The idea came to John sitting in prison while serving a 12-year sentence. He had been into selling vast quantities of drugs, importing cigarettes on a massive scale and being involved in money laundering for many years. However, he realised that “crime doesn’t pay” and that he needed to be a different person in the future. He had seen with his own eyes other men being released with no support and were straight back inside as they thought life inside the prison was safer and more secure than on the outside.
John saw that there were people in prison who wanted to change but did not have the appropriate support available. Being many hours and miles away from his family made him realise the impact of his actions and that he wanted to change. Being able to see first-hand the challenges faced, he started work in his cell, being productive in developing his idea, initially an app that could be a resource of useful information and support.
John realised that he had been using his entrepreneurial talents to sell illegal products for many years. He is highly successful because he is good at networking, communicating, marketing, finance and developing his brand. He had trusted lieutenants in his business and customers willing to buy his products. Now the Inside Connections Directors are his trusted lieutenants, taking care of the customers that are ex-prisoners, care leavers, ex-service personnel and the homeless. They are accessing a range of services rather than illegal products.
Being resilient and overcoming challenges is part of the entrepreneur’s journey. John realised that his convictions for money laundering would exclude him from being a Director and prove challenging to get a business bank account. However, he could work with his family members and appoint his son a Director, and he would use his knowledge to support him. He used his positive mindset and attitude to make it happen.
John said he is most proud of being able to set the right example for his children now. A life of a drug lord is not the right lifestyle. Being able to see the fruits of his labour with people who need support and have gained qualifications, work experience and paid employment. John would give himself one piece of advice: “do NOT go back into custody!!”
As a message of advice for others, he says: