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Escaping The Odds

Escaping The Odds

By Aaron Smith
Escaping the Odds highlights individuals who were impacted by the criminal justice system and who are now entrepreneurs.
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Season 2, Episode 9, PERC -Turning hustlers into legitimate entrpreneurs
Watch full interview @ Erika king is the president of Chicago Neighborhood Intiative and Maleia Scufield-Ransom serves as the Program Manager of PERC. They’re both on a mission to empower the formerly incarcerated through entrepreneurship. Their organization trains and funds small businesses ran by the formerly incarcerated throughout the Chicagoland area. I personally graduated from this program (PERC) and the tools learned has helped me become a better entrepreneur. Listen as they discuss why they invest so much into this forgotten group of men and women. Follow their work Follow their work at
May 11, 2021
Season 2, Episode 8, Sean Hosman, “former inmate cracks code with data to reduce recidivism”
Watch full interview @ Sean Hosman is the CEO of Vant4ge point, a data analytics company in the criminal justice space. Sean is an attorney and criminal justice expert with more than 20 years experience. However his lived experience as an inmate himself is what helps him lead an organization dedicated to really helping inmates while incarcerated and upon their release. His non profit arm of Vantage Point, Persevere teaches inmates become software developers and provide real jobs in tech after their release. His story is really inspiring and speaks to a changed mindset. Follow Sean and his companies at and
May 4, 2021
Season 2, Episode 7, John Collum,
Watch the full interview @ John Collum is the CEO of Bar nunn trucking out of Chicago. He owns and operate 4 semi trucks. John was born in poverty on the west side of Chicago. He decided early on that he wanted the finer things in life and the only way to attain it was through drug dealing. This mindset led him to prison for 1st degree murder at 18 years old. While incarcerated he was introduced to the world of trucking. After his acquittal of the murder charges, he vowed to live a honest life. He took his last $2000 and attended trucking school to earn his CDL. After 9 years and 4 trucks later, he is an example of perseverance and determination. Follow his extraordinary life of grit @johncollumreal on Instagram
April 27, 2021
Season 2, Episode 6, RICHARD BRONSON- A wolf of wall street to federal prison!
Watch full interview @ Richard's story begins on Wall Street, where he worked at several large investment banks. He became a partner at the infamous Wolf of Wall Street firm, Stratton Oakmont, depicted in the Movie starring Leonardo Dicaprio, The Wolf Of Wallstreet. He eventually started his own financial services firm, which he grew to 500 employees, generating $100 million in annual revenue. Unfortunately, some of his business practices were outside the law, and despite having paid everyone back, he was convicted of securities fraud, and served two years in a federal prison. Upon release, he was destitute and homeless, but got back on his feet, and became Director of Defy Ventures, a prominent non-profit in the reentry space. In 2016, he left Defy to launch 70MillionJobs, where he serves as CEO. He currently is CEO of which is a social Network ( think Facebook) for people with criminal records.
April 20, 2021
Season 2, Episode 5, “Divine”, “ From Crack 2 Rap 2 Tech”
From crack to rap to tech
April 13, 2021
Season 2, Episode 4, Myron Pierce
Watch full interview at ) Myron Pierce born and raised in Omaha,Nebraska. From early on he got involved in gangs which led to serving 8 years in state prison. Upon his release, no longer was he a gangbanger but a reformed Pastor, businessman and community leader. Even Without any formal business experience he scaled a roofing company to multi millions in sales. It was this kind of experience that led Myron to spearhead SHIFT. His Omaha based entrepreneur program trains the undeserved community of North Omaha about the nuts & bolts of starting a company. Myron Pierce’s mission is to inspire hope in world changers, families and churches. Follow his journey on all social media outlets @Myronpierce.
