Glenn Dahl wants to send Portland executives to prison.
No, he's not talking about incarcerating more white collar criminals. Dahl, former CEO of Dave's Killer Bread, wants more business leaders to participate in an entrepreneurs-in-training program that gives inmates a chance to present their ideas and get feedback from professionals.
Think Shark Tank, but in a prison and without the financial commitment.
Dahl is working with Defy Ventures, a nation-wide program that brings business executives and inmates together nationwide to create a pathway for legal business success post-incarceration.
Dahl first heard of Defy about a year ago when founder Catherine Hoke presented her program to the Dave’s Killer Bread Foundation board, of which Dahl remains a member.
“It was right up my alley, the kind of thing I’ve been trying to do with some of my resources,” he says. “I’ve been around incarcerated and the formerly incarcerated extensively, and I’ve never seen a program in prison that gave so much hope to the inmates.”
He volunteered last year at Solano State Prison in California and was hooked. He now serves on the Defy Advisory Board as well.
"The best thing about the experience is always the light in the eyes of the incarcerated," he says. The gratefulness that you have come to see them and help them and the hope in their eyes."
The program is a natural fit for Dahl given his background with Dave's Killer Bread. Dave's has a history of employing workers with a criminal background. One out of every three workers has a crinimal record. This policy originated with the company's namesake, Dave Dahl (and Glenn's brother) who was incarcerated himself before founding the company.
Dahl says he believes in the program and its ability to change lives so much that he’s sponsoring a trip for any Portland business leaders who want to participate in a weekend volunteering at the Pelican Bay State Prison in California. The trip takes place soon: April 8-9.
The program is organized by Defy, which doesn’t have a Portland base — yet. Oregon prisons don't participate in the program either. Dahl says he hopes the trip will encourage local prisons to adopt the program.
“These Entrepreneurs in Training will have ideas and they need to learn how to present them; they need to learn how to present themselves, and they need their ideas vetted,” Dahl says. That’s where the business-oriented volunteers come in. “Just some positive feedback from someone who in the past has not normally cared anything about them (helps).”
Many inmates propose businesses involving food; others include landscaping and plumbing. Others are interested in developing businesses like an on-site car wash.
Dahl acknowledged that some of the ideas are “wacky. But to be honest, there will be some good ideas and some opportunities for entrepreneurs to say: ‘that’s not a bad idea, but have you considered this?’”
At this point, the April trip only has four volunteers. Dahl is hoping for at least 12, but could take as many as 50.