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Entrepreneurial Readiness for Returning Citizens

In 2019, AEO launched the Endeavor Ready initiative to identify solutions needed to successfully prepare returning citizens (formerly incarcerated) for entrepreneurship.


Since its launch, the Endeavor Ready initiative has accomplished two important milestones: AEO discovered that early credit-building, right-fit capital, and trauma-informed care are vital to increasing a returning citizen’s chances of building a thriving business. Next, AEO worked on meeting the lending needs of returning citizens by connecting capital-seekers to trusted lenders willing to leverage an R3 Score as a way to de-risk and underwrite loans for returning citizens.

Moving Forward: Endeavor Ready 3.0

Join us in this important next phase of the Endeavor Ready work. In this iteration, we will be working with lenders and social justice organizations working together to expand capital access to returning citizens by addressing barriers to lending.

Participation Requirements

Participating social justice organizations must:

  1. Use tools and resources provided in training to increase applications for right-fit capital.
  2. Engage & Recruit a minimum of ten (10) capital seeking returning citizens to participate in this program.
  3. Participate in Cohort Kickoff Call.
  4. Host a joint info-session’ with a CDFI partner.
  5. Complete End of Program Survey Evaluation.

Participating lenders must:

  1. Use tools and resources provided in training to increase applications for right-fit capital.
  2. Be able to issue loans to returning citizens.
  3. Test and leverage R3 Score in underwriting process for returning citizen referrals.
  4. Participate in Cohort Kickoff Call.
  5. Complete End of Program Survey Evaluation.

Program Incentives

Stipend Icon

Earning $ for participation & engagement.

Lending Icon

Connecting returning citizens to right-fit capital.

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Learning alongside other participating CDFIs.

If interested in joining our cohort, click below to complete the application for consideration.

Meet Our Existing Partners

Baltimore Community Lending 

BCL provides loan capital to small real estate developers and small business owners in Baltimore City who have no relationship with or are unable to get a loan from a bank, and who are committed to developing underserved neighborhoods.




DreamSpring is dedicated to helping entrepreneurs and business owners generate income, build assets, create jobs and achieve financial success through business ownership. The organization offers business loans, along with training, networking and other support services to those who own or want to start a business.

Urban Upbound

Urban Upbound provides New York public housing residents with the tools and resources needed to break the cycle of poverty  and achieve economic mobility and self-sufficiency.


About R3 Score

R3 Score is a financial analysis tool that uses a sophisticated algorithm for background checks to allow individuals with criminal histories to be seen for who they are today. 

R3 Score partners with investors, policymakers, and tech innovators to change the imbalance that unfairly locks those with criminal pasts out of economic opportunities. 

Endeavor Ready Publications

Returning Citizen Entrepreneurship: Enhancing Support, Increasing Opportunities, and Deepening Success

Entrepreneurship can effectively address the underlying causes of the high recidivism rate, while also providing a promising career and life path. However, the difference between success and failure for these fledgling entrepreneurs may lie in three key strategies: early credit development, right-fit capital, and trauma-informed care. When training programs add these strategies into their curriculum, they can deliver even greater success and impact for participants. This paper also shares experiences of how people are realizing their dreams of long-term career and life success, and how new programs are enabling them to do so.

Advancing Entrepreneurial Readiness Training for Returning Citizens

This toolkit provides easy-to-use resources for practitioners offering post-release entrepreneurial training to returning citizens (individuals who were formerly incarcerated). The opportunities highlighted are intended for program managers, funders, and policy makers seeking to learn more effective training approaches or for potential partners looking to improve support to returning citizen entrepreneurs.