April 6, 2021
Season 2, Episode 3, Andre Peart,
Andre Peart is the CEO Of tech Startup , which is being described as the LinkedIn for the formerly incarcerated. Andre was raised in Yonkers, New York and pushed to the streets at the age of 15 and eventually perfected his craft distributing large quantities of marijuana. He attributes his business acumen to hustling on the streets. He was indicted for a shooting and drug distribution spending over 5 years in a New York State prison. While incarcerated he published a book in his 1st year of prison. After his released, he spent time building up his professional network and experienced the challenges of trying to re enter society. Those challenges birthed Conconnect. Continue to follow Andre’s grind on Instagram @Andrepeart and
March 30, 2021
Season 2 ,Episode 2, Porsha Thomas “Beauty and the Beast of Prison”
( Watch full video@ Porscha Dlyte is the CEO of Opulence Brow and Beauty based in Charlotte, North Carolina. Life hasn’t always been a life of glamor. She spent over 3 years in Federal prison for tax related crimes. She kept a low profile while incarcerated and focused on developing herself. She knew that her time away would be a time of reflection. In her last year she enrolled in a business plan course and really focused on building a beauty empire upon her release. Opulence Brow and beauty offers training nationally to indivuals that aspire to earn a living as permanent make up artist. Currently there are 40 locations nationally. Continue to watch her grind and support Porscha @opulencebrows_n_beauty &
March 23, 2021
Season 2, Episode 1, Andre Norman,
Watch full interview @ Andre Norman, “The Ambassador of Hope”was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts. By the time he was a teenager he was heavily in the streets full time and a high ranking gang member. At 18, he began to serve what Would ultimately be 14 years in both state and federal prisons across the nation. It was in those prisons, where he realized he was the “king of nowhere “ About halfway through his sentences while in solidarity confinement, he taught himself to read with the goal of attending Harvard and reversed his case leading to his release. Andre is now a sought after violence interrupter in countless prisons, author, and professor. He successfully runs Academy of Hope throughout the world. His impact has been felt Liberia, Sweden, Honduras, and Trinidad to name a few. Continue to follow Andre’s remarkable journey at
March 16, 2021
( full video podcast seen on In the last episode of our inaugural season, I sat down with these 3 men againwho are doing extraordinarily well in business after prison. Ben Gordon of Allied Innovation Group, David Figueroa of 2nd chance renovations and Vocci Greer of Luxuraint Commercial Cleaning of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. They discussed overcoming The pandemic in business and prison. This is a must listen and share. Thank you all riding on this journey. Look for our 2nd season 2/2/20.
December 22, 2020
Episode40/ REUNION Part 1/ Yohance Lacour & Coco Davis
2020 has been a crazy ride and as we close out our year l, I wanted to bring back some guest and catch up on their businesses. Coco Davis us a 9 time book Author, operates, she runs Sisters of Support transitional home, and Xqusite Premiere’ Event space in Chicago. She didn’t almost 14 years in federal prison.. Yohance Lacour us the CEO of YJL leather designs where he specializes in hand made bags and Sneakers. Yohance picked up this skill set while in Federal prison serving a 10 year drug sentence. He’s a sought out leather craft maker instructor.
December 15, 2020
Episode 39 Escaping the Odds podcast we sat down  with Melissa Odell of Defy ventures along with participants Javier Reyes( 16 years incarcerated) and Ed bachner  ( 5 years incarcerated). Defy Ventures trains  individuals after incarceration to  turn their goals of entrepreneurship into reality. Javier Reyes has started FURR beauty which helps pets and ED Bachner has started Stateline payment processing service both in Illinois.  These skill sets learned have created new businesses and jobs in communities across the country. The men /women of DEFY VENTURES have learned to switch hustles and Defy the odds after incarceration. More information about the upcoming virtual class can be found at
December 1, 2020
Full video on Kevin Miller spent 13 years in federal prison on a drug charge out of Baltimore, Maryland and has Switch'd Hustles to start the book publishing company, Rock Bottom. His latest book is a 4 part series called " A park heights Tale", which he penned while Incarcerated. This brother has been home less than 90 days and Its a MUST READ. Tune in and hear his story on developing a publishing company from prison and building a team as an entrepreneur. Reach Kevin at @Rockbottompub on Instagram
November 17, 2020
Episode 37 | Ronnie Reed Launches Innovative Mobile -Cryotherapy Business After Prison |
(full video on Reed survived 15 years in prison and now runs a successful Cryotherapy service in Dallas , TX. This unique service burns 500 calories with every 3-minute treatment reducing your body temp down to -240 degrees wow. His mobile service is the one and only in north Texas.  Listen as he breaks down how he came up with this idea while in prison. He also discusses his growth while in prison and several books that he penned while behind the wall. 
