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At Defy Ventures, we're harnessing the power of private sector innovation and mentorship to develop a scalable program that addresses America's incarceration and recidivism crises. We provide carefully selected, ambitious men and women with criminal histories with life-changing entrepreneurship, leadership, and career opportunities.
About Defy Ventures
Defy Ventures is a New York City-based nonprofit that equips former drug dealers and gang leaders to leverage their natural talent, street smarts, charisma and drive to launch legal and profitable businesses. Defy achieves its mission by partnering with senior business executives, entrepreneurs, investors, and other influential leaders to provide life-transforming and character-shaping opportunities for America's biggest underdogs. Student entrepreneurs are put to the test with six months of hands-on, MBA-like training, mentoring, character development, business incubation and financing. Defy's signature program engages volunteer business executives as judges in a series of business plan competitions that award up to $100,000 in seed capital to winning ventures. Holistic training and support equip students to thrive as entrepreneurs, parents, and role models in their communities.
Since its founding in October 2010, Defy has raised in excess of $6 million and attracted more than 2,500 executives who have contributed 10,000+ volunteer hours and equipped our entrepreneurs to launch 70 businesses. We have distributed over $300,000 in financing since inception to Defy entrepreneurs.
Defy's early success in transforming the lives of formerly-incarcerated men and women has attracted national media attention in Inc. Magazine, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes.com, and The Huffington Post. Defy's vision is to create a model that, in time, will provide life-transforming opportunities to men and women with criminal histories in every urban community in the United States. Defy is now building the infrastructure that will position the organization to optimally to pursue expansion to other U.S. cities through an innovative blended online learning program.
Catherine Hoke launched Defy Ventures after founding the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP), a nonprofit that serves men throughout the Texas prison system. In five years under Catherine's leadership, PEP was nationally recognized for the groundbreaking results with its 600 graduates: a return-to-prison rate of less than 5% (compared to the national average of 50%), an employment rate of 98%, and the inception of 60 start-ups. Catherine applies her venture capital and private equity background to nonprofit work every day as her organization seeks out our country's most overlooked talent pool and equips them to redirect their entrepreneurial passion and skillsets to defy the odds.