Archive for the ‘From Our CEO’ Category

PEP Challenge Sign

If you’ve kept up with our blog, you have read some amazing stories of life transformation in the past few months.

You have read graduate about Adam C., who shared that PEP taught him that “beauty could rise from the ashes of (a) brokenhearted young man.” You have read graduate Lance N.’s story about how PEP helped him to find his first job (and why he donates to PEP each month). Graduate David F. shared how he had never stayed out of jail for more than a year, but now has been out for more than three years thanks to PEP. Others, like Devon S. and Cristian H. , shared how God has changed their lives through PEP.

And all of that was just in October!

Just imagine the stories that you can make possible over the next year.

The Prison Entrepreneurship Program is rapidly growing. This past August, we launched our operations in a second prison in Texas. By 2015, we might be able to serve nearly twice as many people as we did at the beginning of this year… provided that we have the funding to do so.

PEP is 100% privately funded. Without donors like you, graduate Clay T. may not have paid of $44K in debt and graduate James C. may not have generated over $5MM in sales through his business.

You make these stories possible. That is why we are asking for your help today.

We need to raise $190,000 by December 31, 2014.

These funds will ensure that we can launch into 2015 with full force, rapidly expanding our presence both inside of prison and outside of the walls. Your gift will make sure that 100% of our graduates find a job within 90 days of release from prison and that their likelihood of returning to crime drops by 80-90%.

Help us Meet the Challenge!


Thanks to the PEP Board of Directors, we have the potential to match every gift!

  • One-time gifts will be matched dollar-for-dollar. That means a gift of $1,000 will instantly become $2,000!
  • Monthly commitments will be matched TWO to one based on their annual value! That means a commitment of $100 per month will receive a $2,400 match – making a $3,600 combined impact on PEP!

Where else can you make this kind of impact?

Your gifts matter.

Can we count on you?

Bert Smith

auto-lab texas  autolabDear Friends:

As many of you know, the Prison Entrepreneurship Program has spent the past three years focused on two important initiatives: expanding our core programs and strengthening our long-term sustainability.

As our recent annual reports have demonstrated, we have made great progress on the first of these. PEP is now graduating more men than ever before while maintaining or improving our already best-in-class results in the areas of post-release employment, small business development and prevention of recidivism. This is attributable to the prayers and tremendous support that many of you have provided to PEP, as well as the prayers and hard work of our board, staff, volunteers and especially our participants.

Today, we are very excited to announce a major milestone on the second of these two primary initiatives:

PEP’s for-profit subsidiary, Communitas Auto Group LLC, has purchased the rights to become the exclusive master franchisee for Auto-Lab Complete Car Care Centers for the State of Texas.

We are working with Auto-Lab on the official press release, but I wanted you to be among the first to know about this significant development.  I also want you to understand the particular implications for PEP.

As the master franchisee for Texas, PEP’s Communitas Auto Group (“CAG”) will build and operate general auto repair shops under the Auto-Lab of Texas brand.  We will also promote the growth of the franchise throughout the state and will provide support to franchises sold anywhere in Texas. Immediate plans call for opening two locations within the first year, likely both within the Houston area. Once these stores are established, CAG will then look to expand to other major metro markets in Texas.

Throughout this process, we have been guided by Dr. Ben Litalien, Certified Franchise Executive. Ben is the Founder & Principal of FranchiseWell, LLC, a consulting practice dedicated to the improvement and enhancement of franchising.  In 2009, Ben also formed the Social Franchise Institute, a 501(c)(3) dedicated to providing education on franchising to the nonprofit sector where he serves as President and Director.  Previously, Ben devoted 20 years to developing several very successful franchised businesses, including On the Run markets for Exxon Mobil.  As Ben says, “There are only about 100 franchises owned by nonprofits around the country. This agreement will allow PEP to become the industry leader in this area within a few years.”

Auto-Lab, in operation since 1989, is a growing auto repair franchise business with an emphasis on being a complete car care alternative to the dealer. The company’s competitive advantage is its dual focus on delivering exceptional customer service while utilizing state-of-the-art diagnostic and repair technology to meet the evolving needs of modern cars and drivers. The company currently operates or supports about 30 locations in Michigan, Indiana, Iowa and Florida. Each repair comes complete with a 12 month/ 12,000 mile warranty on all parts and labor, which is honored at any location in the country. You can learn more about the company at

Frank Brandenburg, CEO of Auto-Lab, sees the partnership with CAG as a natural fit for his rapidly growing company. As he recently told our team, “There is enormous potential for Auto-Lab in Texas. We are delighted to partner with such an innovative, entrepreneurial group that has such a broad network of supporters and potential customers and that is led by an impressive team of professionals.”

