Growing the Prison-To-Business Pipeline



The Philadelphia Citizen: Christina Griffith - June 16, 2021


On a cool afternoon this past spring, entrepreneur Brandon Burris sat before his Zoom screen, facing a panel of high-powered investors and, as entrepreneurs do, made his pitch. My Temporary Home, he told the panel, is a socially minded business that would serve a critical need in Philadelphia, providing LGBTQ+ citizens with a sober living house when they return home from prison.


Burris laid out his business plan, explaining to the group his customer base, and how he planned to become sustainable. But it’s his backstory that showed how Burris is different from the typical entrepreneur pitching in a Shark Tank-like competition: He himself is a member of the LGBTQ+ community; he was in prison; when he came out there was no room in the one LGBTQ+ recovery house in Philly where he could find a safe space to treat his addiction.


“When I was paroled, I couldn’t wait to escape the discrimination and hate I faced while I was in prison,” Burris says, “but I also had anxiety as I knew that I’d be going to another male facility where the same thing could happen.”


So Burris—a natural entrepreneur—decided to start an LGBTQ+ recovery house himself. That’s what led him here, to the culminating event of a class in Penn’s Restorative Entrepreneurship Program (PREP), run by financial advisor-turned-social work PhD Tom Duffin.


The course, “The Social Entrepreneurial Approach to Community Reintegration,” groups students from Penn Law, Wharton and the School of Social Policy & Practice in teams to work as advisors for the would-be entrepreneurs, to help develop their business ideas and investor pitches.


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