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Business

Business Beat - Prison Program Teaches Women How to Be Entrepreneurs

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Zhihan Huang/Missouri Business Alert
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Mary Maserang (from left), Brenda Ramsey, Nigaila Gibbs, Suliana Tonga and Emily Kirchhoff wait for their graduation ceremony to start. They were part of the first class of graduates from ASPIRE MO.

In the visitors room of the Women’s Eastern Reception, Diagnostic & Correctional Center in Vandalia, nine women stand dressed in bright blue caps and gowns. They’re the first to graduate from ASPIRE MO, a program designed to teach inmates the entrepreneurial skills to start a business once they leave prison.

The 20-week program teaches them various skills like market projections, advertising and feasibility studies. By the end of the course, they make a comprehensive business plan.

Kellie Ann Coats, director of the Missouri Women’s Council, said she came up with the idea during a meeting with the Anne Precythe, Missouri’s director of corrections. Coats was told that Missouri had the fastest-growing female prison population in the country.

“That really struck me,” Coats said. “I was like ‘Wow, what is going on, and what are we doing to help them?’”

To read more, visit our partners at Missouri Business Alert.