Jeff Smith: Learning Entrepreneurship in Jail

Our own Contributing RP, Jeff Smith, may have never dreamed that any good would come from his required stay at a federal prison. But the unlikeliest of environments proved to be an unexpected fountain of entrepreneurial spirit.

Jeff writes about what he learned in this week’s Inc. magazine:

B.J. was one of many fellow inmates with big plans for the future. He vowed that upon his release, he’d leave the dope game and fly straight. He’d recently purchased a porn website targeted at men with a fetish for women having sex on top of or inside luxury cars, with a special focus that explained his nickname. For just $10,000, he had purchased the domain name, the site design, and all of the necessary back-end work enabling financial transactions. The only component B.J. needed to supply were the women, and due to his incarceration, he’d named his 19-year-old son “vice president for personnel and talent development” and charged him with overseeing auditions. Who says a good old-fashioned family business can’t make it anymore?

It was my first week in a federal prison, and I was beginning to see that it was far more nuanced than the hotbed of sex, drugs, and violence depicted on television documentaries. It was teeming with ambitious, street-smart men, many who appear to have been very successful drug dealers on the outside, and some of whom possess business instincts as sharp as those of the CEOs who wined and dined me six months before. Using somewhat different jargon than you might hear at Wharton, they discussed business concepts such as promotional incentives (“I don’t never charge no first-time user”), quality control and new product launches (“you try anything new, you better have some longtime crackhead test your new shit”), territorial expansion (“Once Dude on the East Side got chalked, I had my dopeboys out on his corners befo’ that motherf—er’s  body was cold”), and even barriers to entry (“Any motherf—er that wanna do bidness on the West Side know me and my boys ain’t scurred to cap his ass”).

Read the rest of Jeff’s insightful piece here.

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