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John Legend is backing startups from former inmates, including 3 from D.C. He tells us why

“Entrepreneurship creates opportunities for people with a criminal record to live with dignity, realize their potential, and return to their communities and families as positive leaders,” Legend said in a statement to the Washington Business Journal.

Grammy award-winning artist John Legend and venture philanthropy fund New Profit have teamed up to support eight formerly incarcerated entrepreneurs from across the country — and three are growing their businesses in Washington.

The 20-year-old Boston-based nonprofit, which supports social entrepreneurs with access to capital and leadership, has launched the Unlocked Futures accelerator, a program to help to return citizens from prison build their organizations. It comes in partnership with Legend who, in addition to his music and film careers, runs FreeAmerica, a communications campaign focused on criminal justice reform. Bank of America is also a partner, with its charitable foundation providing a $500,000 leadership grant.

The team hopes the effort will help eliminate the stigma and barriers to re-entry the incarcerated face when they return home.

“Entrepreneurship creates opportunities for people with a criminal record to live with dignity, realize their potential, and return to their communities and families as positive leaders,” Legend said in a statement to the Washington Business Journal.

“Self-employment is a pathway for individuals who have been impacted by the criminal justice system to earn a family-sustaining income, build a career, and give back to their communities.” John Legend

The accelerator’s inaugural 16-month cohort kicked off in December. New Profit provides its members coaching, media strategy help, and access to potential investors, and each entrepreneur also receives a grant of $50,000. Then the partnership with FreeAmerica comes in, as a platform to inform the public dialogue about people affected by criminal justice, said Tulaine Montgomery, managing director of New Profit, based in its D.C. office.

Unlocked Futures Accelerator

Grammy award-winning artist John Legend and venture philanthropy fund New Profit have teamed up to support eight formerly incarcerated entrepreneurs from across the country — and three of them are growing their businesses in Washington.

The original article was written by Sara Gilgore, Staff Reporter with the Washington Business Journal, Feb 7, 2018

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