Entrepreneurial Readiness for Returning Citizens

In 2019, AEO launched the Endeavor Ready initiative to identify solutions needed to successfully prepare returning citizens (formerly incarcerated or justice involved individuals who may have been charged but hadn’t served time) for entrepreneurship.

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. AEO has been working with mission based lenders to meet the lending needs of returning citizens by leveraging the R3 Score as a way to de-risk and underwrite loans for returning citizens.

Moving Forward: Endeavor Ready 3.0

Are you an entrepreneur with a criminal history seeking capital? Have you previously been declined for a loan? Are you looking for assistance from trusted partners to help take your business to the next level? If so, sign up for more information. During this next phase of the Endeavor Ready work, AEO is delighted to partner with mission-driven organizations working together to expand capital access to returning citizens by addressing barriers to lending. So far, 85% of entrepreneurs who have used this program have accessed over $250,000 in loans.

Meet Our Existing Partners

Baltimore Community Lending 

BCL provides loan capital to small real estate developers and small business owners in Baltimore City.


CLIMB Fund ensures access to capital for small businesses that cannot secure traditional financing.

Determination Incorporated

We empower formerly incarcerated people to seize opportunity in home building, home improvement, and affordable housing.


DreamSpring is dedicated to helping entrepreneurs achieve financial success through business ownership.

First Step Alliance

First Step Alliance is committed to improving the financial lives of formerly incarcerated people.

The Fountain Fund

Fountain Fund provides low-interest loans and financial coaching to formerly incarcerated people.

Maryland Reentry Resource Center

We help those currently and previously impacted by incarceration to successfully regain entry to their communities.

Urban Upbound

Urban Upbound helps New York public housing residents 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.