From bad to good: Changing the lives of the formerly incarcerated through entrepreneurship


Across the US, entrepreneurial schemes such as Defy Ventures have done incredible things not only for entrepreneurship but also for the formerly incarcerated, helping to improve their lives. Businesses have seen the impact these programs can have, such as Telcio, which previously partnered with the venture to give these ex-prisoners a second chance.

Outside of this venture, formerly incarcerated member of society are expressing their entrepreneurial talent in different ways. Coss Marte is an ex-prisoner who has turned what he learned in jail into a successful startup. He is the founder of Conbody, which gives attendees prison-style workouts that take roughly 23 minutes. After being told that he had to get into better shape while inside, Marte perfected an exercise routine that he could do from within his cell. After leaving he founded his successful business, which you can see from the video below is no joke.

Marte is just one of many ex-prisoners who has discovered the potential of their entrepreneurial talent. Dave Dahl is one of these individuals. Dahl spent a total of 15 years in and out of prison, yet found success with his post-incarceration success story with Dave’s Killer Bread which he sold for $275,000,000 but also lead to a mental breakdown in 2013 after ramming his vehicle into, and disabling, three police cars.

However, this did not stop his entrepreneurial spirit. Instead, he has remained focused on the future, collecting and selling African art, helping fellow ex-prisoners and hosting a weekly podcast called Felony Inc Podcast— where he interviews ex-prisoners who have founded their own startups.

In doing so Dahl as found great success, and has become an inspiration for many fellow prisoners and ex-prisoners. Felony Inc Podcast is broadcast live every Friday at 10 AM PST and forms part of Startup Radio Network, which aims to be an inclusive media broadcast network with shows such as the Latino Founder Hour, The Out Entrepreneur, and Veteran Founders Podcast. 

Every week, Dahl shares inspiring stories of many who’ve had similar journeys. Those who have chosen to turn a new leaf and make something good out of their lives. The podcast is also broadcast in two prisons where 1,700 inmates tune in.

If there was ever an argument for giving everyone a second chance, these individuals are shining examples that anyone can turn their life around and create something from the toughest of situations. They are not only an inspiration for other ex-prisoners and prisoners, but also for entrepreneurs everywhere.


  1. 95% of all incarcerated individuals are going to return to their communities. It matters in what condition they return. I”ve been involved a little in advocating prison reform, especially sentencing reform and elimination of mandatory minimum sentences, and that was the main thing I took away from it. I want to see fewer people in prison in the first place for non-violent or drug-related offenses. And I want to see training and work opportunities expanded where possible, which would probably be easier to afford without having to incarcerate so many people when other options are available. But prison reform advocates are never going to convince the general public to pay prisoners comparable wages to non-incarcerated workers. It sounds lovely in theory, but especially in places where the economy isn”t roaring, folks would be livid. You gotta sell it to the people to make it a policy.

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Sam Brake Guia
Sam is an energetic and passionate writer/presenter, always looking for the next adventure. In August 2016 he donated all of his possessions to charity, quit his job, and left the UK. Since then he has been on the road travelling through North, Central and South America searching for new adventures and amazing stories.