Female prisoners helped to launch own businesses

Monday 22nd June, 2015

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Startup aims to reduce the reoffending rate by supporting people in prison and helping them to become self employed on release

Of the 80,000 prisoners released from UK prisons every year, almost two thirds reoffend within two years. Social enterprise Startup has found that helping prisoners start their own business may be a way of keeping them out of jail. Of their clients, less than 5 per cent reoffend compared to a national average of 65 per cent.

Startup gives female prisoners the tools to start their own businesses when they leave prison. Photo: Startup

Clients such as Natalie, owner of Lily Star Zorric, a luxury knitwear company. “I was introduced to Startup. They came into the prison and discussed my business plan and ideas with me. They have financed the servicing and repair part of my business so that I am able to design,” she says.

Or like Roslyn Collender: “I approached Startup who supported me with my idea, gave me business advice and funding to buy my equipment, insurance and a website to get started. Through the peer mentoring I gained many friends who were from similar backgrounds or shared similar experiences. Most of all we were all reaching for the same goal - to earn an income to support ourselves.”

The reoffending rate for women who have gone on to become self-employed in our project is one per cent

And Collender has even taken it one step further, getting involved in helping other women.

“I currently hold coffee networking mornings at the Startup offices in London on a monthly basis and attend prisons to meet new women that would like to start their own business. I am also doing an NVQ in Advice & Guidance and I am now a mentor for young women in the criminal justice system through another charity.” 

Collender holds hold coffee networking mornings at the Startup offices. Photo: Startup

The person behind Startup is Juliet Hope. She argues that political choices about who gets funding are crucial to getting the reoffending rate down.

“The reoffending rate for those women who have gone on to become self-employed in our Startupnow for Women project is one per cent, which is significantly lower than national figures. We never have enough funding to meet demand and, like other small charities, would benefit from funding coming directly to us at ground level,” Hope suggests.

She started the social enterprise because she believes in self-employment as a way of become financially independent.

“Running your own business can be liberating, provide flexibility around childcare and can allow new training in prison to be put to good use on release. Startup was established in 2006 with one clear aim, to support those in prison and once released to become self-employed.”