Building Entrepreneurs for Success in Tennessee (BEST) is designed to provide opportunities for personal development and transformation, then teach business and entrepreneurial skills to better equip individuals for successful reentry into the community after incarceration and reduce recidivism. 

The BEST program is comprised of four phases:

Phase One - BEST seeks to empower individuals with self-knowledge, presentation, conflict management, non-violent communication, meditation, planning, technology, goal-setting, and decision making skills. Participating in the Toastmasters International Gavel Club equips everyone with speaking, listening, and critical evaluation skills.

Phase Two - Business, financial literacy, and entrepreneurial skills are taught. Belmont University students of entrepreneurship assist the participants as they each develop their own business plan. Extensive use of Innertainment Delivery Systems (IDS) electronic tablets help orient participants to 21st century technology, while delivering vital curriculum and resources.

Phase Three - During post-graduation and pre-release, BEST works to remain engaged with graduates through meetings (when possible), book studies, and newsletters.

Phase FourUpon release, each returning citizen can tap into the network of BEST partners as they return to the community ready to be a contributing member of society as an employee or business owner.

recidivism in tennessee


The pilot class of the BEST program, Cohort 1, started on October 21, 2014 with 22 men. All classes were held at the Charles Bass Correctional Complex, just West of downtown Nashville, Monday through Friday, six hours per day. Eighteen men graduated on April 24, 2015, each with his own business plan. Eighty-three volunteers donated 1,929 hours during the six-month program. Everyone completed their TIP TOP Gavel Club requirements.


Cohort 2 started on November 9, 2015 with 19 women from three Tennessee prisons who meet at the Tennessee Prison for Women (TPFW) in Nashville. We used the electronic tablets provided by partner, Innertainment Delivery Systems to deliver curriculum, including the Nashville Entrepreneur Center PreFlight materials. Eighty-nine volunteers shared their expertise and passion to change lives. Seventeen women completed the program on April 29, 2016. The women completed the WE HOPE Gavel Club requirements (Women of Excellence Helping Others Personally Excel).


Cohort 3 began October 17, 2016 at the Tennessee Prison for Women with 20 women. On April 28, 2017 there were 17 graduates who each completed their own business plan. This cohort's plans ranged from "All Things Honey" to "DiNardo Scrubs custom cleaning service". This class completed the EMPOWERED Gavel Club course of study.


Cohort 4 began October 16, 2017 at the Tennessee Prison for Women with 18 women. On April 27, 2018 11 women graduated and 2 women received Certificates of Participation. Everyone completed the Toastmasters' Competent Communication course. This cohort completed the FEARLESS Gavel Club course of study.


Cohort 5 began October 15, 2018 at TPFW with 20 women, arriving from all 3 women's facilities in the state. The class named themselves "The Givsters" after introducing themselves. Many of the women revealed a desire to do something positive with their life experiences, to give back to others and the community. This resulted in the observation that as "sisters" who want to give back, they were "Givsters". This is also incorporated into their Gavel Club name: Dauntless Givsters. All 17 graduates spoke at Graduation on April 26, 2019 in the TPFW gym.

Cohort 6 began October 21, 2019 at TPFW with 20 women. The Gavel Club name they chose BOLD (Believing in Ourselves, Living our Dreams) which described them perfectly. This group faced the extraordinary challenge brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic which abruptly ended classes 6 weeks earlier than scheduled. However, they were able to complete their ten speeches for Toastmasters and get back into the computer lab to finish typing and printing their business plans. Unfortunately, we were not able to have the typical BEST Graduation due to the restrictions, but were granted permission to send in a special graduation meal along with some items to stimulate continuing to write, journal and more.

NOTE:  Tens of thousands of individuals the world over started working on their Toastmasters Competent Communication certificates. However only 17% actually complete the 10 speeches. Over the past six years, all 99 graduates of BEST have accomplished this challenge!



BEST has 17 men and 54 women who have been released. At this point, only five men and seven women have been reincarcerated. BEST grads are at a 83% success rate!! This is far below the average recidivism rates in Tennessee, saving taxpayer dollars, creating tax payers, and restoring families in our communities.

Carl K. (Cohort 1) - Living in Knoxville area and has been given a time slot to be DJ D.O.C (Dependent On Christ) on Jammin' 99.7 (WJBE). Listen on Sundays (starting February 3, 2019) at 1:00 pm ET to some awesome Christian Hip Hop music. Check out WJBE to stream his show. Listen to his first broadcast here: https://youtu.be/MlnkgomryQ4

Tiffany F. (Cohort 4) - Released mid-May '18, has started her business, Totally Polished Cleaning, and has regained custody of her son. Word has it that she's now employing 3 helpers to fulfill her customers' demand! She visited Cohort 5 and 6 to share her story.

Terry "TY" (Cohort 1) - Lives in Florida, enjoying working as a barber, giving back in the community as he can. He hopes to open his own shop and school.

Ashlee S. (Cohort 2) - She appeared at a session about BEST at the National Prison Summit on 10/26/18. Check out her video by clicking here. She's working as a Restorative Justice Case Coordinator with Raphah Institute helping juveniles build better futures for themselves. She spoke to Cohort 5 about her experiences postrelease.

John "Wes" M. (Cohort 1) - Released and living back home in Chattanooga.

Darrian E. (Cohort 1) - Released and back in Memphis; working on cars again.

Karin D. (Cohort 3) - Released! She's back with family and working at Puckett's - Leiper's Fork; has started Scrubs, her cleaning business!

Tammy "Tamikyo" F. (Cohort 3) - Has been pursuing her business plan and auditioned for The Voice; back in Memphis.

