Ep. #1002 - Serve, Witness, and Give Guidance
In today’s episode of Startup Hustle, hear an entrepreneur’s journey and commitment to serve and give guidance within a community. Lauren Conaway welcomes Na’im Al-Amin, founder and CEO of SWAGG, Inc., to the podcast. They tackle the challenges of turning unfavorable circumstances into great opportunities after incarceration.
Covered In This Episode
Leaving a life of drugs and violence can seem impossible. But with sincere intention and an iron will, you can turn your life around and inspire others.
It’s the same story Na’im Al-Amin shares with Lauren and all the Startup Hustle listeners. Learn about his journey from early-age imprisonment to serving his community. Through his company’s programs, he helps others take a more meaningful life after being released from prison.
Tune in to this inspiring episode of Startup Hustle.
- Na’im Al-Amin’s journey (02:10)
- Turning difficult circumstances into opportunities (06:44)
- Living in uncertainty and early-age incarceration (09:20)
- Finding a path and moving forward (13:47)
- Choosing a life away from drugs and violence (17:25)
- Trauma porn (20:16)
- How did Na’im get involved with Nipsey Hussle? (24:48)
- Deciding to become an entrepreneur (28:55)
- Entrepreneurship versus social entrepreneurship (31:24)
- What is SWAGG, Inc.? (32:32)
- Corporate partnerships to help with returning citizens’ employment (36:05)
- The future of SWAGG, Inc. (39:39)
- How can 20 minutes change a life? (45:06)
I just believe that I had value and I needed an opportunity. I will do the work that I need to do to secure that opportunity.– Na’im Al-Amin
We can turn our own personal circumstances into positive things. I love doing that.– Lauren Conaway
It’s about having a big heart from an economical perspective ownership. It’s about creating a revenue-generating model that elevates the status of the people around you while providing purpose and profitability.– Na’im Al-Amin
Hiring software developers is difficult—it’s a fact that many entrepreneurs can agree on. But with Full Scale, you can build a software development team quickly and affordably. The Inc. 5000 lister also has a platform to make recruitment easier. Just answer a few questions, and you will be matched with a fully vetted, experienced team of engineers, testers, and leaders.
Now, you may also want to check out our podcast partners. These organizations can serve your business through various solutions.
Following is an auto-generated text transcript of this episode. Apologies for any errors!
Lauren Conaway 00:01
And we are back. Thank you for joining us for yet another episode of the Startup Hustle podcast. I’m your host, Lauren Conaway, founder and CEO of InnovateHER KC. And I gotta tell you, friends, today’s episode of Startup Hustle is sponsored by FullScale.io. Now, Full Scale, and I’m sure that some of you at home have experienced this. But we all know that hiring software developers is difficult. Full Scale can help you build a software team quickly and affordably. They have a platform to help you manage that team, and they’re going to make the process as easy as possible for you. Visit FullScale.io to learn more. Now, I know I get excited about guests. I do. I’m a cheerleader at heart. I just get really excited about people, and I am genuinely super excited to have our guest with us today. I have seen him operating in the Kansas City community for quite some time now. But he has incredible energy. He has an amazing mission. I am very, very pleased and honored to welcome Na’im Al-Amin, founder and CEO of SWAGG, Inc., to the Startup Hustle podcast. Na’im, thank you so much for joining us today.
Na’im Al-Amin 01:10
Lauren, thank you for having me. It’s my pleasure. I’ve been wanting to come on to Startup Hustle for some time. And so I’ve always got excited when you drop podcasts and excited about the work that you’re doing. And so it’s a pleasure to be here today. Thanks for having me.
Lauren Conaway 01:26
Absolutely. Well, and y’all can see that, but I just started doing a little happy dance. And I even got to start doing a little happy dance because I was so happy. But let’s go ahead and just jump right into it. And I’m just going to ask you to tell us about your journey.
