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Entrepreneurship competition focuses on providing opportunities to the formerly incarcerated

Marcus Bullock, CEO of Flikshop and TechStars alum

Determination, Incorporated is hosting an upcoming entrepreneurship and development workshop––but it’s not what you might be expecting.

Kansas City-based Determination, Incorporated is a startup nonprofit with a mission to create pathways to opportunity for formerly incarcerated people through entrepreneurship.

Determination, Incorporated is hosting Rise Up, Get Started, Kansas City’s first entrepreneurship competition for formerly incarcerated people.

“Entrepreneurship helped me turn my life around,” says Johnny Waller Jr., who recently joined Kyle J Smith, entrepreneurial ecosystem builder, as co-founder of Determination, Incorporated. “We can teach others how to leave their criminal records in the past and use their skills and passions to start businesses that raise up the entire community.”

It’s something that Waller knows about firsthand.

“I spent three years in prison before I became an entrepreneur,” said Waller. “When I decided to leave my criminal lifestyle in the past, I started and ran a janitorial company for seven years in KC.”

Waller closed that company when his oldest son tragically died of cancer. Since then, has earned gone on to study business management and recently graduated with a masters in the subject.

“I made a commitment to my son and my family to get an education and to devote my life to helping other formerly incarcerated people reach their full potential and succeed,” said Waller.

Determination, Incorporated also hosts a business support group called Be the Boss three times a month in Kansas City’s urban core. Since its inception in early 2018, more than 60 formerly incarcerated people have attended the workshop.

“We know that many formerly incarcerated people in our community have what it takes to succeed as an entrepreneur, but lack the formal knowledge, guidance, and capital to get there,” shares Waller. “We built Rise Up, Get Started to help break down those barriers.”

The public is invited to join the Determination, Incorporated community at the Rise Up, Get Started Entrepreneurship Celebration on Thursday, May 30, 7 PM, at Plexpod Westport Commons.

The winners of the grants will be announced and keynote speaker Marcus Bullock, CEO of Flikshop and a TechStars alum, will give a presentation.

Following his 2004 release from prison, Bullock launched a construction business that grew to 18 employees. Now, he is the founder and CEO of Flikshop, a free app that enables incarcerated people to receive personalized postcards from their families. His TedX Talk “Prison to Entrepreneurship Pipeline” has inspired thousands to give and receive value from formerly incarcerated people who others too easily write off.

“We hope all Kansas Citians will join us at the Rise Up, Get Started Entrepreneurship Celebration to congratulate our current Be the Boss students on their progress thus far,” says Waller. “And to send a message to our brothers and sisters who are currently incarcerated: Kansas City is ready to welcome you home and is a great place to succeed as an entrepreneur.”

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