In some ways, I have spent a decade working on this 5-minute talk.

That work began in 2007, when my friend Pam Gerber introduced me to Catherine Hoke (then Catherine Rohr), the founder of The Prison Entrepreneurship Program, as well as Chris Quadri, a graduate of PEP. That meeting forever changed the course of my life…

(As do most introductions from Pam, and most meetings with Cat and Chris!)

Within a few weeks, I had recruited my friend Baxter Underwood to join me in my first drive to Bryan, TX, where we would volunteer in PEP’s Business Plan Competition at the Hamilton Unit. Within a few hours, I found myself not only giving feedback on business pitches … but laughing, dancing, and even weeping from the testimonies of men like Marcus Hill, who graduated from PEP that day. Today, Marcus is the lead recruiter for PEP, and he remains one of the spiritual rocks upon which I can ceaselessly rely for guidance, encouragement, and the occasional much-needed smack across the back of my head.

I soon joined PEP’s Dallas Advisory Board, where I served until I joined the staff in 2012. Although I left the position three years later, I remain a volunteer and advocate for the organization. I have also since volunteered at Youth With Faces, a nonprofit that serves incarcerated youth … and which is led by my dear friend, Chris Quadri, whose personal testimony is what started me on this journey in the first place.

The journey has culminated in this talk that I gave earlier this week at Ignite DFW 6. The format itself was challenge … 20 slides that automatically rotated every 15 seconds. So, forgive the pace at which I speak; the talk was unofficially sponsored by Red Bull.

NOTE: I learned after the talk that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has air-conditioned pig farms, but not prisons. How’s THAT for priorities?