Na’im Al-Amin 01:43
Right, great question. And thank you for the opportunity to elaborate on my experiences. What I like to do, Lauren is to just use the symbolism of a 10-rung ladder to describe my upper social mobility. If you will, on my journey. In terms of 10 rungs, we would have to start with dysfunction, trauma, poverty, systemic racism, environment, foster care, gang life, prison, and social entrepreneurship. Which has been my climb to ownership. So those are the 10 rungs, and I often think about my childhood, my experiences, and how ultimately, I’m really fortunate because I get to be the best version of myself. I just took an untraditional pathway to that. And so, I’m originally from the Midwest. I grew up in Junction City, Kansas, a small town. I grew up around my nucleus family, which consisted of my aunties and my cousins, my sisters, and my mom was present. But that’s where we entered the dysfunction ring. My mom, at the time, was going through challenges with alcoholism, drugs, prostitution, and mental health issues. And so even though my siblings and I were ensconced, we were protected from the way that she mistreated herself, meaning she never mistreated us directly. But because of the way she mistreated herself, ultimately, she had to sign her rights away. And that would put my sisters and me in foster care. And it was really a life-changing experience, Lauren, because we were relocated from Junction City, Kansas, to Los Angeles, California.
Lauren Conaway 03:50
Oh, wow. Right. You’re dealing with this, this very personal upheaval, and then you’re in a completely new environment as well. Wow, can you tell us a little bit more about how you felt at that moment in time?
Na’im Al-Amin 04:05
Absolutely. I love to unpack that. And actually, it’s a good segue into a workshop that I call don’t write any keen me, which is designed to eliminate ignorance and elevate knowledge on mass incarceration and its impact on black histories and black futures. But within that, within that Docu film and workshop, I asked my audience members about their childhood and what did they hear? What did they smell? What did they see? Well, when I was in Junction City, Kansas, what did I hear? I heard my family all about me. What did I see? I saw my family all about me. What did I smell? I smelled my family. And so what I’m saying is that that attachment to my nuclear family kept me safe and secure and I never felt as though I was in danger if that makes sense. Yeah. Right. And so going into that environmental change in Los Angeles, California, and to put it in perspective in the late 80s. Allah, the crack epidemic, gang war, the militarization of police and black communities, social upheavals as related to social inequities experienced by black people, and going into that environment as a kid just plays from their family. And so, what did I hear in Los Angeles? When I got there in 1987? I heard gunshots. What did I smell, Gun Smoke? What did I see? I saw the death of two types, those that were buried underground and the Walking Dead, meaning those that were addicted to crack cocaine.
Lauren Conaway 05:47
That’s, I mean, that’s, that’s so heavy. And I have to ask you, one of the things that I’ve always been really, really curious about with you is the fact that you know, you represent the formerly incarcerated community, you’ve come, you’ve become a beacon of hope, you’ve become a sample. And I have to ask, you know, you started from a rough spot, you know, you didn’t have advantages that many, many have. And a lot of that fed into things like systemic racism, which you mentioned, and socioeconomic disparities, right? It’s a really, really difficult, difficult spot. And you were somehow able to take your experiences and turn them into this really profoundly powerful and positive thing that you’re doing with it. And so I want to, I want to ask you about that, you know, you’re telling us very vulnerably about your experience, and I appreciate that so much. Your authenticity always just shines right through. But what do you think was in you? Or is it in you that makes it possible for you to take these very, very difficult, traumatic circumstances, things that choices that you made, things that were done to you, and around you, you’ve been able to turn that into such a positive? Like I said, a beacon for the community? Do you do you? Can you talk to us a little bit about that? Like, what was your mindset like? Or what was in you that made it possible for that to happen?
