A second chance: Kansas City nonprofit helping former inmates build businesses

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A local nonprofit is helping formerly incarcerated people start their own businesses. 

Determination Incorporated is taking applications to help support people looking for a second chance through entrepreneurship. 

After a person is convicted of a felony, it’s almost like a scarlet letter. It’s harder to get a job. Recent data shows the unemployment rate among formerly incarcerated people is close to 30%.  

Jamon Buford served six years in prison on federal drug charges. He was released in 2019. 

“I think everybody comes home with good intentions,” Buford said. “Sometimes you can get your hope deferred by so many doors closing in your face, and you kind of start to get desperate a little bit for money and things like that you still got a family to take care of.” 

To provide for his family, Buford started his own business, Good Brother Construction and Remodel, with help from Determination Incorporated’s “Rise Up Get Started” program. 

“They showed me how to put a business plan together, how to budget, how to just cover everything,” Buford said. 

Kyle James Benson-Smith, executive director of Determination Incorporated, said whether you’re in the idea phase or want to grow your business, applications are now open for second chance entrepreneurs. 

“They’ll have the chance to get $750 to put towards their business and also a community of support, a business plan, and a lot of help promoting their business so that folks know they’re out there and they can gain more customers,” Benson-Smith said. 

 To fund this program, Determination Incorporated got a grant from Impact KC. Cody Wood, incoming president, said this could have a big economic impact on the community. 

“Increase the impact by actually giving people opportunities to, you know, finally take control of their own destiny and avoid the the cycle of re-incarceration,” Wood said. 

Buford hopes to use the skills he has gained with DI to take his business to the next level and inspire others in the process. 

“I see me developing houses, businesses, parks and things like that,” Buford said. “I see me growing into a multi-million dollar business.” 

Applications for the Rise Up, Get Started Entrepreneurship Program are open through Tuesday, March 16. You can apply here

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