November 10, 2020
Episode 36, HotShot Trucking, The road to riches.
Kiedrain Brewster CEO of Brewster logistics spent 13 years in prison and not long after was able to create a successful life in the trucking industry. Well on his way to being a millionaire,he started with 1 truck and now owns/operates 5 trucks in 2 states. The trucking game has afforded him a life he can only dream of growing up on the streets of Dallas, Tx. This story is a must watch and share. check him out at for more info on his trucking mentorship program.
October 28, 2020
(Watch full video years of working out in a prison yard has produced real life gains for Jermaine " Max Maine " Branner. Who would have thought a former drug dealer  from the streets of Pontiac, Michigan would return from incarceration and totally switch hustles. Max Maine was released from prison after 7 years and turn his passion for healthy living into a brand of post workout smoothies and a fitness gym, co branded with ANYTIME FITNESS.  Listen as he discusses creating the  brand while still on parole . Follow Max Maine on instagram @keepgoing2020.
October 20, 2020
Chef Fresh, "Chef keeps it fresh from the streets to the sweets, Episode 34
Antwoin "Chef fresh" Gutierrez,  At the age of 16, He demonstrated the 1st signs of of an emerging, but misguided entrepreneurial spirit when he began to sell illegal narcotics on the streets of New York. He eventually was incarcerated a few times and realized he had to Switch Hustles or spend his life cycling in and out of prison. Chef Fresh created FRESH TASTE BAKERY, a delicious brand of alcohol infused pastries served at some of the most prestigous events in the Country. Chef fresh has appeared on Good Morning America's and has worked closely with national liquor brands. Listen as he discusses his life and the Culinary Hustle.
October 13, 2020
This story of Charles D Clark is made for this big screen. After 8 years in federal prison on drug charges he became a sought out actor with reoccurring role the hit TV show Empire. His new role in Charm city Kings releases on Oct. 8 produced by Will and Jada Smith, Starting rapper Meek Mill. Tune in and be inspired.
October 6, 2020
Episode 32, Pipe Dreams, Kevin Anderson
Kevin Anderson grew up hustling on the streets of Minneapolis and St. Louis at 12 years old. Business has always been a part of his DNA. Bit after several years in a Texas prison, He went from supplying cocaine to a master plumber as CEO of Ardent Plumbing. He has created a 7 figure legitimate business from scratch. Employs indivuals with as he like to say a "F" on their report card( felony).
September 29, 2020
The other side of the law,#31, Kaysia Earley
Kaysia Earley thought her dreams of becoming an attorney was shattered when she was arrested on felony embezzlement. But for God, she returned to the same courtroom and thanked her judge who had sentenced her more than a decade prior. Listen to this remarkable story of perseverance.
September 15, 2020
“Cut from a different cloth” episode 30,Tone Svccess
“Tone Success” has always done things differently rather in the streets as major heroin dealer or in his new hustle, the apparel industry. He has created a clothing brand SVCCESS that’s worn by celebrities and every day people seeking success. After time in federal prison on drug charges he knew he had to switch hustles. Listen as he breaks down his story and how he has built a time tested clothing brand. @SVccessclothingnyc
September 8, 2020
Razor blade sharp. Groom Fly..#29
( watch full episode David Todd spent 20 years in prison for 1st degree homicide and attempted murder. During his time away he honed his skill as a barber and now runs Groom Fly Salon. Check out the amazing story and biz tips.
