REDi receives $150,000 SBA PRIME grant renewal, earns CICF Crime Prevention grant; program provides free intensive small business training, one-on-one coaching and access to capital for ex-offenders building a fresh start in the start-up economy
INDIANAPOLIS, November 6, 2017: The Indy Chamber’s Business Ownership Initiative (BOI) has received public and philanthropic support for a second year of its Re-Entry Entrepreneurship Development Initiative (REDi), a program that provides business technical assistance in the form of a six-week workshop and one-on-one business coaching to currently- and formerly-incarcerated individuals.
Nearly 14,000 Indianapolis metro residents have a prior criminal conviction with incarceration – a number that grows each year – limiting their access to economic opportunities. REDi adds another layer to proven reentry and workforce development models by offering entrepreneurship and self-employment as an option for sustainable employment and upward mobility.
BOI provided more than 1,600 hours of training and coaching to more than 150 REDi participants since launching in October 2016; the program has earned a second year of Prime Grant funding from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and was recently awarded $32,500 from the Indianapolis Foundation Crime Prevention Fund, a Central Indiana Community Foundation’s (CICF) affiliate, for its promising start towards reducing recidivism and overall crime rates.
“We know that returning citizens face many barriers to employment,” noted Carrie Henderson, Vice-President of Entrepreneur Services for the Indy Chamber. “REDi provides another path – the skills to start a business or help an existing small business succeed, leading to better career opportunities and more inclusive economic growth for our community.”
In its first year, REDi engaged partners like the Indiana Department of Correction and Workforce Development, the City of Indianapolis, RecycleForce, Ivy Tech Community College, and neighborhood groups and charitable organizations across the city. BOI hired two dedicated staff, Precious Little (Program Manager) and Neil Metzger (Business Coach), to design and facilitate the six-week intensive business course that consists of workshops like Entrepreneurship 101, Business Accounting, Financial Planning among others at the Indiana Women’s Prison, Heritage Correctional Facility, as well as RecycleForce, the John H. Boner Community Center and PACE (Public Advocates in Community Re-Entry). The team also provides individual business coaching.
Henderson noted that 150 soon-to-be released or recently-incarcerated individuals completed the Entrepreneurship 101 course, with more than 100 receiving coaching. Five new businesses have already been started by REDi participants, and two also qualified for microloans offered through BOI.
“We’re encouraged that a handful of our clients have already taken the leap into entrepreneurship in the first year of REDi, and we hope they’ll become success stories that encourage others to follow suit,” she said.
“But even if starting their own company isn’t their calling, it’s worth noting that one of every three Indianapolis businesses is less than five years old, and two-thirds have less than ten employees – REDi ‘graduates’ will have valuable knowledge that can help up-and-coming companies grow, too.”
Indianapolis City-County Councillor Vop Osili chairs the Metropolitan and Economic Development Committee and co-chaired the Marion County Re-Entry Policy Study Commission. As a long-time champion for helping returning ex-offenders transition to become engaged citizens and productive taxpayers, he hailed the continuation of REDi.
“Too often, even when returning citizens have paid their debt to society, they face a life sentence of limited economic opportunities,” Osili said. “REDi is part of a blueprint for successful re-entry and economic development – Indianapolis can only benefit from more entrepreneurship, tapping into the good ideas and hard work of our neighbors who have learned from their past and are ambitious about their futures.”
As Indy Chamber and BOI plan to continue and expand REDi for another year, the program has received a second round of funding from the SBA’s Program for Investment in Micro-Entrepreneurs (PRIME). PRIME grants support low-income or otherwise disadvantaged aspiring entrepreneurs.
“REDi recognizes that the entrepreneurial spirit can thrive even in difficult circumstances,” noted Stacey Poynter, Indiana District Director for the SBA. “As these returning citizens look to start a new chapter in their lives, starting a business should be a realistic option – REDi helps create this opportunity, and their results so far have certainly earned continued investment through our PRIME grants.”
In early October, REDi received another boost as BOI was awarded a Community Crime Prevention Grant from the Indianapolis Foundation, an affiliate of CICF. The Crime Prevention Grants are funded by the City of Indianapolis to address the root causes of crime through neighborhood and civic partnerships.
“The Indianapolis Foundation is enthusiastic about investing in REDi,” said CICF President and CEO Brian Payne. “Along with Mayor Hogsett and the City-County Council, we’re focused on solutions to stop crime and avoid the courtroom and the corrections system. By providing entrepreneurial optimism and practical knowledge to ex-offenders re-entering our regional economy, REDi is already making a difference.
The REDi ‘curriculum’ includes sessions on business planning, market research, budgeting and cash flow management, finding financing and other start-up basics; participants also have the opportunity to pitch their idea to a panel of local business volunteers and experts, along with individualized coaching sessions.
Moving into REDi’s second year, BOI is working to identify other barriers and challenges to returning citizens entrepreneurship (i.e. difficulties in qualifying for certain licenses and loan programs) to strengthen the curriculum, exploring peer mentoring opportunities and adding new partnerships with community groups and training providers to offer specific skill classes.
About The Indy Chamber:
The Indy Chamber is the voice of progress and improvement for the Indianapolis region's business community. With membership of nearly 2,000 businesses in the Indianapolis region, the Indy Chamber is leading the effort to strengthen the business climate, improve the state of education, revitalize neighborhoods and enhance the region's workforce. For more information, visit IndyChamber.com.
Joe Pellman, Indy Chamber, 317.464.2251,
Chris Watts, CVR Public Relations, 317.514.3184,