“This program is primarily for formerly incarcerated and their families to reduce recidivism and reduce crime,” said Pastor Ben Anderson from the Solid Rock Community Development Corporation.
“This is the first of its kind where dollars are taken from Department of Corrections and invested in community,” Anderson said. “We teach inventory, we teach budgeting, we teach marketing, we teach customer service. It does allow people to believe in themselves and to understand that you can own a business and you can be very successful at it.”
Ernest and Jackie Williams found the program and used it to help their soul food catering company expand.
“Even if you own a business, you still need to come because I’m sure there’s some things you don’t know. And they can improve it for you,” Jackie said.
“He encouraged us to do better things for ourselves. Be a shining star for the community,” Ernest said.
Fresh Start has already seen 122 graduates. Businesses from clothing lines to dog grooming. Small loans are available to some of the businesses.
“We were like a family. We still connect we still talk to each other to see how it’s going,” Jackie said about the other entrepreneurs she took the program with.
Anderson says the program is in year two of a five-year study. The results could be extended throughout the state.
“If we could have more funding, we could possibly be in more facilities across our state.” To be more effective with individuals coming out of the system,” He said. “If we get the proper funding, (28) you will see a decrease in crime, you will see a decrease in recidivism.”