Na’im Al-Amin 07:21
Absolutely, really? Great question. So Lauren, I just always believed that I have value, innately inherently. And I could remember a childhood memory, standing out in the front yard in Junction City, Kansas, with my mom, and describing to her that I was going to be a great man doing great work one day, right. And so, like, no one ever told me that. Unfortunately, I never had mentors, that kind of thing, or someone champion for my future, or a role model, or an example. And so I just innately believed I had value. And that’s what, you know, I clung to in, you know, some tough circumstances. And so again, as I said, I’m someone that has been impacted by mass incarceration for over 30 years, right. And my introduction to the criminal justice system would come by way of foster care. And so, as I, you know, made my way through that new system, I was relocated to a foster home. And as I, you know, began to live in that community, I was approached by a gang that said to me, Hey, we know that you just moved in his foster home, do you know who your dad is? And I said, No, I don’t. And they said, Well, we’re going to call you unknown. They gave me a marker. They had me write that on the bench as we were at the park, and then they put it 38 In my hand and said, If you want you to go rob somebody, and if you don’t bring us anything back, you can’t live here. Right. And so for me, it was like a very, very, very traumatic, for sure. Right. I had never seen a game before. I just knew that there was a sense of danger there. But I complied. And I attempted to rob a grown Mexican man who, more likely than not, experienced more loss than me at that time. And I was processed, arrested and booked, and fingerprinted. And I said in a sale with grown men. And that would be my introduction to the criminal justice system in 1987, at eight years old,
Lauren Conaway 09:29
at eight years old. And I do think it’s really, really important that we just take a moment to acknowledge the fact that one of the things that I’ve learned and one of the things that we talk about in social justice circles is the over-policing of black bodies. And that can mean a lot of things. But that can mean everything from, you know, black kids in the classroom getting more harshly punished for things that their white counterparts wouldn’t necessarily be, you know, putting Just for. But that goes all the way up to the fact that you know, you were eight years old, and you were being housed in a detention facility with grown men your age. That’s not the space in the place for you. And the fact that you know, our criminal justice system even allowed that to happen is it’s really concerning. And so I have to ask you, you know, having these, these situations thrust upon you, I mean, you didn’t ask for this. And I have to tell you, Junction City, Kansas, is not really known for being a hotbed of gang activity. You know, it’s just, it’s not, you know, so all of a sudden, you’re thrust into this new environment, and you’re dealing with new people who are asking you to do things that you’re, you’re uncomfortable with, I would assume, or maybe, I mean, at eight years old, I don’t even know, did you have a full understanding of what you were being asked to do?
Na’im Al-Amin 10:55
You know, I knew through fear, okay. I didn’t understand the complexities. But I knew that you know, I needed to take something from someone and bring it back here are my life was in danger. Right? And I didn’t know what tomorrow look like. I didn’t. I didn’t know what my next five minutes would look like. That’s why I was terrified, right. But interestingly enough, throughout that process, that will be the introduction to a series of, unfortunately, this for me in my early adolescence. And so, at nine years old, I was introduced to Ritalin, and my foster parents will put me on Ritalin. And so now I’m taking prescription drugs. I started drinking at nine years old as well. Yeah, that 10, I saw someone murdered for the first time. And 11, I was running away from the foster care system to escape the sexual and physical abuses that I have been experiencing. Since I was about eight years old. And at 12, I joined one of the largest gangs in Los Angeles, California, and the role of 60 Crips, in an effort to have some semblance of family, but more importantly, to protect myself, right? Yeah. And so yeah, that will lead to a further that will lead to further opportunities to be incarcerated, and, unfortunately, spending most of my adolescence in juvenile hall. So I didn’t get an opportunity to have that natural gradation through grades with my peers and have the academic experience to be prepared for college or know that that was an option for me. I didn’t have any of those experiences. And so, to tie it back into your initial question, How did I know? And how did I persevere through that? It’s really about value. I just believed that I had value. And I needed an opportunity, and I will do the work that I needed to do to secure that opportunity. And it would be in small things, you know, if it was looking for a job, you know, I will continue to look for a job even though I’ve received 10 knows that kind of thing, but are also filled drugs in the entry, you know, kind of.
Lauren Conaway 13:15
One of the things that I kind of knew that I wanted to ask you, it is so so you were, again, you were thrust into circumstances that were unfamiliar that you maybe didn’t necessarily understand, you certainly didn’t have an adult perspective to put on it. Do you feel like at that point, you were placed on a path is my firt is so my first question then that and then I have a follow up. Do you feel like from that moment in time when you were relocated to Los Angeles, taken from your mother, who, who you say, you know, she, she loved you? And she she treated you well, and you know, maybe wasn’t making the best choices for herself, but clearly cared very much for you. But do you? So again, the first question is, do you feel like you were placed on a path like from that point forward, you kind of had a direction that you had to go forward in? Do you feel that way?
