Defy Ventures Colorado Celebrates Graduation of First Class of Entrepreneurs in Training at Arkansas Valley Correctional Facility

New federal criminal justice reform legislation emphasizes importance of training programs in reducing recidivism

DENVER (Dec. 27, 2018) – Defy Ventures Colorado today announced two critical milestones: its one-year anniversary and the graduation of its first cohort of 62 “Entrepreneurs in Training” at the Arkansas Valley Correctional Facility. Defy Ventures Colorado provides one-of-a-kind entrepreneurship and employment programs to currently and formerly incarcerated men and partners with the Colorado Department of Corrections, Colorado leaders and entrepreneurs in support of its mission. Earlier today, Governor John Hickenlooper issued a proclamation in recognition of Defy Venture Colorado’s entrepreneurial approach to prisoner rehabilitation efforts.

The recently passed federal criminal justice reform legislation (called the First Step Act) emphasizes returning people into society and specifically boosts prisoner rehabilitation efforts and incentivizes participation in programs designed to reduce the risk of recidivism. Defy Ventures Colorado was established in 2017 as a way for incarcerated people to harness their natural talents and business sense and repurpose those skills toward legitimate careers through Defy Colorado’s innovative in-prison and post-release program.

“Defy Ventures Colorado is changing the way society views those who are incarcerated and is working to transform their lives from one of stigma to success,” said Governor John Hickenlooper. “I first met this group when I attended their Business Coaching Day last winter and was so impressed with their determination and perseverance that I committed to come back for their pitch competition and graduation. I was honored to be part of it.” 

“We are deeply honored by Governor Hickenlooper’s partnership and support for Defy Ventures Colorado, especially as we are witnessing profound criminal justice reform at the national level,” said Bob Omer, executive director of Defy Ventures Colorado. “When we launched the EIT program last year, we wanted to recognize and harness the entrepreneurial spirit with world-class mentorship and community engagement, and we could not be more proud of our first graduating class.”

Defy’s first training program recently concluded at the Arkansas Valley Correctional Facility, with nearly six dozen EITs presenting in front of a judging panel that included Governor Hickenlooper and Colorado Department of Corrections Director Rick Raemisch. In addition, more than 350 community volunteers have played a role in mentoring and coaching EITs during the course of the last year. 

The coming year will see the launch of four new EIT cohorts, two at Arkansas Valley and two at the Colorado State Penitentiary. More than 120 EITs and hundreds of community members, including staff, volunteers and family members will have hands-on involvement in these programs. 

About Defy Ventures Colorado

Defy Ventures Colorado offers intensive personal and leadership development, competition-based entrepreneurship training, executive mentoring, financial investment and business incubation. By engaging top corporate executives, investors and entrepreneurs, Defy Ventures Colorado catalyzes broad scale personal and economic opportunities for people with criminal histories and shatters perceptions of one of the most stigmatized and overlooked populations in America. Learn more at www.defycolorado.org.