Starting a Business From Prison with Emily O’Brien

Stigma Headshot-1 Starting a Business From Prison with Emily O'Brien

“I launched a Company While Serving Time for Coke Smuggling” – Emily O’Brien

I’m so inspired by our conversation with Emily O’Brien. Emily is a keynote speaker, entrepreneur, consultant and convict. Emily is an entrepreneur, who started her current business from prison. She overcame far more than most entrepreneurs have to deal with, to start her business. She is the founder of Comeback Snacks where the website proudly proclaims, “We broke the law, but we fix good snacks!”

In this episode, Emily talks about why she went to prison, how her perspective on life changed during that time and how she started her business from prison. We talked about where she is with the business today, how it is scaling and what is next for her. Her story is incredibly inspiring. Check it out!

You can connect with Emily here: Emily’s personal website,Emily on Instagram, Comeback Snacks on Instagram, Emily on LinkedIn,Comeback Snacks Website,

Press on Emily:

Vice: I Launched a Company While Serving Time for Coke Smuggling

Toronto Sun: Former Drug Mule Finds Redemption in Popcorn Biz

HERE ARE SOME OF THE THINGS WE TALKED ABOUT:

  1. Emily experienced a very “normal” upbringing. Nothing spectacular to note, and in fact, she was a rather “good kid.” She made great grades, did not get in trouble, and did all the right things. Sure, she liked to have a good time, and party a bit, but nothing too outside of the lines. In her early 20s she found herself starting to use drugs not just to “celebrate” a good time but to medicate the tough parts of life.

  2. As her drug use increased, she found herself hanging out with, dating, spending time with people who were doing the same things. This led her to a situation where people she was with brought drugs back across the border. They got caught, and she was sentenced to a 4-year prison sentence.

  3. While she was in prison, she wanted to create something good and make use of her time in a positive way. So, she started a popcorn business. In the podcast we talked about how she came up with the idea, how she started the business and how she created momentum for the business ahead of her release.

  4. Emily shares about how she focused on what she did have access to, rather than what she did not have. Sure, in prison, her resources were extremely limited, but she had the ability to write letters, so she did. She sent letters to journalists who had written about prison reform or crime in the area. She also sent letters to authors, and podcast hosts who cared about entrepreneurship or prison reform. These letters led to a lot of opportunity that we discussed in our conversation.

  5. She explains that entrepreneurship is all about risk and in prison you do not find a lot of people who are afraid of risk. Some entrepreneurs are on the wrong side of the law, taking the wrong risks, and end up in prison. That does not mean they were bad at being entrepreneurs, in fact, there are a lot of really successful entrepreneurs in prison who, if they applied their skills differently, could build phenomenally successful businesses. We ended up agreeing that prison could be a funnel into the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

  6. Emily has been out of prison for just over a year now and is starting to scale her business. We talked about how she is making that happen and the challenges ahead for her as she navigates scaling the business.

  7. Emily also talked about prison reform as well as second chance hiring and how she tries to primarily hire people who have spent time in prison.

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