Na’im Al-Amin 14:08
Most definitely. So Laura, yeah, I grew up in the Crenshaw district of South Central, Los Angeles, California. My adolescence was in the early was in the 90s. And so I got put on rolling 60s in 1992. And I grew up around drug dealers, Hustlers, pimps, prostitutes, for a large part of my adolescence into my early adulthood, and what I’ve seen about me, in terms of dilapidated buildings, broken people, broken down cars, vandalism, the influx of drugs, the like I said earlier, the police, brutalities, all of these things, then I believe that ultimately that was my path. I was losing a lot of friends at a young age. I was going to a ridiculous amount of funerals. And I can I can legitimately recall when Inglewood Cemetery which is the final resting place to, you know, Crips and Bloods and things like that in Los Angeles, California. When all of the land was consumed, they started building skyscraper skyscraper mausoleums? Yeah. So yeah, I absolutely thought that I was on a path. I had no control over that, no matter how hard I fought, and it has taken 30 years and 10 rungs and the rung of social entrepreneurship, to really create legacy ownership and be in a position to elevate the status of the people around me.
Lauren Conaway 15:43
Yeah. Well, I want to I want to delve into social entrepreneurship here in just a minute. But I have two more questions. So my follow up to the the path question is, you are on this path, at any point on your journey? Did you want to get off the path? Did you want to get out? Did you feel like you know, I’m spinning my wheels, I’m doing things that are not productive for me who I am, who I want to be? What was that? Like?
Na’im Al-Amin 16:10
It was? Um, that’s a really great question. And it piggybacks off of the describe the skyscraper, millenniums. And so, like I said earlier, just losing a ridiculous amount of friends. Tremendous amount of loss. And not wanting to ultimately die in prison, from a life sentence or dying in the street from violence, right. And so I would ultimately leave Los Angeles, California in 2001, when I was 21, to come to the Midwest to come back home, and judge City, Kansas. And the idea was that I would go to school, and this would be after my second prison experience. And so as soon as I got to the Midwest, I didn’t come with the mindset. I didn’t know what else to do, all I had ever done was sell drugs, right. But I didn’t want to be in LA anymore. I didn’t want to gangbang I didn’t want to be a part of that lifestyle. But I didn’t know what to do. And so I did what I always done, which was sell drugs, and that will lead to a second prison experience. One in which I was in prison for 21 grams of marijuana, what position I tend to sell. So I received the four year prison sentence, and I serve three and a half. And at that time, I have that moment of clarity. Where, you know, I determined that even though I didn’t have any control over the way my life started, that, you know, I needed to show up for my life. And I was responsible for what my end in the game look like, at that time. Lauren is 2004, the big dream, that was education. Yeah, so as I said earlier, you know, I was like, when I was in prison, I said, I’m gonna get out and I’m gonna go to Kansas State University. Right? I’ll do that I’ll be able to start a career, and I won’t have to sell drugs anymore. Right now. I don’t have any credentials. And so it’s not setting me apart. And plus, I’m impacted by the felony piece. And then also, you know, race issue. Yeah. I said, I’m gonna do those things. And I did when I was released, ultimately are graduate, Kansas State University with three degrees of bachelors of science and sociology, criminology, and as in psychology, and I had a awesome time in college, right isn’t an oncologist for the most part. had an amazing experience. I mean, I got involved with student government association. I became a Assistant Attorney General, Assistant Attorney General, a chief tribunal. I was on different committees, I became president of the criminology club. And it was just a phenomenal experience getting to be around people that were different than me. And you know, it was just amazing. And so, but it came to an end. Right, and when you 10 And you know, from 2010 to 2013, Lauren, no employer would hire me, because I had a previous conviction for marijuana. Right, and so 2010 to 2013. I went zero for about 200. Wow. Right. I’m sorry.
