On one morning late this spring, dozens of inmates at Solano State Prison in Northern California scurried around the penitentiary's gym, ready for a life-changing day.
They were about to pitch their business ideas to a squad of Silicon Valley's elite tech leaders and venture capitalists.
The prisoners were part of an entrepreneurship program by a nonprofit company called Defy Ventures. The inmates, or entrepreneurs-in-training (EIT for short), take courses for an average of six months that teach them how to turn their small business ideas into reality.
Some of the classes teach them about business, some about life; they range from MBA-style instruction to character and parent education. Defy's program has created 166 businesses and 350 jobs for graduates.
All are geared to build self-esteem and awareness in a group of people that Catherine Hoke, Defy Ventures' founder, told CNBC's "On the Money" are often forgotten. Hoke's personal stake in the company comes from her own rise and fall: She had been a successful venture capitalist but several years ago, she lost her job and had to start over.
"I founded Defy as my second chance to give second chances," said Hoke. "I'm the chief operating officer for Defy Ventures, and I work with these people to tell them why second chances are so important."