Building Entrepreneurs For Success in Tennessee (BEST) is designed to provide opportunities for personal development and transformation, then teach business and entrepreneurial skills to better equip individuals for successful reentry into the community after incarceration and reduce recidivism.
Cohort 1, the pilot class of the BEST program, started on October 21, 2014 with 22 men. All classes were held at the Charles Bass Correctional Complex, just west of downtown Nashville, Monday through Friday, six hours per day. Eighteen men graduated on April 24, 2015, each with his own business plan. Eighty-three volunteers donated 1,929 hours during the six-month program.
Cohort 2, included 19 women from three Tennessee prisons who meet at the Tennessee Prison for Women in Nashville. We used the electronic tablets provided by partner Innertainment Delivery Systems to deliver curriculum, including the Nashville Entrepreneur Center PreFlight materials. Eighty-nine volunteers shared their expertise and passion to change lives. Seventeen women completed the program.
Cohort 3 began October 17, 2016 at the Tennessee Prison for Women with 20 women. It is anticipated that 17 women will graduate April 28, 2017, each having completed her own business plan. This cohort's plans range from "All Things Honey" to "DiNardo Scrubs" custom cleaning service. They have completed their 10 speeches meeting the WE HOPE Gavel Club "Competent Communicator" certification. Their Toastmasters skills will be on display at Graduation.
The BEST program is comprised of four phases:
Phase One - BEST seeks to empower individuals with self-knowledge, presentation, conflict management, negotiation, cooperation, planning, technology, goal-setting and decision making skills. Participating in the Toastmasters International Gavel Club equips everyone with speaking, listening and critical evaluation skills.
Phase Two – Business, financial literacy and entrepreneurial skills are taught. The EC PreFlight curriculum forms the basis for this phase. Mentors from the EC and Belmont University students of entrepreneurship assist the participants as they each develop their own business plan.
Phase Three – During post-graduation and pre-release, BEST works to remain engaged through book studies and newsletters to members of the BEST community and meetings when possible.
Phase Four – Upon release, each returning citizen can tap into the network of BEST partners as they return to the community, ready to be a contributing member of society as an employee or business owner.
Our state has a prison problem. Recidivism is defined as the tendency to relapse into a previous condition or mode of behavior-especially relapse into criminal behavior. We need to rethink prison as a punishment and begin to utilize it as place to end the destructive cycle of crime and addiction. Post-secondary education is a proven and powerful part of reducing recidivism. BEST seeks to emulate the success of the Prison Entrepreneurship Program in Texas whose graduates have a 7% recidivism rate, saving taxpayers millions of dollars and increasing the safety of the community.
We would love to have you join us in this effort to reduce recidivism and change lives. Click below to fill out a brief form and we will be in touch!
Checks should be to EC with BEST on the memo line and mailed to BEST, 41 Peabody St. #209, Nashville, TN 37210.
Download BEST Brochure Here
BEST is fortunate to have partners who make the movement possible. From providing instructional space and allowing the program to exist, donating electronic tablets, donating time to instruct and mentor, sending Entrepreneurs and assisting with re-entry, BEST has the best partners.
We are also thankful for our partnerships with:
UPDATE ON BEST GRADUATES
As of January 2017, eight graduates have been released. All eight obtained jobs within 90 days of release. They are working hard to restart their lives and doing so successfully.