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Name: Laurin Hodge

Business: General Bueno Benefit LLC

Industry: Social Enterprise

Location: Maryland, U.S.

Reason for starting: General Bueno Benefit LLC (GBB) is the sister for-profit business to Mission: Launch Inc., a not-for-profit corporation focused on improving the lives of women after incarceration. Since 70% of people will not find employment after prison, entrepreneurship is in many ways the only viable path towards a livable wage. GBB was formed to pilot our retail business for two women returning after serving time in a federal prison.

As the daughter of a woman who returned home from prison nearly 3 years ago, I am building both the nonprofit and for-profit corporations with my mother to meet her current needs and that of her friends. In the U.S., we spend thousands of dollars to lower the human capital of people during incarceration, and we do not invest in restoring the lost potential. This experience inspired me to become a social entrepreneur.

Related: Read about another female entrepreneur helping women enter the workforce here. 

How do you define success? Given the social focus, success for us is in many ways linked to our ability to help women earn a living as well as reestablish a level of human dignity that may have been striped away. As our program has proven to be a small-scale success, the organization is now focused on how to truly fund our operations so that we can empower the women who have gone through the program to become mentors to others.

Biggest Success: Our biggest success is working with women who have experienced chronic unemployment and helping them earn money to keep their lives afloat. Both of these women do not always earn “enough” each month, but they have created steady sources of income. In most cases, the money they have earned by way of GBB has meant the difference between an awful month and a livable month for both them and their families.

Related: An Inside Guide to Angels 

What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it? Our largest challenge is having the funds to really provide a livable wage, while women compete with the various life demands. Prison re-entry is an invisible life sentence when the barriers and stigma are considered. We have a program that works and allows women to sell goods on the open market (online via eBay and Poshmark); however, when we cannot ensure a base income, women are often forced to work around distractions that limit their ability to focus on entrepreneurship.

Who is your most important role model? Leila Janah is a woman I most admire at this present moment of my career. She has built a business that adds to the economy and delivers impact. Often social enterprise feels like a trade off — do the most good or make the most money. When getting a business off the ground, I have found it hard to balance the two, which has increased my admiration for women who seemingly get it right.

I find value in leaders tackling health concerns, environmental demands. That said, images of women innovating in the harsher domestic conflicts provides greater space for us all to exist. How we reintegrate, or not, people back into society impacts us all, but this topic can be confrontational, which often drives women away. The more women we see and hear about in conversations that can be isolating, the more women we begin to encourage to join the dialogue.

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Edited by The Story Exchange