Reflections

My general thoughts about things

From Prison to the Boardroom

I like to write about entrepreneurial motivations, partly because of my experiences, and partly because of the entrepreneurs I have been able to meet. So when I received a text message about Defy Ventures, Inc., it definitely piqued my interest.

What is Defy Ventures? Well, simply put, they are a group of motivated Americans trying to help those with criminal backgrounds become entrepreneurs.

Wait, what- you don’t want hustlers trying to scam you out of your money?

Well, before you judge, consider this fact.

5% of Americans have a criminal background, and the majority of those people return to prison. Even if you don’t know someone who has been to prison (with those odds you probably do), if you are American, you are paying for their crimes.

How? It costs money to prosecute crimes, run prisons, and rehabilitate a large amount of people – money America does not have. As a result, we have under-paid, over-worked police officers, for-profit prisons, and rehabilitation programs that are destined to fail. It’s a cycle that feeds off the most disadvantaged communities in America- the poor.

Defy Ventures attempts to break this cycle by reducing the likelihood of returning to prison. By giving those with criminal backgrounds business skills and corporate connections, they hope to empower these people with the tools needed to keep them out of a life of crime.

Will it work?

Well, it’s not exactly a new concept. Immigrant communities, often arriving in America with little to no money, have always embraced an entrepreneurial mindset. They understood the need to build their own futures, rather than be defined by what was expected of them. Perhaps it was because they knew the odds were against them and they wanted to put up a good fight.

Now, a new class of American outsiders –those with criminal backgrounds- are preparing to use entrepreneurship as their stepping stone toward success.

Hey, it beats stealing cars and selling crack.

The hope is that with proper education, these ‘criminals’ can come up with a ‘hustle’ that adds to society; not take from it. They could learn how to start their own businesses, small and large and stay out of prison. Their children would learn the benefits of self-employment and stay out of prison as well. In other words, entrepreneurship could reduce our growing prison economy.

Is small business a cure for our society? Defy Ventures seems to thinks so.

Learn more about Defy Ventures on their website.

On Writing Online for a Living

Yesterday I received congratulations on LinkedIn from a classmate from middle school.

“Happy 6 year work anniversary!”

What? Has it seriously been 6 years? In Internet years, that’s almost a lifetime.

I thought about my work anniversary the entire day. I was surprised to discover that freelance writing had been my longest running gig, beating out promotional modeling by one year. It happened so quickly- one day I was working for pennies writing articles about everything under the sun, and now I was running an agency of online writers looking to build their own careers.

It’s hard to imagine how I was able to maintain and grow through years of self-doubt, other careers, and ignorance, but what small business owner doesn’t have those moments?

I still remember when a colleague (during my modeling years) laughed at my idea and said there was no money in writing online. I am so happy to have proven her wrong.

For me, writing has always been my preferred means of communication, and at first, the Internet thrived on written content. When I discovered the Internet, it was like showing up in a candy store- there I was in a world full of people looking to read what I had to say.

In the past 20 years, the number of people coming to my ‘candy store’ grew, and I found it harder to reach the gummy bears. But, I stuck around, convinced that this is where I belonged, continuing to find job after job from the Internet until I could eventually make it my home.

I’m telling you, there’s some durn good candy here.

So my six year anniversary is less of an indicator of how long I’ve been online, and more about how long I’ve had a business online.

When I think about my online business ventures, which currently include a freelance online staffing agency and writing and marketing, I feel like they don’t even fully explain what I do.

I feel like I am an Internet Ambassador. I mean, I’ve been here long enough, haven’t I? Is there a special group for people who’ve added content to the World Wide Web prior to 2000?

Can I get a badge that says: “Netspeak Early Adopter?”

Anything to give me some clout in this crazy world that is growing online. ….

In the meanwhile, if you are looking for an online guide for your business contact me; I know my way around these parts.

Have you hugged an EMT today?

When I was in college, a friend of mine had a boyfriend who planned on becoming a firefighter. At the time I remember thinking: ‘Who wants to be a firefighter…. That’s dangerous!’

I figured he’d change his mind- I mean, we were only 18 anyways. He didn’t. My friend became the wife of a rural fire-fighter. Now, every time I see a fire-truck rush down the street to an emergency, I think about what the emergency personnel are putting themselves through.

How stressful is that job? What about their families? What does my friend and her three young children think when their father goes into danger? I shudder thinking about it, but I admit, it’s only a passing thought.

The fact is, even though I’ve seen what they go through (I remember what happened in 9/11)  and have benefited from their services (1996 Olympic Park Shooting; FEMA natural disaster aid), I don’t think about what emergency personnel go through. Do I appreciate what they do? Absolutely! Understand it – now that’s another thing.

Which is why this reflections post is somewhat of a Public Service Announcement.

“Have you hugged an EMT today” is not meant literally… it’s a symbol for showing appreciation and affection for those who put their lives at risks to save ours.

And… Here is how I plan to hug an EMT, by telling you about Carlos Negron.

Carlos is an EMT in Jersey City… you know, that city just outside of NYC. Carlos was one of the brave First Responder at 9/11 working in search and rescue. Now, Carlos is asking for our help telling the story of what happens after the call. Considering that I kind of owe it to all of the  emergency personnel who’ve helped me in the past, it is an honor to return the favor.

Carlos would like to create a documentary about the lives of those working in EMS. Now, if the rest of the world is anything like me, we probably need to have one.

Please take a moment to watch this video, donate, and/or share it with your friends.

I’ve received no compensation for promoting this cause and I don’t know Carlos.  I simply was asked to blog about it, and after reviewing their campaign, I wanted to help.

So, I challenge you. Have you hugged an EMT today? Well, if not, here’s your chance.

After the Call Kickstarter Campaign