| Charles Hoke|
| Business executive|
| Founder and CEO, Defy Ventures|
University of California, Berkeley
Catherine Hoke Wikipedia
Catherine Hoke is Founder and CEO of Defy Ventures, a United States-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization which is addressing the social problems of mass incarceration, recidivism, and America's Father Absence Crisis by providing entrepreneurship, employment, and character training programs to individuals with criminal histories. In 2013, Catherine Hoke, was elected an Ashoka Fellow and was named in Fast Company’s 2014 Most Creative People in Business. In 2015 Hoke received the MDC Partners Humanitarian Award on behalf of Defy Ventures.
In 2004, Catherine Hoke (Rohr) toured several Texas prisons and discovered that many of the incarcerated men she met possessed strong business acumen, sales skills, and entrepreneurial qualities. She also found that many gangs and drug rings are run similarly to corporations —with bylaws, bookkeeping functions, marketing strategies, and quality control programs. Hoke's thought experiment of asking "What would happen if these formerly incarcerated “chief executives” were equipped to hustle legitimately?” led her to conclude that unless the men had access to the fundamentals of legal business and a support network to coach them they would be destined to become statistics, spend their lives behind bars, and pass a legacy of crime and imprisonment to their children. Hoke determined the best strategy to break generational patterns was to equip these men to become legal providers, active fathers, and community leaders. Visiting the prison a second time, she and executive volunteers conducted a “Business 101” seminar during which they ran a business plan competition. Hoke's efforts evolved into the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP) which became a statewide organization in Texas teaching entrepreneurship and character development to prisoners. Hoke grew PEP into an organization which graduated 600 students, helped launch 60 start-ups, achieved an employment rate of 98% and resulted in a recidivism rate of less than 5%.
In 2009, Hoke admitted to PEP volunteers that she had had sexual relationships with four graduates from the program. Although Hoke claimed that all such relationships had only begun after the prisoners' release from prison, they were still classified as inappropriate by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. The department banned Hoke from entering any Texas prison and threatened to extend this ban to PEP if Hoke continued to be involved with the program. She resigned shortly afterwards.
After leaving PEP in October 2010 founded Defy Ventures in New York City, with a vision of building a replicable model that would impact every urban community in America.