Lauren Conaway 19:23
No, that’s crazy. I mean, I just so you and I have talked, I do want to ask you this question. You and I have have talked about this a little bit in I am in no way comparing my experience to yours. I come from a place of privilege. But we’ve talked about the fact that, you know, I had my own issues with drugs went through rehab, you know, engaged in in some pretty troubling behaviors. And one of the things that I’ve noticed and I’ve always just been very curious about this with you, but there’s this there’s this free is out there, there’s this concept of trauma porn. And one of the things that I’ve noticed is that often people who have experiences that do not match mine, and in particular people who have experiences that are a little, a little sunnier than my own, you know, they, they love to hear me tell my story. And sometimes I think that’s a great thing. Because I do think that, you know, I, as an as an addict, and a former methamphetamine user, like, I get to show people that, hey, we can recover, we can get our lives together, we can, you know, turn our own personal circumstances into positive things like, and I love doing that. I think that’s a useful thing that I do, and you do. But one of the things that concerns me is when people like to hear my story, and I feel like they just want to hear my story because they find it funny, or interesting. Like, they’re, it’s trauma porn, like they like to hear these stories, because they find it entertainment in it. And so I just I’ve always kind of wanted to ask you, like, do you feel that? Do you ever feel that like, when you’re telling your story, sometimes people are like, Oh, this is a really great story. And it’s like, yeah, it is. But this is my life also. And I don’t know, like, what do you think that you’ve experienced? Because I’m very aware that, like, right now.
Na’im Al-Amin 21:26
You’re amazing. Right? Rockwood right. That’s a really dope question. And so, you know, I’m, that’s the reality for people that are in a space of sharing their story, right, be reintroduced to those traumas, and then the audience and so for me, one way that, and yes, so I’m agree with you, I do think that that’s a phenomena. And I think that, you know, you can identify that when you especially when your story is incorporated, with your business model, per se, or your certain leadership, or whatever you may do. When you get the question, How can I help? Yeah, that’s the climax to you know, I’ve just poured out of my bucket and nothing will be poured in, though Yeah, but you know, the idea is to share the message. And you know, your passion is going to energize you, as you commit to that. And so I just think that it’s important to share that message. And you know, if trauma porn is a thing, you know, we just pray for protection. But sharing the message is critical, because that’s the real answer to your question. When I said that, you know, believing I have value in me and like, keep going, but being in a situation where I’m serving a five year prison sentence for a crime I didn’t commit at 35 years old after receiving three college degrees, two daughters, Asian mom, and you know, what are you going to do, bro, when you come home? What does society have for you? Right? So if I didn’t have a 20 minute legacy conversation with Nipsey Hussle, I don’t believe that I ever write the eight letters to the acronym of SWAGG, Inc. and Lansing Correctional Facility.
Lauren Conaway 23:23
Yeah, well, so really quickly, I do want to bust in here and I do just want to talk to you a little bit about today’s episode sponsor. Finding expert software developers, it doesn’t have to be hard. And when you visit FullScale.io, you can build a software team quickly and affordably. Use the Full Scale platform to define your technical needs, see what available developers, testers and leaders are ready to join your team? Visit FullScale.io to learn more. And you know, we’re talking about we’re talking about a lot of different things. With Na’im. Here, I want to ask you about the Nipsey Hussle thing, because you’ve mentioned that to me before, and I really, really, really want to hear about that story of inspiration. So talk to us about Nipsey Hussle.