Kristina G. (Cohort 4) - Has been released and is back in Knoxville! She's excited for football season to resume. She is starting up her social media consulting business, Kreative Dreams Marketing. Married!

Tisha W. (Cohort 3) - Has finished her transitional living time and is back with family.

Michelle S. (Cohort 2) - Has moved to Lebanon area and is married as of 1/26/19. Is starting online business.

Timothy "Doc" O. (Cohort 1) - Is the proud father of TWINS!!

Treacy L. (Cohort 2) - Released in August 2018, is living in Connecticut.

Tracy B. (Cohort 1) - Married in June 2018, is working 2 jobs and starting up his Queen Bee Cleaning business and working in the family K & T Catering business. He visited Cohort 5 with his bride to share his experiences postrelease. K & T Catering provided the food for the BEST Cohort 5 Graduation at TPFW. Amazing!

Kay N. (Cohort 4) - Living in Knoxville area, working fulltime and launching her business Angelic Bowtique online.

Kelly H. (Cohort 2) - Continues to work steadily, gaining the credentials to start her business "The Nail Joint" and gathering more information  to prepare to start up the salon. Doing nails.

Anthony D. (Cohort 1) - Working fulltime for Reladyne and enjoying the living in a nearby apartment after spending over a year with a 1 hour 45 minute commute to and from work...DAILY...by bike and bus.

Selena D. (Cohort 3) - Enjoying grandbaby.

Mary B. (Cohort 3) - Released! Hope to hear more from her soon.

Nicole M. (Cohort 4) - Released! Working hard to get settled back in the Nashville area. 

Lori M. (Cohort 4) - Released and enjoying being near grandkids again; in AL.

Ginger O. (Cohort 3) - Released and enjoying seeing her kids again.

Renee M. (Cohort 3) - Is off paper! Awesome!

Tiffany T. (Cohort 3)  - Released! Expecting a bundle of joy.

April McF. (Cohort 3) - Released!

Jasmine L (Cohort 3) - Released!

Karissa D. (Cohort 4) - Released! Enjoying her boys!

Cindy R. (Cohort 4) - Released! Doing hair again!

Beth M. (Cohort 4) - Released!

Gwen S. (Cohort 4) - Released!

David E. (Cohort 1) - Released!

Jessica L. (Cohort 4) - Released!

Von K. (Cohort 1) - celebrated 5 years of freedom on 7/11/20!!

Kelly J. (Cohort 5) - Released! Preparing to start business!

Sheila L. (Cohort 5)  - Released! Working on starting business!

April G. (Cohort 5) - Released!

Angela R. (Cohort 2) - Released!

Candace B. (Cohort 3) - Released! 

Christina H. (Cohort 3) - Released!

Christine T. (Cohort 2) - Released! Has baby daughter!

Christopher C. (Cohort 1) - Released!

Douglas W. (Cohort 1) - Released!

Earice R. (Cohort 1) - Released!

Haley L. (Cohort 3) - Released! Back in East TN.

Karen W. (Cohort 2) - Released!

Katie A. (Cohort 2) - Released!

Khalid A. (Cohort 1) - Released!

Madalynn C. (Cohort 3) - Released!

Mary G. (Cohort 5) - Released! Back with family.

Rose S. (Cohort 2) - Released! Back with family,

Sandra M. (Cohort 3) - Released!  Married 2019.

Chris T. (Cohort 1) - Released! Back in TN.

Susan S. (Cohort 3) - Released!  Married 2020.

Tammy C. (Cohort 3) - Released!

Tonya S. (Cohort 2) - Released!

Brandi C. (Cohort 6) - Released! Running a shop in Murfreesboro.

LeeAnn S. (Cohort 6) - Released! Back in East TN.

Kendra A. (Cohort 6) - Released! Back in Cookeville area.

Roneisha N. (Cohort 5) - Released! In Middle TN.

Michelle B. (Cohort 5) - Released!  In Middle TN.

Khamnoi V. (Cohort 5) - Released! Back in Chattanooga.

Kristal M. (Cohort 6) - Released! In Chattanooga.

Belinda G. (Cohort 5) - Released! Near Clinton.

Jennifer F. (Cohort 2) - Released! Back in Chattanooga.




Our state has a prison problem. Recidivism is defined as a tendency to relapse into a previous condition or mode of behavior; especially relapse into criminal behavior. We need to rethink prison as punishment and begin to utilize it as a place to end the destructive cycle of crime and addiction. Post-secondary education is a proven and powerful part of reducing recidivism. BEST seeks to emulate the success of the Prison Entrepreneurship Program in Texas whose graduates have a 7% recidivism rate, saving taxpayers millions of dollars.



Time and Talents


Do you have a background or skill set to share that connects with the BEST values, or an entrepreneurial background? Each participant will need help creating business plans and learning how to pitch their ideas to many people. We are also looking for people to share their business stories allowing your experiences to become our BEST teacher.

BEST needs volunteer instructors, mentors, and real-life entrepreneurs to help deliver instruction, guide, and inspire the women as they each create their own business. Join us!

For Peter Marcum's (CEO of DevDigital) experiences as a BEST volunteer, check this out by clicking here.

Are you a Toastmaster? Would you like to share your Toastmaster skills with our class as they complete the Competent Communication manual? We would love to have you share your evaluation skills with the class, as well as any speaking tips you might find helpful. 

We generally have two Toastmasters meetings each week. Typically they will be Tuesdays and Thursdays, but it does shift around from time to time. Check out the Sign Up Genius for BEST Toastmasters Meetings list of opportunities to join our class and participate in Toastmasters at TPFW.


Content coming soon.

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