Unlocked Potential: From Incarceration to Entrepreneurship

A former inmate’s determination to improve life’s course and his bold request to be mentored has yielded uplifting results.

Who knew there have been people in prison reading Entrepreneur magazine? Many don’t understand that prisons offer educational materials and programs but that are invaluable to inmates. Education is one tool to foster rehabilitation and combat recidivism, the troubling tendency for all those incarcerated to get rid of up in prison again. AMERICA has significantly less than 5 percent of the world’s population, but almost twenty five percent of the world’s total prison population. Six out of ten of these who serve time go back to prison once they are released.

It generally does not help that Unicor, the labor program set up in US prisons, is a multibillion dollar system with a vested interest in retaining its massive headcount of very-low-wage workers. It’s a hot button topic in the tech world, which generally puts a whole lot of thought towards social change. Think Dustin Moskovitz, who recently donated $2 million to the Alliance for Safety and Justice, a charity focused on reducing the U.S.’s over-reliance on incarceration.

Recidivism is something Divine experienced firsthand. He was in and out of prison for greater than a decade. While there, he previously an opportunity to start educating himself, a chance don’t assume all person gets. However, the moment he returned to the primary world, he found it extremely difficult to obtain a good job. He didn’t have the proper experience, and his record kept him from many opportunities. The lure of the drug world, where he will make quick money to supply for his family members, became impossible, until he finally started to explore the opportunities supplied by entrepreneurship.

6 Life Hacks Learned in Prison THAT MAY Maximize Your Productivity

Divine’s story began in Newport, Rhode Island, where he was created. For the first part of his life he grew up in a comparatively middle-class home. His mother worked hard to supply the most effective for him and his younger brother. His entrepreneurial father had not been a fixture in his life. His father would become an affluent business man owning a roofing and painting company, eventually surviving in a prestigious section of the community beyond the family. Because of his father’s behavior, his mother experienced an urgent emotional and mental breakdown. From there, everything spiraled uncontrollable. She considered drugs to deal, and the family underwent several moves in the area of a couple of years.

Image credit: Maxwell Hawes IV

Divine remembers an especially harrowing year in Louisiana. There he was subjected to drug use and violence among his mother’s friends, and recalls using a gun at age 11. “I recall messing around, pointing it within my brother. I had no idea how dangerous that was.”

At 13, Divine started selling drugs. He refused to touch the stuff himself, having seen what it did to his mother, but he was sick and tired of his family’s poor living conditions. He wished to escape the projects to get his mother help. Selling drugs was the fastest way he knew to create money.

Even at a age, and in this illicit profession, he previously an all natural sense for business. “I’d save the amount of money I earned, utilize it to get more product, then save that money and utilize it to go a great deal larger. I were able to quickly elevate myself from selling for another person, to selling for myself.”

He served a brief stint in juvie, the to begin several prison sentences throughout his life. His next sentence came at nineteen, just when Divine have been likely to leave the world of crime. He’d gotten completely up to selling the coveted “kilo” of cocaine and was making good money. He planned to give up in a couple of months open a sneaker store and begin likely to technical school. “The irony of everything was, I was almost there.”

The judge told him to consider the seven years he was sentenced as “going away to college.” Divine took these words to heart. He attended ACE courses and worked his way through low-paying prison jobs (12 cents one hour) to eventually entering Unicor and earning $100 per month. He used this money to sustain himself and buy books on the music industry. He stayed to himself, kept out of trouble and didn’t watch much TV or pay attention to much radio.

Self-taught, he read everything he could easily get his hands on, like the dictionary. “I’d browse the biggest dictionary, and each day I would learn a fresh word.” Much like Malcolm X during his incarceration, Divine used the dictionary not merely to polish his vocabulary, but also as a source for his rhymes. Thinking about hiphop since age 10, he begun to hone his skill and wrote music while still incarcerated.

How Prison Became My Launching Pad for Success

When he premiered, Divine put his focus into his music career. He started an archive label, and spent his time recording and trying to secure funding for his company. Though he previously some big wins –performing at a showcase for his record label in NYC, at renowned club Speed, featuring legendary hiphop producer Marley Marl as the events DJ — he struggled to penetrate the NYC music industry.