Na’im Al-Amin 24:08
Right. Um, so I actually recently I just got a so first of all, Nipsey one of his sayings is that the highest form of flattery is emulation. Yeah. And I recently got an S tattooed on the side of my face. And so that’s this SS emblematical of a legacy conversation that we had back in 2013. And so at that time, you know, that’s when I went zero for 200. In terms of employers, I’m carrying around these degrees in my backpack. No employer gives me opportunity. I ultimately go back to selling drugs. I don’t want to it’s a indulgent time in my life where I took more than I gave, and you know, I just really didn’t know what to do and so I go back home to get more drugs and I came across Nipsey and his marathon store, as well. We’re both from the same community, the same gang in the same neighborhood. I’m a second generation gang member. Nipsey was a third generation. And so that’s why it made his his message to me even that more prolific because he was, you know, 10 years younger than me or so. But I asked him, I said, Hey, bro, who you’re going to sign with Rick Ross are some other record labels. And nips, he said to me, said, it’s about patience. I know the moment that I signed that contract, my life changes forever. It’s about ownership. It’s about creating a long term plan. And it’s about elevating the status of the people around you. And I was like, wow, I don’t even know what that means. It was kind of like, legitimately the first time someone spoke over my head. And it was evident, because the next thing that I said to Nipsey was, Hey, bro, you want to invest in some of these drugs that I’m picking up? And he said, No, I’m focused on this music. And we went to the very spot where he transitioned this life to the next as I had completed my shopping in his store. And before I could ask him for a picture, Lauren, like the whole street of Crenshaw on Slauson, all the car stop, people jumped out of their vehicles and was running over their phones screaming his name, it was complete pandemonium. Never seen anything like it in my life. And I was just like, wow. So I will leave there, I will come back to the Midwest, I will be incarcerated. But here’s the thing about incarceration and how it prepares you for its narrative and control your narrative. I went to prison for conspiracy, because I didn’t testify on my friend who was under investigation. I wasn’t the target of the case. And, you know, they approached me, they arrested me the detective and they said, you know, you have seven felonies and $150,000 bond. We know you didn’t do it, we want you to tie in your friend, will you work for us? I said no. They said, Well, if you don’t, you’re gonna be going to prison. And you know, that’s that. And I said, Well, I think that’s what happened, because I don’t know anything about this. And so yeah, ultimately, I will, I will go to prison, but the judge, the prosecutor, the lawyer, the bailiff, the clerk, they all knew that I had committed no crime in anywhere anyway. But in prison, in 2014, I would write my business plan, and it would be based off of that conversation with Nipsey Hussle, and being able to see his campaign in terms of his marathon. And really, you know, you know, the hope and the opportunity was that if he would invest in my business model, but that’s what made him different. He wasn’t just a rapper, he was a social activist, entrepreneur, someone that invested in his community. And you know, just just, it was just, it was just, it was unbelievable. You know, what I mean?
Lauren Conaway 27:59
Like, what’s really, really fascinating to me about both you and and Nipsey, hussle, is the fact that both of you had, you had a way out, you know, you had three degrees Nipsey had record deals, and he I mean, he was making money at the time of his death. And he, I mean, even to your earlier point, you know, you’re like, are you interested in some drugs? And he’s like, No, I gotta focus on this music like there was there was a way out for both of you, and you were on the path to success, like all these beautiful things, and then you just got both of you got pulled back in you through re-incarceration through no fault of your own, and then him through his his murder. So I just I find that your stories kind of parallel there. And I find that really sad. But that also really, really telling, you know, the fact that both of you were you were hustling to make opportunities for yourself. And this life just kind of drew you back in, even though you didn’t want it to. And so I think it’s really, really important to acknowledge that often, you know, when you are born into disadvantaged circumstances, or when you are put into situations where you have to make really difficult choices to survive. It’s often so difficult to get off of that, that path or that trajectory, because you were doing all the right things, man, you were going to school, you were ready to like start your career. And so now we’re going to talk social entrepreneurship. Because I think that, as most learners know, and if you don’t know this, let me just go ahead and tell you. Entrepreneurship is often the easiest, fastest way for individuals to create generational wealth to you know, get jobs to create opportunity for those in their community around them. Um, you know, entrepreneurship is often a key, you know, especially for people who have no other option, you know, if somebody’s not going to hire you, because you have a felony conviction on your record, then what are you going to do, you’re either going to return to the behaviors that supported you before you got that Finet felony conviction, or you’re gonna find a new path, and you’re gonna, you’re gonna become an entrepreneur, and you’re gonna hire yourself, essentially. And is that what you did?
