Chase supports formerly incarcerated Georgians to pursue business dreams

10 local small business owners who have been impacted by the criminal justice system attended a workshop at Chase's Summerhill branch. Atlanta Hawks guard, Trent Forrest stopped by and spoke with the entrepreneurs. (Marlon Hyde/ WABE)

A handful of small business owners fill a conference room at Chase’s Summerhill branch.

Kevaughn Hickman wants to grow his photography business, Vaughn Visuals. He went to prison at 16 and was released three years later. He soon found himself struggling to find ways to support himself.

“A lot of times it was really heartbreaking not being able to find a job because of my record and just being told no,” said Hickman.

So he turned to his passion for capturing special moments through the lens of his camera.

“When I saw what it could do for me, I just fell in love with not having to take a no from anybody else. I’m in control of my schedule,” said Hickman.

During the workshop, business owners learned about budgeting, accessing capital, maintaining credit and cash flow.

Xamayliz Gonzalez, a senior business consultant for JPMorgan Chase & Co. ran one of the workshops focused on financial planning and business loans. (Marlon Hyde/WABE)

Katrina Butler runs Different Souls on One Accord, a social impact consultancy firm.

For her first offense, she was sentenced to life in prison. However, she only served four years before returning home in 2021.

“Everything just started running through my head, you know, bills, utilities, you know, jobs, everything I started, immediately stepped back into my mode because that’s what I had,” she said. “So it was like a numbness within me.”

After reuniting with her family, Butler had to figure out how to support them as a single mom.

According to the White House, over 60% of those reentering society are unemployed a year later.

“I feel overlooked because I have a record. I feel overlooked because of why I was incarcerated. I felt overlooked because I am a single mom and also a woman of color. It’s hard. It’s very hard,” said Butler.

According to the most recent available data from the Georgia Department of Corrections, 23% of prisoners return to prison within three years. For many formerly incarcerated people, it’s a struggle to find work, and it’s even harder to find funding to run a business.

The Hawks and Chase hope to host additional workshops and expand the program to more small business owners. Bridget Killings is with Chase.

“So by them taking that step and saying, ‘You know what, I’m not going to go back to where I came from. I am going to believe in myself, and I’m going to start my own business.’ We are here to support that vision,” said Killings.