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WHO WE ARE

HISTORY

Founded in 2017, we exist to build a loving society in which hope is restored, every life is honored and economic opportunity is a right, not a privilege. Utilizing entrepreneurship as a tool for connection and transformation, we provide the best opportunity for people to embrace their inner entrepreneur and leverage their strengths in a whole new light. Initially developed as a state chapter under Defy Ventures, a national organization, Defy Colorado has since become an independent 501(c)(3) organization that operates independently from Defy Ventures Inc.

Defy Colorado believes in legitimate first chances, no matter how late in life that chance arrives. We believe in partnership, not pity. From the very beginning of our program, we refer to every person who participates as an Entrepreneur-in-Training (EIT), helping these individuals shatter perceptions by providing an opportunity for enhanced self-efficacy. And when people believe they can be better, they do better.

In the state of Colorado, it costs roughly $39,000/year to incarcerate just one individual…

…our eight (8)-month, in-prison program, CEO of Your New Life, costs $1,300 per EIT.

Defy Colorado launched at AVCF and CSP in November 2017, serving just the male population. In April 2019, we were thrilled to begin serving women at LVCF as we continue to grow, do better and inspire legitimate first chances for more people with criminal histories across the state of Colorado.

STAFF

Stacey Putka

Executive Director

Stacey believes fiercely in challenging perceptions and in the power of transformation. Growing up in an entrepreneurial household, with a father who took full advantage of his second chance in life after recovering from addiction, Stacey has always been inspired to facilitate transformation in the lives of others. Stacey received a Bachelor of Science in psychology from Colorado State University and a master’s in social work from the University of Denver. Prior to joining Defy Colorado, Stacey provided mental health and substance abuse treatment to men on parole and probation.

Ismerai Heep

Program Manager

Hired on as our Post Release Manager, Ismerai Heep quickly moved into the role of Program Manager. She oversees Defy Colorado’s programs, including weekly classes with EITs (Entrepreneurs in Training) at Colorado State Penitentiary, Arkansas Valley Correctional Facility and LaVista Correctional Facility.  She has experience in business, psychology, programs, and human development. Ismerai graduated from Colorado State University with her Bachelors of Science in Psychology. She spent time working with adolescents with criminal histories and substance abuse. This experience led her to obtain her Masters of Art in Child and Family Development from Denver Seminary.

Nick Scofield

Senior Operations Associate

Nick has been with Defy Ventures Colorado from the very beginning—starting as an EIT at Arkansas Valley Correctional Facility in DVC’s first cohort. He has a background in IT and web development, having spent nearly eight years leading a website that generated $10-16M in revenue for the state of Colorado annually. Having attended the Bachelors of Marketing program at Metropolitan State University of Denver, he looks forward to matching his technical skills with his deep understanding of the struggles Defy’s graduates face upon release.

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Jacki Cooper Melmed

Chief Legal Counsel for Governor Jared Polis

Tyrone Glover

Attorney at Stimson Stancil LaBranche Hubbard

Tom Wyman

Partner at Building Ventures

Kevin Klau

President at Hach

Jenn Mendelson

Principal at Leap Interior Design, LLC

Jenna Walker

Co-Founder and CEO of Material Change

ADVISORY BOARD

Jason Mendelson

Co-Founder and Managing Director at Foundry Group

Dave Naus

Founder, Equity West Investment Partners; Partner, First Capital Ventures

Tim Wolf

President of Wolf Interests, Inc.

Jeff Wasden

President of the Colorado Business Roundtable

OUR APPROACH

We think that after people serve their time, they’ve repaid their debt to society and should be given the chance to start fresh. However, the reality is far different because more often than not in the U.S., recidivism rates are far higher than anywhere else in the world, creating a vicious cycle of incarceration. Defy Colorado is committed to breaking this cycle.
Defy is committed to doing better.
Our programs harness the innate entrepreneurial talents of people with criminal histories and redirect them toward the creation of legal businesses and careers. Defy Colorado has demonstrated the effectiveness of an “inside-out” solution to the problems of recidivism and mass incarceration, allowing Defy EITs to journey from their time in prison to economic independence. Providing rigorous employment readiness, character development and entrepreneurship training inside prisons as well as robust post-release services, including job placement, executive mentorship, startup incubation and pitch competitions, Defy Colorado offers a welcome back to society that eases the re-entry process and provides individuals with the tools they need to succeed.
Leveraging a blended learning model, Defy combines the scalability, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness of video-based training with life-transforming opportunities for growth through in-person coaching and mentoring.

TO HEAR MORE FIRST-HAND EXPERIENCES FROM DEFY VOLUNTEERS, VISIT OUR BLOG