Transforming, Reinventing, And Prospering
Transforming, Reinventing, And Prospering
TRAP House is a startup incubator that operates in neighborhoods with high rates of drug activity. TRAP stands for Transforming, Reinventing, And Prospering. Recognizing that hustlers are entrepreneurs starved of opportunity, we will help them recognize their talents, identify their passions, and launch micro-ventures in the formal market. We will provide the financing, technical assistance, and network that our clients need to succeed.
Hustlers living in neighborhoods with high rates of incarceration are often talented, hardworking people who lack the opportunity to apply their entrepreneurial spirit productively. TRAP House will create that opportunity. We will cultivate relationships and leverage them to identify the best and brightest in these communities. We will work with clients to articulate the scope and goal of a commercially viable project. We support them from the ideation stage until launch providing guidance on budgeting, making projections, developing a strategy to execute, and legal/tax considerations. If clients require financing, we make small loans after conducting due diligence. When ventures are successful, we keep 10% of profits (up to a point) as earned income. We supplement this with grants from public agencies and philanthropy. We have not decided on our legal structure.
The Social Problem
We created TRAP House to address a root causes of mass-incarceration in low-income black neighborhoods. Forty-five percent of poor black children live in neighborhoods with concentrated poverty, creating opportunity deserts. Often in order to survive, these young people turn to illegal economic activity. The result is that in 2014, one third of black men and over two thirds of black high school dropouts under 34 had spent time in prison. The proportion of incarcerated citizens in this country is the second-highest in the world. Mass-incarceration is a national catastrophe fragmenting families, increasing crime, and ruining lives. It is an insurmountable obstacle to communities struggling to rise out of poverty.
The Anticipated Impact
Our goal is to incubate at least three successful ventures in our first year. Some of these ventures may turn directly into permanent occupations for our clients. In most cases, the experience will build skills and inspire our clients to seek out new opportunities that are better in the long run for themselves and their communities. If TRAP House is successful, our clients will create thriving enterprises that provide products or services, offer employment, and increase political capital in their neighborhoods. These entrepreneurs will be leaders and role models in their community. In neighborhoods where many people have never pictured themselves in the formal economy, we plant a seed.
Most of this money will seed the TRAP House investment fund. Some will go toward accounting software, promotional material, and legal fees. We will also use this grant to leverage more funding from other investors that have expressed interest.
Project Fresh Start, Family Reentry, YearUp, and several government programs seek to reduce recidivism through employment assistance and other services. TRAP House is unique because it catalyses self-employment as a preventive measure, in neighborhoods with large populations vulnerable to likely imprisonment. It does not only seek to reduce recidivism -- it provides opportunity to people preemptively, before they go to jail the first time.
Name: Bashaun Brown
Bashaun is a graduate and board member of Wesleyan University’s Center for Prison Education. As a second-generation drug dealer, he had an early education in manufacturing and distribution of crack cocaine. After serving a seven-year sentence, Bashaun thought long and hard about his involvement in destroying his community, and he decided to become part of the solution instead of part of the problem.
Name: Sara Eismont
Major: Sociology and Computer Science
Sara studies Sociology and Data Analysis at Wesleyan. Outside of class, she participates in a variety of programs that address gaps in educational opportunity, such as the Center for Prison Education, Adolescent Sexual Health Awareness, and Let’s Get Ready. She is very passionate about working to craft innovative solutions to better public institutions. When not at school, she lives with her family in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Name: Irvine Peck's-Agaya
Major: Religion and Government
Irvine studies Government and Religion at Wesleyan and has a passion for social entrepreneurship. She started a non-profit organization called Students Helping Students (SHS) as a sophomore in high school, and she will teach a course on entrepreneurship in Spring 2016. Irvine has personally been affected by the repercussions of drug dealing and would like to use her entrepreneurial skills through TRAP House to reduce its impact on society.
Name: Gabe Weinreb
Major: Math and Economics
Gabe studies mathematics and economics at Wesleyan University. He is interested in economic justice and mass-incarceration. He has experience working in microcredit and urban development, as well as homelessness research and advocacy. When he isn’t at school, Gabe lives with his family in the Boston area.