Entrepreneurial is probably not the first quality that springs to mind when you hear the word 'gangster', but a smart new project is offering those who have previously been in trouble on the streets a way out, by training them with the skills they need to become successful entrepreneurs.
Say hello to Comeback Industries, whose revolutionary idea helps ex-gang members set up their own legitimate companies. Rather than waiting for an employer to take a chance on a convicted criminal, the organisation kick-starts the process by helping them set up shop on their own.
Where Did It All Begin?
As Comeback's website puts it: 'we are not based on good intentions behind a desk.' One of the founders, Poul Kellberg, is no stranger to the street... A former boxer, he provides access to the communities where Comeback's would-be entrepreneurs live.
Poul, Sanoori, and Mette Brask started Comeback Industries in 2014 in Greve, a suburb of Copenhagen. The project sprung from Comeback Program, an initiative helping young people with social problems, and was partially inspired by Homeboy Industries, a fantastic LA-based programme that helps former gang members find jobs. Poul compares the organisation's role to a boxing coach: 'we're sitting in the corner of the ring, trying to help and motivate.'
How Helping Ex-Gang Members Helps Us All
'We know that these boys perform quite well under pressure,' says Comeback Industries co-founder, Daniel Sanoori. 'We also know that they are very creative and are, in fact, quite resourceful when it comes to creative problem-solving.'
Since launching, the project has helped set up FruitDoctor, a company that sells juices and smoothies, and the cleaning service, Comeback Cleaning. Comeback plans to launch an additional two new ventures every year.
And the project doesn't just keep ex-gang members from drifting back into crime... it benefits everybody, by saving Danish taxpayers a hefty chunk of cash. According to Changemakers, an active gang member costs society around 200,000 euros a year - money that can be saved by getting them off the streets.
Daniel expects an average Comeback start-up to take on a further three people in its first couple of years. That may not sound like many, but the numbers soon add up, with just one start-up potentially saving Denmark almost 30 million euros in just five years!
A True Inspiration...
Business playing a role in improving people's lives is an idea truly at home here at Ben & Jerry's. And by helping one-time gang members swap the mean streets for spreadsheets, Comeback Industries is doing just that, which is exactly why we named them as one of our 2014 Join Our Core winners.
In fact, we're so excited about what Comeback Industries are doing, we're partnering up for a pilot project whereby their entrepreneurs will sell our MiniCups on the streets of Copenhagen! Find out more here.
Along with peace, love and ice cream, everyone deserves a second chance! Comeback Industries - we salute you!