By Lt. Michael Betzinger, AA/PIO
Kern Valley State Prison

Defy Ventures seeks to get offenders to put their hustling skills to use to become successful in the business world rather than the crime world.

Currently and formerly incarcerated men, women, and youth undergo an intense entrepreneurship, employment, and character development training program. Defy recognizes that many former drug dealers and gang leaders can become successful, legal entrepreneurs.

Their goal is to transform the “hustle” of currently and formerly incarcerated Entrepreneurs-in-Training (EITs) by offering leadership development, “Shark Tank”-style business plan competitions, executive mentoring, financial investment, and startup incubation.

Defy gives their EITs a legitimate chance to succeed and equips them to become profitable entrepreneurs, stellar employees, engaged parents, committed role models and leaders in their communities.

Kern Valley State Prison (KVSP) has embraced Defy’s vision and partnered with them in early 2017. On Nov. 29, 2017, KVSP’s first group of EITs successfully graduated the program.

In a culmination of all the training they received, EITs competed with each other by giving their “business pitch” in a competition, then welcomed their families later in the afternoon for graduation ceremonies.