Building a business out of adversity

“There are times in everyone’s life when something constructive is born out of adversity…when things seem so bad that you’ve got to grab your fate by the shoulders and shake it.”

Richard Branson

When I was in Australia last year I met Tyler Mitchell. We were at a working lunch organised by Igniting Change to discuss criminal justice reform. Together with a group of business leaders and philanthropists, as well as people who had experienced the criminal justice system first hand, we debated how more can be done to support people when they come out of prison.

Tyler was one of those who had been in Port Phillip Prison’s Juvenile Justice Unit, which Virgin Unite has long been a supporter of. He shared his moving story of how he fell into the drug trade and made many mistakes as a young man. But, with the support of Jane Tewson from Igniting Change, Anne Hooker, who created and runs the Youth Unit at Port Phillip Prison, and others, Tyler has turned his life around.

He had always been passionate about fitness; it was his way to escape other aspects of his life, feel good about himself and stimulate some positive momentum. I’ve always believed that people should follow their passions and success will follow – that’s what Tyler is trying to do. He started a workout clothing business called Beast & Beauty, which creates bold, functional activewear that moulds around your physique. 

Tyler explained how following his passion is helping him to become the best form of himself. I can certainly relate to that; it is often when we pursue our dreams that we are most open, most alive and most eager to work with others to make positive changes for all.

Stories like Tyler’s are inspiring, and I believe entrepreneurship has a huge role to play in breaking the cycle of recidivism. But all aspects of society need to support people who have been in the criminal justice system to help them become productive members of society.

This is especially true of businesses. As I have written before about Virgin and other companies’ work in this area, by giving people a better chance and the dignity of decent work, we can help reduce reoffending rates. By creating opportunities through employment, we can make a real difference to society at large.

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