Can you start a business with a criminal record?

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Yes you can. Go get them, boss!

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October 29, 2020

5 minutes to read

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Having a criminal record can make it difficult to hire, find housing and many other basic tasks. But can that stop you from starting your own business? The short answer is, no, it can’t stop you.

Former criminals can profit from starting a business in several important ways:

  • Self-direction. Rather than waiting for someone else to offer you a job, you have the power to create something for yourself. It’s a challenge you’ve created that can help keep you focused and on track.
  • Independence and freedom. Many people start a business because it gives them independence and freedom. They can make their own decisions and set their own rules, rather than following someone else.
  • Avoid employment problems. Many ex-convicts find it difficult to get hired because of their criminal past. But if you are starting a business from scratch, you won’t have to go through the maintenance process; you will work for yourself. Hello chef.

Main limitations

Of course, ex-convicts trying to start a business face some unique issues and challenges:

  • Criminals and some posts. For starters, criminals are sometimes limited in the types of positions they can fill. For example, you may not be able to start a business or establish yourself a position in the legal or medical field. These restrictions are often in place to protect the public from potentially unscrupulous service providers. However, there are plenty of other options to choose from.
  • License and register. Depending on the type of business you want to start, you may need to obtain a license or a business permit. Depending on the need, these documents can open the door to a personal background check. Your criminal record can make it more difficult to get the documentation and approvals you need to operate.
  • Travel. Criminal records can also affect your ability to travel, interfering with your visa or visa waiver applications. If your business depends on your ability to travel to other countries, you may need to find someone else to take on these responsibilities.
  • Funding. As an ex-con, you may also struggle to find the financing you need to start your business. Banks that provide loans usually perform background checks on borrowers. If you have a criminal history, you might have a hard time getting approved for a loan. You may also have trouble finding an angel investor or VC willing to contribute, depending on your background.
  • Partnerships. Likewise, you may have a harder time than usual finding a partner who is willing to start a business with you. You may need to spend a lot of time looking for someone more open-minded, or you may have to go it alone.

Related: Why being resilient is the first step to growth

Play on your strengths

If you are starting a business as someone with a criminal record, there are actually a few things that can work in your favor if you know how to capitalize on them. For starters, you may be eligible for a grant or an education program specifically designed for entrepreneurs with a criminal background. For example, the organization From prisoners to entrepreneurs exists to provide grants, resources and other forms of assistance to ex-criminals who want to change their lives. And organizations like SCORE offer free mentoring and training to a wide range of aspiring business owners, regardless of their background.

Classically, a criminal record is a “bad thing” for your reputation and your public image. However, you may be able to make it a positive for the business. For example, if you advertise that this company is hiring former prisoners to help them start a new life, you can attract more clients who want to patronize the company and support it as an organization. This is especially true if you reinvest a portion of your profits back into penal reform programs and other causes that help people with criminal records.

In addition, there are some experiences and skills acquired in prison that can help you become a better entrepreneur. For example, if you are used to a harsh yet highly competitive environment, you will be a more ruthless strategist as a leader. And if you’re used to the uncertainty and lack of a safety net in a prison environment, the stress and ambiguity of entrepreneurship can seem tame in comparison.

Related: Ex-convicts make the best entrepreneurs. Here are 3 reasons why.

So, is it possible for a former criminal to start a successful business? Yes it is. Countless ex-convicts have created successful businesses under their leadership. There are several obstacles you will need to overcome in order to achieve this, and there is certainly no guarantee of success, but by using the right strategies and compensating for your weaknesses, you can increase your chances of achieving your goals.


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