Both parties are very clear on the goals for this venture. While qualified graduates of PEP’s rigorous, values-based entrepreneurship program will be eligible for jobs created by these new stores, the primary purpose of CAG is to operate as a successful business, providing not only quality opportunities for graduates but a significant revenue stream to PEP.

We believe that this development will serve as a game-changer not only for PEP, but for the world of philanthropy. We will demonstrate how nonprofits can partner with successful franchisors to run a successful and scalable business that meets both their charitable mission and their financial goals.

As Dr. Litalien told me: “I applaud the PEP leadership for their vision in developing and implementing a significant social franchise strategy. More importantly, the model that we have crafted could well become a template for how other charitable organizations can align their mission with profitable ventures that enhance their sustainability.”

The initial capitalization of Communitas has been underwritten with a significant equity investment by Mike and Janene Humphrey.  Mike is Chairman of the Governing Board of PEP and a partner in Tanglewood Investments, a 17-year old private equity firm that has developed and sold several significant businesses.  Tanglewood sold its last major holding, Ameriforge Group, in December 2012, after 13 years of development during which it grew from $40 million to $750 million in sales.

One of CAG’s major accomplishments during the acquisition of this franchise was the development of a highly innovative capital structure that provides that the company will buy out the initial investors over time, providing them with a reasonable return while transitioning full equity ownership to PEP (which obtained a significant carried interest in the company at nominal cost).  The terms of Mike and Janene’s investment were considered carefully and unanimously approved by all other members of PEP’s Governing Board.

As Mike shared during a presentation to the Philanthropy Roundtable earlier this year, “Janene and I feel blessed to have the opportunity to further strengthen PEP by helping to build this new business, in effect harnessing capitalism to create jobs, new business opportunities and sustainable financial support for PEP.”

CAG is seeking other experienced, mission-minded investors to co-invest.  We are also actively seeking locations in the Houston area for the launch of the first two stores. Future stores are expected to open in the Dallas market, where PEP operates additional re-entry services.

I welcome the chance to speak with you about this venture, its impact on PEP and/or any questions you have about ways to get involved. Please feel free to contact me at any time, or click here to download our list of FAQ’s.


Bert Smith, CEO

David Blanchard in prison

Executive volunteer David Blanchard entering prison through PEP

On July 19, 2013, the Prison Entrepreneurship Program will launch Class 20 with one of our largest classes to date!

This class also will mark an important milestone for PEP. Our 1,000th graduate will walk across stage with Class 20 on December 13, 2013!

Your support of PEP will make this possible. Donors like you provide 100% of the funds that we need to deliver our programs, and we could not operate without your gifts.

We have received a challenge grant that will match every dollar that we raise up to $100,000 … but only if we can raise the funds by July 19, 2013. You can turn every dollar that you donate into twice the impact thanks to the generosity of our Governing Board, who are providing this amazing opportunity to PEP.

You can track our progress on this challenge live here,
and also see the contributions from others.

Funds will ensure that these men receive all of the support that they need to earn not only a diploma from PEP, but a Certificate in Entrepreneurship from Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business (see link here to learn more).

It takes around $1,500 to sponsor a participant’s quest for their college certificate. Half of those funds are being put up by our Board of Directors — but only if you help us to raise the other half.

Help us to beat this challenge by donating today!

See you in prison,

Jeremy Gregg
Chief Development Officer

Chuck ColsonOn behalf of our board, our staff and the men we serve, I want to express my sincere condolences to the family of Chuck Colson for his loss.

Chuck passed away last week, and among the many tributes offered for his life, I suggest that you read “Chuck Colson: A Redemption Story” by Ron Nikkel, the President of Prison Fellowship International (the ministry that Chuck founded in 1976). It is a brief but moving description of the impact of Chuck’s life, and the effects of his leadership on our world.

Chuck was a remarkable man and an inspiration to all of us who are involved in prison ministry and rehabilitation. We are deeply grateful for his impact on all of our lives, and even more grateful for the message of redemption and hope that he delivered to millions of the incarcerated.

— Bert Smith, CEO, Prison Entrepreneurship Program

We are thrilled to introduce the new PEP blog, which will host all the most current information about PEP, our programs, participants, and proud moments.  We hope you’ll sign up for an RSS feed (in the top right corner of this page) or fill in your email at the bottom left of this page to be alerted when we post a new entry to this site.  As you know, one of our Ten Driving Values is Excellence, and we are committed to bringing you high-quality video, stories, and other content to make this blog a frequent destination choice for you.  We hope you’ll share this site with your friends and help us introduce new folks into the PEP Family!

Happy Reading!

Erin (aka “Bruiser”)

Communications Specialist, PEP Dallas