brilliant potential, we challenge public perception and change the national conversation about the criminal justice system. We inspire people to use their influence to create private sector solutions to America’s prison problem. One tangible result will be the increase in employment opportunities for formerly incarcerated people. As results-oriented advocates, we also target policymakers and the faith-based community.

We’re replicators: Since Day One, we’ve built Defy with the plan to nationally replicate our model. We inspire local business executives, foundations, nonprofit leaders, activists, and other changemakers to leverage community support with the goal of starting up local Defy affiliates in their cities. Our commitment is to create a model that can provide life-transforming opportunities to people with criminal histories in every urban community in the United States (and one day, maybe even globally!).

We’re executive lovers: Our core purpose is to holistically transform lives through partnership and collaboration—and not just the lives of our EITs and their families, but of the executive volunteers too. For business leaders, our purpose is to drive deeper meaning into their lives and inspire them to evaluate how they use their influence, money and time. By providing them with competitive volunteer experiences that engage executives’ core competencies (ranging from vetting business plans to scrubbing EITs’ financial models), the priorities of their hearts and checkbooks transform as they reframe their views and actions toward people with felonies—America’s most stigmatized and undervalued population. In our first year of program operations, we recruited 1,000 business executives and leaders who heartily invested 8,000+ hours to champion our EITs, and they’re bringing friends back for more!