The Initiative

In 2020, AEO launched its Endeavor Ready initiative to identify solutions needed to successfully prepare returning citizens for entrepreneurship. The initiative’s goal is to inform and advance the path to entrepreneurship for returning citizens so they can more effectively access the economic mobility and wealth creation that entrepreneurship can provide.

However, our work showed that returning citizens are also more likely to face additional barriers to getting access to credit due to the impact of incarceration on personal credit scores, income, and savings.

The Research

In 2022, AEO conducted in-depth research and launched a pilot program with Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), social justice organizations, online lenders, returning citizen entrepreneurs, and other stakeholders to address these challenges from a behavioral science perspective and to inform the underwriting policies of online lenders. 

Endeavor Ready 3.0: Breaking Barriers to Capital Access for Returning Citizens report outlines actions that lenders and organizations in the reentry community can take to improve outcomes in their programs and remove barriers to capital access to better serve millions of returning citizens. 

Learn How to Reduce Barriers for Returning Citizen Entrepreneurs!

Key Findings from The Report

Improve Program Outcomes with Behavioral Science

Business Service Providers (BSPs) should use behavioral insights to increase the impact of programming and understand why returning citizen entrepreneurs may not apply for business programs and loans.

Rethink Underwriting Policies to Support Fair Chance Lending 

Lenders should consider how their credit scoring methods could bias decisions against applicants with criminal records and seek opportunities to amplify opportunities for returning citizens entrepreneurs.  

Adopt Alternative Scoring Methods 

Lenders should adopt alternative application scoring methods to reduce bias in lending and establish partnerships with non-profit organizations and community lenders to process applications for those declined on the basis of criminal histories. 

“Overall, our findings suggest that lenders have little to gain and much to lose by restricting access to business loans on the basis of criminal histories.”

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Hear about the entrepreneurial journey of Ken Branson, a published photographer, documentary filmmaker and former returning citizen.


Ken earned millions of dollars from Visual Storytelling after starting a business from the basement of his church only to then sell his company 16 years later.