Image credit: Maxwell Hawes IV

Not merely was the world of hiphop closed to him, every industry appeared to be. His criminal history made both employers and securing investment difficult to find. Eventually, he returned to selling drugs. He was back prison just 19 months later, serving two and half more years. This cycle of recidivism would continue for 13 years. Fast forward, just five years back, Divine found himself incarcerated again.

“I got eventually to the main point where I was completely dissatisfied,” said Divine. “And until you are completely dissatisfied, no change occurs.”

Divine kept up his reading, focusing specifically on entrepreneurship and startup companies. Divine knew he previously a talent for business, he just had a need to apply it the proper way. His experiences as a drug distributor had instilled in him the abilities essential to owning a startup: sales, business development and even customer success.

During his reading, he found an piece in The Week magazine, which referenced articles from THE BRAND NEW York Times on tech venture capitalist and Silicon Valley billionaire Ben Horowitz. This article mentioned Ben loved hiphop and used it to instruct business lessons to his employees. Initially, Divine was skeptical, but just a little research reassured him. Ben’s passion for the genre was well documented; he even had his own hiphop name.

“I possibly could tell he was the true deal… I needed to see if he’d spend money on my music company.”

11 Mindsets Learned in Prison Made Me Mentally Unstoppable

When he premiered, Divine reached out to Ben on Twitter. Instead of asking him for the money, he asked instead, “Do you want to mentor me?”

Ben replied by donating to the Kickstarter Divine setup for his debut album, but also giving Divine his personal email, encouraging him to attain out if he previously any questions. Divine was grateful your money can buy, but a lot more impressed by the e-mail. He was flattered that Ben will be so ready to answer questions, and as a thanks, he quickly wrote a rap about him.

The song became popular on the web. Divine discovered that suddenly, his email inbox was flooded with messages. Then came the decision from Ben’s wife, Felicia. She wished to fly Divine out to Silicon Valley to wait Ben’s private party of family and good friends.

That visit to California opened a bunch side. Divine became friends with Ben and Felicia and in addition got a serious consider the tech industry, and the approach to life of these who thrived in it. He knew the type of life he wanted. He previously the business skills, and today the contacts and mentorship, to achieve it.

Divine loved these suggestions from Ben, “Don’t follow your passion, follow your contribution.” What inspired him to believe, how he could create a business that could make a positive contribution to the world? How could he turn his own troubling story right into a product?

Eventually, he started BLAK Fintech, a financial services and technology company focused on building affordable products to greatly help the financially excluded, the unbanked and underbanked.

Image credit: Maxwell Hawes IV

Today, Divine’s credentials are impressive. BLAK Fintech is defined to launch their new product, a next generation prepaid debit card and financial tool designed to help the “urban entrepreneur” and financially excluded build wealth. He’s also found significant success as an inspirational speaker and happens to be focusing on his first book and screenplay for an attribute film about his life. He’s been featured in TechCrunch, Forbes, Black Enterprise and several other media outlets. He comes with an upcoming speaking engagement at France Fintech: Revolution in Paris and just lately spoke at Georgia State University because of their Entrepreneurship and Innovation Institute’s H.J. Russell Center’s Influential Speaker Series.

This season, he’ll be launching his “From Incarceration to Innovation” speaking tour in the united states, which features other notable formerly incarcerated individuals who’ve found redemption: NY Times best-selling author Shaka Senghor, Frederick Hutson of Pigeonly, and Trevor Brooks of GunBail.

Divine’s story highlights his talent for building relationships at high levels, from major drug suppliers in the streets of NYC, corrections institution directors to billionaires. He credits this talent to his healthy relationship with fear and believing in yourself.

“The proper sort of fear doesn’t hinder you,” he explained. “It propels you. See through your small fears. Recognize that on the other hand of these fears is your success, on the other hand of these fears is a millionaire dollars.”

Believing in rather than quitting on himself is what allowed Divine to persevere in prison. He says it is also what plays a part in his high self-esteem and strong self-confidence. Obviously, this is exactly what has led others to trust in him. Divine has lately turn into a contributing writer for Black Enterprise, together with being asked by BE to seriously with their third annual TechConneXt Summit Steering Committee.

Divine’s birth name was Damon, but he quickly took on the brand new attribute after embracing spirituality in prison. The brand new name includes a deep personal significance to him. He now uses it as a reminder to continue rising above his circumstances and his past. “It’s a name that’s telling me to manage my destiny and my entire life.” In addition, it inspires him to keep succeeding at w

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