NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Beginning in March, a 10-week entrepreneurship program titled The Academy is set to help former and current inmates of the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) start their own businesses.
"This will be an awesome resource for our participants and for folks that are on probation or parole, or have been on probation and parole, to be able to get the skill set necessary to launch their own business, if that was something that they desired to just another way to remove a barrier to success," explained TDOC Correctional Program Director Sarah Campbell.
TDOC is partnering with Corner to Corner's 'The Academy'program to bring the entrepreneurship program to their Day Reporting and Community Resource Center in Nashville.
There are five other Day Reporting and Community Resource Centers in Tennessee that also serve former inmates and those on parole as the re-acclimate to society: Murfreesboro, Knoxville, Johnson City, Jackson and Memphis.
Campbell explained all the locations have the same goal, "It really is an extension of the department's (TDOC's), you know, overall mission. You know, in order to truly enhance public safety. You have to provide education, treatment, guidance and resources to individuals so that they can be successful."
The center has programs organized by the State but also partners with non-profits like Corner to Corner to provide other resources.
"The Academy is a 10-week program where we teach entrepreneurship," explained Corner to Corner Executive Director Shana Berkeley. "The topics that we talked about range from everything from who is your customer? To how to figure out your bottom line, how much to charge for what you're offering, right? What about your accounting structure? What about your legal structure? All these things are necessary when you're going into business and knowing how to really have the best business that you can have."
Campbell said partnering with The Academy was an easy decision for TDOC in Nashville.
"I know the percentage is for those individuals that are incarcerated, at least 95% of them are going to eventually be released," said Campbell. "And so that's why it's important that we have resources like this, you know, so that when people are coming back out into the community, they have everything that they need, you know, to be successful."
Reginald Pride Sr. went though The Academy's program after he was released from prison.
"We probably exhausted all of our resources and you know, nobody will deal with us or nobody trust us basically," he explained. "It’s kind of like a second chance, so to speak, program because they care and they'll help you."
Pride started his own trucking company, Pride Enterprises, an achievement he said was only possible through The Academy.
"Coming out of this type of environment. It's like a no-brainer because we have time to sit and think. Most people that's incarcerated have ideas, you know, they just need a shot," he explained. "Somebody that don't have, don't feel like they don't have a future, you know? It can let you can give you an idea, 'Hey, man, I can do this. I can live this life. I can come out of the pits.'"
Berkeley explained participants come into the program with varying levels of preparedness to begin a company.
"They have passions, talents, drives, that needs to be put into place and we know that you're the best in the state to teach entrepreneurship, especially at this foundational stage," Berkeley explained.
Campbell said she hopes the program will grow to a large program serving current and former inmates in the Nashville community.
"The Academy program being housed here in our CRC is going to give so many individuals that normally wouldn't have that chance or wouldn't have access to this type of resource, it's going to give them the opportunity to possibly, you know, not only create something that can make them self-sufficient, but maybe they can make one of their dreams come true, you know, as far as entrepreneurship and business," said Campbell.
To learn how to apply for The Academy through TDOC, call 615-770-1835.