Stanford gives ex-cons boost in starting businesses

Project ReMADE partners ex-cons with Silicon Valley venture capitalists and business executives

con-stanford-remadeTed Stanton lives in a 120-square-foot subsidized room in the Tenderloin, which he has converted into an incubator for his candy startup, Good Karma Karamels.

There’s barely room to sleep among his kitchen equipment, where the 63-year-old Vietnam veteran beta-tests new chocolates and dreams of reinventing himself from a guy who just served a decade in prison to an entrepreneur in a city where anything is possible.

“I want to have wooden candy pushcarts on the sidewalks of San Francisco,” said Stanton, who honed his skills in the prison bakery.

He has reason to be confident. Stanford University is rooting for him.

In May, Stanton graduated with five other formerly incarcerated adults from Project ReMADE, a 12-week program created by Stanford law students that aims to turn ex-convicts into entrepreneurs. The program matches former prisoners with Silicon Valley venture capitalists and business executives, and with students from Stanford’s law and graduate business schools, who mentor the ex-inmates to become small-business owners.

“Stanford brings social capital to people who don’t have … the networks that you and I and everyone else leans on and takes for granted,” said Debbie Mukamal, executive director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center, who oversees Project ReMADE. “We’re here to open doors for them.”

(Next page: How the program works)