September 1, 2020
Surviving Cabrini Greens projects
( Watch video podcast Pete "Esau" Keller made it out of one of Chicago's most dangerous housing projects. In and out of the penitentary and gun fights most of his life provided the experience to reach the youth with his organization He has penned an autobiograohy entitled Pete Keller, The Canrini Green Chronicles. This is a Must Read!!!
August 25, 2020
Episode. 27. Change is the new hustle. Ed Hennings
Watch video podcast . At 24,ED Hennings was sentenced to 40 years in prison for a homicide. After redeeming himself, he set on a path to change his life whether he was coming home or not. Ed has started a successful trucking company, Salon, Beard oil product, motivational speaker and Author. Tune in to an impactful story.
August 18, 2020
Buy back the Block episode 26
Tim Armour is the regional Director of training at which is a not fir profit organization assisting individuals obtain property through the partnership with Bank of America. They provide no money down, no closing cost and below average interest rates. This is a great program for someone whose coming home from incarceration or who needs a fresh start.
August 4, 2020
Episode 25, Behind the Music
(watch full podcast video From a Decade in federal prison on Heroin charges to running a state of the art multimedia creation studio, Lucas”Blaze”Alvarez is bouncing back with avenges. His career in the Entertainment industry dates back prior to his incarceration with collaborations with hip hop heavy hitters. He is behind the scenes but ahead of the game. Enjoy the show. Blaze_getlikeme on Instagram
July 28, 2020
Risky Business Episode 24
(watch full podcast video Pierre Baker is the best example of "Doing the time and not letting the time Do You" .He's been incarcerated for  marijuana and a robbery charge, but  some how created an online affiliate marketing business FROM PRISON . He started a thousand dollar business  before he left prison. This brother is unstoppable! I look forward to seeing what the future holds upon his release. Stay tuned! facebook @pierrebaker
July 21, 2020
Episode 23: Cutting time down!
(watch full podcast video ) I sat down with Larry Roberts Jr. who has spent many years in Cook County Jail in Chicago, IL. However not as an inmate but an instructor/owner of Larry’s Barber college. He offers an accredited Barber college to inmate locked up inside juvenile and state facilities in Illinois. His program is changing lives of men and providing a viable skill set. Watch the YouTube video and subscribe facebook@larryerobertsjr
July 14, 2020
From prison to purpose episode 22
(watch full podcast video )Since his childhood, Eric Salzenstein has always been a go getter. Growing up in sunny Orlando, Florida was not always sunshine and beaches. His ambition led him down a dark path of addiction and fast money. In 2012, he was arrested for a armed robbery in what prosecutors would describe as a drug deal gone bad. He was sentenced to 4 years in state prison. This is where his personal and professional development began to take root. Erik learned to take that same ambitious energy and apply it to a legitimate grind. He now runs a successful Business coaching firm. Check out the youtube interview
July 7, 2020
Episode 21 With Brandon Laster ”Destined for Greatness”
(watch full podcast video )Brandon Laster spent 10 years in federal prison for credit card fraud. However, his ambition and forward thinking is a true example of switching Hustles and a mindset. While incarcerated, Brandon wrote 75 CEOs of companies with the hopes of gaining employment. This strategy paid off and led to 37 job offers before being released. He is now a franchise owner of one of the companies-Enviro Masters. His extraordinary story of bouncing back has been featured in the Black Enterprise Magazine. He can be reached on Facebook @ Brandon Laster.
June 30, 2020
Episode 20, “Business Credit over Street Credit”
(watch full podcast video ) Kevin Reed is an expert on building and repairing credit and he learned this skill set while serving a 30 year federal drug sentence. Listen as he discusses rebuilding life and credit for success after prison with his business Top Dawg credit solutions.
