• Donerik Black

KeyBank Business Boost & Build Helps Returning Citizens Find Entrepreneurial Success

Updated: Apr 15


The Dayton Region just completed pilot for a new reentry entrepreneurial training program that engages restored citizens in business planning to curb the prison-to-poverty pipeline. In fall 2020, The Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce, The Urban Strategies, and the Montgomery County Office of Reentry, launched the initiative entitled “REACH! Entrepreneurship Redefined”.


For the first time in years, there is an abundance of technical assistance boot camps for businesses. However, in assessment of these resources, we realized a gap exists in servicing returning and restored residents who had an interest in entrepreneurship. “Some might ask, why design a special program for formerly incarcerated individuals. But after speaking with the Montgomery County Office of Reentry along with the compilation of research, we believe this will be a value-added service for our community. Due to the increasing challenges this population faces in trying to reenter the workforce, there is a need to equip them with skills and a network to start their own businesses” noted Belinda Matthews Stenson, Director for the Minority Business Partnership at the Dayton Chamber.


REACH! Participants are referred from the Montgomery County Office of Reentry, which has a great track record for providing education and training to restored citizens through the signature Reentry Career Alliance Academy. The Cohort culminates with a signature REACH! Pitch Showcase where participants compete for cash prizes. Ninety-Five (95%) of graduates have successfully transitioned back into their communities without post-program prison commitment. Select graduates who have expressed interest in entrepreneurship were selected to participate in the pilot cohort. Jamie Gee, Office of Reentry Manager expressed the priority of this initiative, stating “We have discussed the benefits of a small business learning component over the years and this is a perfect collaborative opportunity to pilot such a program for our community”.


The REACH! Initiative is a program of the KeyBank Business Boost & Build Dayton Pathways program consisting of several strategic partners (Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce, Minority Business Assistance Center, and Wesley Community Center) that have worked diligently to connect minority- and women-owned firms to business education, contracting opportunities and access to capital to support their businesses. The Pathways component has also provided support to individuals to enhance employment skills and career opportunities. Donerik Black, a consultant with Urban Strategies, LLC served as the lead instructor of the entrepreneurial reentry pilot. “We are extremely excited about this pilot program. This program is specifically designed to deliver education and training for individuals interested in developing a viable skill and business ownership as a post-release career option and potential anecdote to recidivism.”


We strive to put an end to the revolving door of prisons and reverse the societal harms of recidivism. According to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation, approximately 35.3% of prisoners released to Montgomery County in Ohio were arrested within 3 years (2018). Researchers have linked such recidivism to unemployment, education, and inability to reintegrate into society after prison. A study by the Bureau of Justice reported that just 12.5% of employers are willing to consider job applications from individuals who have been convicted of a crime (2016). Entrepreneurship provides an opportunity for restored citizens to start their own business and invest in their communities while minimizing systemic discrimination often faced in a challenged job market. Our work provides education to individuals with criminal backgrounds, equipping them to rise above the stigma associated with their conviction - creating a path to economic opportunity.


REACH! CoHort Profiles


REACH! Entrepreneurship Redefined engages restored citizens in business planning to help curb the prison-to-poverty pipeline. REACH! (Reentry Entrepreneurship Assistance CoHort) is a 7-week program that provides services to citizens referred by the Montgomery County Office of Reentry, which provides education and training to restored citizens through the signature Reentry Career Alliance Academy (RCAA). The REACH! Initiative is a program under the KeyBank Business Boost & Build Dayton Pathways program consisting of several strategic partners that have worked diligently to connect minority and women-owned firms to business education, contracting opportunities and access to capital to support their businesses. The Pathways component has also provided support to individuals to enhance employment skills and career opportunities.

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About KeyBank – KeyCorp’s roots trace back 190 years to Albany, New York. Headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, Key is one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies, with assets of approximately $146.7 billion at September 30, 2019. Key provides deposit, lending, cash management, and investment services to individuals and businesses in 15 states under the name KeyBank National Association through a network of over 1,100 branches and more than 1,400 ATMs. Key also provides a broad range of sophisticated corporate and investment banking products, such as merger and acquisition advice, public and private debt and equity, syndications and derivatives to middle market companies in selected industries throughout the United States under the KeyBanc Capital Markets trade name. For more information, vis. KeyBank is Member FDIC.


About KeyBank Foundation – KeyBank Foundation serves to fulfill KeyBank’s purpose to help clients and communities thrive, and its mission is to support organizations and programs that prepare people for thriving futures. The Foundation’s mission is advanced through three funding priorities – neighbors, education, and workforce – and through community service. To provide meaningful philanthropy that transforms lives, KeyBank Foundation listens carefully to understand the unique characteristics and needs of its communities and then backs solutions with targeted philanthropic investments. KeyBank Foundation is a nonprofit charitable foundation, funded by KeyCorp.


About the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce The Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce brings together more than 2,200 businesses and organizations in a 9-county area surrounding Dayton, Ohio. The Chamber strives to improve the region’s business climate and overall standard of living through public policy advocacy, economic development initiatives and providing networking and training opportunities for its members. Nationally awarded with “5-Star Accreditation” from the United States Chamber of Commerce, the Dayton Chamber is widely recognized for its innovative programs and outstanding contribution to positive change in the region. Information about the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce is available at www.daytonchamber.org or 937-226-1444.


About JumpStart Inc. – JumpStart is a nationally recognized investing, entrepreneurial support and economic development organization dedicated to unlocking the full potential of diverse and ambitious entrepreneurs to economically transform entire communities. For more information, visit www.jumpstartinc.org and follow @JumpStartInc on Twitter.


About the Montgomery County Office of Reentry – The Montgomery County Office of Reentry serves as a community-based pre- and post-release resource and point of entry (hub) for individuals with misdemeanor and felony convictions, some of which have served time in jail and/or prison. Individuals are referred to the Office of Reentry through a variety of sources including but not limited to corrections facilities, parole and probation officers, service providers, and other community stakeholders. The Office of Reentry is dedicated to addressing the holistic needs of returning and restored citizens, through effective resource optimization, coordination, networking and advocacy.


About the Urban Business Strategies, LLC – Urban Business Strategies, LLC is the parent company for the Dayton Weekly News, the longest running Black newspaper. Out of a passion for working and supporting other minority-owned business, Urban Business Strategies, LLC birthed their coaching and consulting practice to support the small business community in the Dayton Community. Urban Business Strategies, LLC works closely with disadvantaged businesses to provide business coaching to overcome the common barriers to successful business ownership.

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