For released participants in Houston and Dallas (and via the Internet), PEP hosts a weekly “eSchool” taught by executives, MBA candidates and university professors. Instructors cover a range of topics related to professional job development skills and entrepreneurship including: technology and website development, strategic thinking, marketing, leadership, time-management, communication, and finance & accounting skills.
An eSchool graduate who starts his small business qualifies for a $500 eSchool Completion Bonus from PEP in the form of a reimbursement for qualifying expenses. This money is provided to help with basic small business start-up costs like business cards, equipment and supplies. Through this program, participants have bought tools to start a variety of service oriented businesses. PEP entrepreneurs who have a need for more significant business funding have access to small business financing through PEP’s network of financial institutions and individual investors. PEP has also helped its graduates receive loans from the micro lender PeopleFund, as well as Kiva, a crowd-sourced, zero-interest lender.
PEP also operates the Communitas Business Center in Houston and Dallas. The Business Center is designed to act as an incubator for graduates looking to start or expand their businesses as well as a catalyst for executives to get involved in the start-up and creation of new graduate businesses. For a low monthly fee, business owners obtain access to internet services, professional grade printers and copiers, and a physical address to use on marketing materials. The Communitas Business Center also has conference room facilities, a projector and screen, and can host social and networking events. In addition, PEP provides access to a qualified bookkeeper who can provide low cost, fee-based accounting services. The Communitas Business Center is located within the PEP offices in Houston and Dallas, giving clients easy access to PEP’s case management, job development and executive staff.
As an entrepreneurial organization, PEP is also committed to significantly expanding its own earned income ventures. Currently, PEP covers about 5% of its annual operating costs with rent payments drawn from the organization’s five well-run transition homes in Houston and Dallas and service fees from graduate-owned businesses. In addition, our board is also pursuing a series of for-profit ventures that will grow to provide a significant number of jobs to our graduates as well as additional resources to fund our general operations.
As part of our earned income strategy, PEP has incubated a for-profit business called Communitas Ventures that is forming business ventures that will provide jobs to PEP graduates while also boosting PEP’s earned income. The first of these business ventures is Communitas Auto Group LLC (CAG). CAG has purchased the rights to become the exclusive master franchisee in the State of Texas for Auto-Lab Complete Care Centers. As the master franchise for Texas, PEP’s Communitas Auto Group will build and operate general auto repair shops under the Auto-Lab of Texas brand. Successful development of CAG will benefit PEP by providing high quality business and career opportunities for PEP graduates, offering a wider variety of engagement opportunities for PEP supporters and by creating of a source of sustainable revenue for PEP’s core programs. The first Auto Lab store opened in May 2015, the second store opened in August 2015, and a third will open in early 2016. All of them are located in greater Houston area. To learn more about this venture (and have your car serviced) visit www.autolabtexas.com.
The connection to family and friends developed while our men are still inside builds confidence and hope, which leads to reunification and love. This rebuilding of family relationships helps our men with their transition back to the community once they are released. We encourage our men to be back in the lives of their children as soon as possible after release. We also serve their children through a major children’s Christmas outreach project, sponsored by a local church. We have a family reunification weekend every summer that is hosted by the First Baptist Church of Athens, TX, and a beach weekend outing in the fall for our graduates and their families.