June 23, 2020
Episode 19: Fitness Unlocked
(watch full podcast video ) Tameka Means was living a great suburban life when her world was turned upside down when her husband was sent to prison. From that day on she became a prison wife but not just any prison wife, but one that has flipped a negative situation and is helping all women use fitness as a way to gain back their life holistically. She is a woman with a wealth of wisdom and is a survivor. She can be followed @fitprisonwife on Instagram and YouTube channel.
May 12, 2020
Behind the Prison Wall with COVID 19 mini series part 1. episode 18
Joseph Boyden is serving 10 of a 25 year sentence in federal prison for armed robbery. He is currently in a West Virginian Federal prison describing his his experience as an inmate staying safe from COVID 19.
April 14, 2020
Episode 17. “ Con-Air” with JMak
(watch full podcast video ) Jmak will take you on a journey through his crime ridden environment on the South side of Chicago. Jmak introduction into the criminal justice system was for Unlawful use of a Weapon. It was then that he came to the realization that the streets or jail was not his final destination. With a passion for travel and a degree in history he decided to take the hood on a journey through his travel vlog Wereldkultuur. His motto is no matter where you COME FROM you can go ANYWHERE! Check out his YouTube Wereldkultuur. Instagram and Snapchat Worldtraveler_jmak. Please leave a review.
March 31, 2020
Episode 16. HEll’S KITCHEN
(watch full podcast video ) Sarita LANDRUM CEO of Go2Chefree catering grew up in the church and was considered an all around Good girl. Her dreamy life became an nightmare when she thought, she met her Prince Charming. Only Time would tell that he was a fraud and when it was over she was serving 4 years in federal prison on fraud charges. It was in prison where she got back to her passion for serving in Food/hospitality industry. Listen and be inspired to bounce back. Instagram:Go2chefree
March 24, 2020
Episode 15 QUEEN PEN
(watch full podcast video )Befitting for a queen is the best way to describe Ms. CoCo Davis. Growing up on the West side of Chicago, Coco made a name for herself as a hustler distributing Kilos of Columbian produced Cocaine. Her status in the streets was that of a Queen pen but the fast life caught up with her in 1999. She was convicted and sentenced to 262 months in federal prison as a 1st time offender. I will let you all do the math. During her incarceration she became an author and upon her release she is now the founder Xsqusite Premiere banquet hall. In addition, Sisters of Support transitional housing and Founder of This is a remarkable story of switching hustles and bouncing back.
March 17, 2020
An Un-broken record! episode 14
Kat Baker battled a serious heroin addiction which led to being in and out of jail with felony convictions. She found music as a form of melodic therapy. This allowed her to escape the odds of beating heroin and now runs a successful recording studio in Chicago called Hot Mess records. She's also the lead vocalist and co producer for Broken Robot Music. BROKENROBOTSMUSIC.COM
March 10, 2020
Dean Dipierro was serving 20 years in federal prison when he decided to take the law into his own hands. He seen not only the injustice within his own case but of countless others doing time around him. This particular case that you all will hear is a sensitive one and Dean could have been killed for helping this guy.This is a chapter 2 from his debut book, "Against the Odds in Life & Law".
March 10, 2020
One Dope chick. episode 12
(watch full podcast video ) jacques Lofton was not the typical dope slinging person. She had earned a Bachelors degree and lived in a small town in Wisconsin. The allure of fast cash and a boyfriend introduced her to a life of hustling. After going to prison twice she decided to create a successful non profit Lizzie Foundation to give back,instead of taking away from the community. This is a great story of redemption.
March 3, 2020
Rebuilding life and community. episode 11
(Watch full Podcast video on David Figueroa has been in and out the criminal justice system most of his life. Acquitted of a murder and 3 attempt murders while in his 20s changed his life forever. David found God and a new passion renovating real estate throughout the Chicagoland area. He started as a way to provide careers for formerly incarcerated and rebuild communities through revitalization.This is a PHENOMENAL story,so share it and don't forget to LIKE and REVIEW. David can be reached on facebook by the same name and at the above website.
