If you're reading this blog, you or someone you know likely has a criminal record. In the United States, over 70 million people have a criminal record, which can make it difficult to get a job, rent an apartment, or even vote. Despite the potential challenges, there are options. When the initial path to success doesn't work, create your lane for a path to success!
You may think that starting a business with a criminal record is impossible but that's not true. There are ways to become a successful entrepreneur and benefits that accompany the decision, even with a criminal record. From becoming a certified minority-owned business to partnering with someone with a clean record, there are several options available. Of course, it's not going to be easy. You'll have to work hard and overcome various challenges but you can determine if the benefits outweigh the challenges.
Some of the benefits of being an entrepreneur are:
Self-guidance/ invention. Why wait for someone else to provide an opportunity for you when you can establish the power to create an opportunity for yourself? You can challenge yourself. That is the motivation you need to keep yourself focused.
Flexibility. People often start a business because it provides various types of flexibility. They decide when to do what and establish rules that match their goals, instead of adhering to rules established by someone else.
Avoiding employment rejections. Due to their criminal past, ex-cons often find it difficult to gain employment. Starting a business eliminates the need for an interview; you'll be self-employed. Nice to meet you, boss.
This blog will explore 5 ways to start your own business if you have a criminal record and the benefits of becoming a business owner. Whether you're looking to be your own boss or create a business that provides opportunities for others with a criminal background, this blog is for you.
The Stigma of a Criminal Record
One of the biggest obstacles to starting a business with a criminal record is the stigma. Many people are wary of dealing with someone with a criminal record, and this can be a major deterrent when trying to obtain capital or customers. You may have to explain or defend your past, and the negativity and skepticism that comes your way may be difficult. However, don't let the stigma discourage you. Your success depends not on what you have done in the past, but on what you are doing and will do in the future. Depending on your circumstances, you may need to repair your reputation and public image, and display that you are a responsible, trustworthy individual with a plan for success. When faced with adversity, the best thing to do is create your own lane for a clear path into the future and develop a plan for success. Think outside the box and create a unique business plan that is not only viable but also speaks to who you are and what you stand for. With this plan, you can develop strategies for overcoming the challenges associated with your criminal record. Find ways to demonstrate your commitment to success and to improve the way people view you, your business, and others in your situation. This will help you create a new, positive image, and show potential customers or investors that you are actively making efforts to change your life. Doing this can be challenging, but it can also give you the power to turn your life around and create a successful business.
As mentioned before, there are some obstacles and unique challenges ex-cons face while on the journey to business stardom:
If you have a felony the ability to hold certain types of positions is prohibited. As an example, legal or healthcare-related occupations may be off-limits. These restrictions are put in place to lower the risk and protect the public from potentially unscrupulous service providers. However, there are many other available options.
When it comes down to professional licensing and registries, certain business types may require a license or permit to legally operate. Depending on the requirements, these licenses or permits may lead to a personal background check. Your criminal record may make it more difficult to obtain certain licenses, permits, and approvals you need to operate.
If the business requires travel you may want to do extensive research. A criminal history can also affect your ability to travel, interfering with your passport/ visa or passport/visa waiver applications. If your business depends on your ability to travel to other countries, you may need to find someone else to handle those responsibilities.
Funding is sometimes one of the most important aspects to start a business. A criminal record may also cause hardship while trying to find the funding you need to start your business. Before I dig in, please note that not all businesses require large startup costs. Traditional banks, typically conduct background checks on borrowers. If you have a criminal history, it may be difficult to get approved for a loan. This may also be a factor when trying to find an angel investor or VC willing to contribute, based on your past. Now, let's talk about other funding opportunities. You may qualify for grants or education programs specifically tailored for entrepreneurs with a criminal history. As an example, the organization Inmates to Entrepreneurs provides grants, resources, and other forms of assistance to former criminals who want to positively change their lives. And organizations like SCORE offer free business mentoring and educational resources to a wide range of aspiring entrepreneurs, regardless of their background.
Partnerships are an option. You may find it difficult to find a partner willing to build a business with you unless it is someone that you know. You may have to practice patience when looking for someone to partner with. But, due diligence can show that you may still be able to do it alone, you may just have to revise the plan a bit.
Create a Support System
Having a supportive network around you is one of the best things you can do when starting a business. Creating your own lane can be challenging and overwhelming, and it can be helpful to have people to lean on and voice constructive criticism or advice. It is important to have support from family and friends, but it can also be helpful to have a mentor or a business consultant to help guide you in the process. For people with a criminal record, having a support network can also be beneficial in that it provides a safe place to process more challenging issues related to your record, such as guilt, shame, and stigma. Having someone who can provide perspective and understanding is incredibly valuable when starting a business.
Believe in Yourself
As a person with a criminal record, you have to believe in yourself and your brand. You have to have faith that your hard work will pay off, and that your business will be successful. It may be difficult to find investors or customers who trust you, but there are people out there that can relate and are willing to give you a chance and invest to support your dream. Believing in yourself and your business is key. Not only will it help you work hard and stay motivated, but it will also help you develop a positive attitude and be resilient in the face of any challenges. It can be easy to get discouraged when starting a business, but if you stay focused on your goals and are grateful for the opportunities that you are going to create.
Starting a business can be difficult, especially if you have a criminal record but it's important to remember that your criminal record does not define you. You can use your past experiences to can create something great! You can create a successful business with dedication, determination, and help from a supportive network. While it may not be easy, with the right tools, it is possible. Take the time to develop a plan, find a mentor or business consultant, and believe in yourself and your brand. You have the power to create your own lane and become a
successful entrepreneur! Who knows, you may inspire someone else!