Social Enterprise Cornbread Hustle Helping Former Inmates Start Over, Find Meaningful Employment

Second chances filled the Addison Tree House last week as Cornbread Hustle members pitched their newest innovative ideas in the yearly graduation.

Last week at the Addison Tree House, a less-than-traditional graduation took place. Members of Cornbread Hustlea 90-day program dedicated to helping those in recoverycelebrated their new beginnings. 

“It was an amazing night and everyone was left inspired,” founder Cheri Garcia said of the evening. “We have already received emails from business owners wanting to offer a second chance by hiring from our staffing agency.”

Cornbread Hustle is a social enterprise that focuses on positive transformation for former inmates in the DFW area. The goal is to focus on education and transformation, and give those who often struggle to find employment and success a chance to redeem themselves. 

“We have already received emails from business owners wanting to offer a second chance by hiring from our staffing agency.”
Cheri Garcia

The foundation is incredibly close to Garcia’s heart—she’s a former addict, and has been sober since 2007, according to Star Local Media. After getting clean, Garcia had a career in broadcast television before turning her sights to the world of entrepreneurship by inventing the patented Luminous Envy Tanning Bed. 

Now, Garcia aims to help those in similar situations be successful and use their natural skills for good. She’s currently employed at Mark Cuban Companies, in addition to helping students at Cornbread Hustle.

When discussing the importance of Cornbread Hustle, Garcia points to a recent national study published on BBC Capital.

“With the unemployment rate so low, there is an increase of employers taking a chance on people with a criminal background,” she says. “[The study] proved that about 50 percent of HR professionals and managers expressed willingness to employ someone with a criminal record.”

The winner of graduation night was Ariel Lucas for her transformational after-school program. [Courtesy Cornbread Hustle]

And that’s where Cornbread Hustle comes in. The staffing agency takes a unique approach to job placement by helping people find their passion and secure relevant long-term jobs, rather than just finding positions that pay the bills. Through the program, classes are offered to assist in meaningful employment, with topics like entrepreneurial skills, or how to start a business or side hustle.

Garcia named the program after a scene in the movie “Life,” where Eddie Murphy’s character stands up to another inmate trying to give away his cornbread at lunch. 

“You know, I just want to change the narrative of what people think of felons and former drug addicts…a lot of us should be a felon, but we just didn’t get caught,” Garcia told NBCDFW Channel 5 earlier this year.

CORNBREAD HUSTLE GRADUATION AND PITCH DAY

Once a year, a “Shark Tank”-style graduation and pitch day is held, where those in the program can present their innovative ideas to investors and potentially win a $1,500 grant for their future business. This year’s pitches ranged from a hair braiding invention to a technology that would help advertisers make money. 

The big winner of the night was Ariel Lucas, whose idea focused on creating a transformational after-school program for kids. The panel of judges included Vlad Molchadski, CEO of Biztraffic; Charles Horton, an angel investor; and Nancy Hong, director of Addison Tree House. There were also several speakers, including Jodi Udan, a former addict and felon who now handles over $1 million at a jewelry appraisal and brokerage firm. 

Judges for the night were Vlad Molchadski, Charles Horton, and Nancy Hong. [Courtesy Cornbread Hustle]

The three-month program provides classes at the Dallas Public Library each week to help candidates become well-equipped with valuable employment skills. Each month of the program is different. In the first month, participants are taught the importance of image, as well as social media etiquette and other professional skills. The second month, numerous guest speakers focused on business-related topics are brought in to speak with the students and offer advice, and in the final month participants work on a business pitch to present. 

To learn more about Cornbread Hustle, hire from the talent pool, or join the community, visit the official website here

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