February 25, 2020
Episode 10: Breaking the Code
(Watch full Podcast video )Jerry Bony didn't know where his life was heading after 7 years of prison for an Armed Robbery charge. Born in Brooklyn, NY and groomed on the mean streets of Chicago opened him up to a world of crime. Listen to his interesting story of how he created his web/ mobile app development company without any prior knowledge of coding.
February 18, 2020
SHOWTIME episode 9
Tyrone Burnmingham and is one of the top concert promoters from Chicago. However, it didn't start off that way. Growing up on the west side of Chicago fast money was easy to come by and after a chance encounter with a good friend, he was introduced to promoting concerts for big profits. He survived a total of 17 years in federal prison on 2 seperate occasions and was.recently released in June 2019. He has brought world wide artist like Chris Brown, Young Jeezy and other stars to cities across the U.S. Listen as he digs deep into his life and the lucrative business of concert promotions.
February 11, 2020
Blood,Sweat & Ink!! epoisode 8
Tat Jesus ( Rahman Morgan) learned how to tattoo while in prison which has taken him all over the country and provided a great life. He is an artist at the world renown 9 mag tattoo studio which is the basis of the hit reality show " Black Ink Chicago" on VH1 seen by millions every week. Tune in as he breaksdown his life in the system and the business of Ink. He can be reached on Instagram @tatjesus
February 4, 2020
Business as usual episode 7
Anthony Townsend A.K.A. Coach Tony has been taking risk his whole life. After 5 stints in prison and the murder of close friends and relatives he knew life had to change. Coach Tony quit the game and created a unique position contracting his services to property management companies throughout the Chicagoland area. In addition he runs safe and sound non profit which works with communities to reduce violence. Hear his unique approach to safer neighborhoods from someone who once terrorized them. He can be reached on Instagram @coach_ tony_be_like.. Continue to REVIEW AND SUBSCRIBE
January 28, 2020
Life will stretch you!! episode 6
Marshawn Feltus is the owner of ACT Yoga in Chicago. At the age of 18 he was sentenced to 38 years in prison for 1st Degree Murder. It was in prison where he fell in love with Yoga and has since opened a successful Yoga studio. He has graced the cover of Yoga Journal and recognized as the Future of Yoga.
January 21, 2020
Tougher than leather. episode 5
Yohance Joseph Lacour better known as YJL designs learned to handcraft leather bags and Shoes while serving 10 years in Federal Prison. He discusses growing up in Chicago and his days as a journalist utilizing his skill set to tell the stories of the inner city. Yohance's craftmanship and unique style of design will change the game. Check it out for yourself at
January 14, 2020
The peoples Champ episode 4
Dre Rodriguez is the epitome of a reformed man. After 10 years in federal prison he's Escaping the Odds by Leading inner city youth in the  Pilsen community on the South Side of Chicago Escape the Odds of death and prison. In addition,  He's a Real Estate broker and Property investor revitalizing the neighborhood he once helped destroy.
January 7, 2020
Mr. Clean up man episode 3
Vocci Greer talks about his life in federal prison and his involvement in a multi kilo cocaine Conspiracy, stretching from Mexico to Milwaukee. He switched hustles and now operates a successful commercial Cleaning company,  Luxuriant located Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Listens as he breakdowns the intricate details of business development and the bidding process of a commercial cleaning company. You will be inspired and educated.
December 31, 2019
David Gathers is an amazing guy who continues to Escape the Odds. After spending 15 years in a gang infested Maximum security Prison in Illinois, he found his voice, In this episode, he speaks on his experience in the criminal justice system and his successful life as a Motivational Speaker. This is an inspiring story packed with how to tips on becoming a highly successful Speaker.
December 24, 2019
Escaping the odds episode 1: Constructing a new path
Introduction of escaping the odds. We go deep into the life of Ben Gordon who after years of incarceration runs a flourishing project management firm within the construction industry.
December 17, 2019