Na’im Al-Amin 30:26
You better believe it. You better believe it. But that’s the value of the conversation with Nipsey. What he gave me was a blueprint to create an opportunity for myself and move away from someone else to give me an opportunity. Yeah, right. And so what I want to point out, though, in terms of entrepreneurship, and social entrepreneurship, so entrepreneurship is, is essentially defined as white men and tech looking to scale. Social entrepreneurship is utilizes the five principles of design thinking, to solve for the pain points of a prospective customer, or client or community. Those five principles being empathy, Ida prototype defined and test. Yeah, right.
Lauren Conaway 31:17
All right. That is too funny. I’m actually about so I don’t know if you know this, but I’m certified in design thinking I’m actually about to give a design thinking talk at it for That’s right. Yeah. But yeah, so when we talk about design thinking, what we’re really talking about is human centric, empathic design, how do you design products, services, initiatives, programs, for the end user with them always in mind, with their comfort and their usability, in mind? And so? So in you, as someone who has been incarcerated? Who is a returning citizen, you know, you have a really unique perspective that you’ve used to create your social entrepreneurship enterprise swag, Inc. So why don’t you Why don’t you take what let’s take a moment really quickly and talk about swag ink and what swag ink does.
Na’im Al-Amin 32:10
Absolutely. And so swag ink, that’s a really great segue. Swag in it is a nonprofit, we promote ownership for people impacted by mass incarceration. We have three approaches to disrupting that never go in, never go back. And we help employers change the way they recruit. In terms of never go in, we create afterschool programs with our partners at kcps that we’re working on to create barriers to the criminal justice system. But then that after school program, we have amenities such as a pipeline to careers, entrepreneurial ecosystem support to turn those students hustles into businesses, and also bringing in trauma informed care, coding partners. In an effort, where students that express interest in social entrepreneurship can create nonprofits and solve for those pain points that directly impact them. Yeah, that’s the sweet point we’ll never go never go in, never go back. That’s the piece where we develop returning citizens, before they are released through education, employment etiquette and entrepreneurship. We then work with our clients from one to three years in the community to help them discharge probation and parole. In terms of the way that we work with employers, we introduce them to a new sourcing location in terms of the Department of Corrections, right. And then the piece that SWAGG, Inc., is doing that no organization is doing arguably, in Kansas, well, not in Kansas City, Missouri, arguably in the nation, is pre entry planning. Okay. But to further unpack that, Lauren, through my experiences, a number of experiences as I’ve re-enter back into the community as of March 22 2018, being hired at UPS as a package handler, being promoted to human resource supervisor, obtaining my master’s in human resource management, creating a proof of concept, where I was able to partner with UPS, the probation and parole of Kc Mo, and provide people impacted by mass incarceration with employment opportunities within that producing a proof and concept where I increased retention by 70% attendance by 50%, and zero recidivism amongst our clients. Right. So doing that led to me creating a revenue generating model within swagging. Yeah, right. So we have a 501 C three taxes and status that we look to leverage but we really want to create new money and opportunity because it’s all about ownership.
Lauren Conaway 34:54
Yeah. Well, and just for our listeners at home, like I really, really I love non profits that operate like a business. Here’s the point is like, there’s, there’s this idea out there that nonprofits can make money. And I’m like, No, that’s bullshit. Absolutely make money, need to be really intentional about it. And then we get to funnel the funds back into creating greater impact. So social entrepreneurs who decide that, hey, just because I want to do good in the world doesn’t also mean that I can I can make some profit. It was a good idea for that.
Na’im Al-Amin 35:30
Let me paint a quick picture for you. And I want to hear it in that way. And so let’s say that we have a employee of a company, a employee of Company A is impacted by mass incarceration. Yeah, there’s a community in employee employees. There’s a nonprofit in the community in the employees nonprofit, that can help them with the pain points that they’re solving for. Right, right. And what we’ve been able to do under the umbrella of diversity, equity inclusion for returning citizens is being intentional, and partnering with employers that have foundations attached to him, because now that foundation can directly invest in a nonprofit that elevates the status of their of their employees. IE, yeah, that makes sense.
Lauren Conaway 36:19
And now, it really does. And I want to ask you, you know, for our listeners at home, because I want to give them some advice from from you as an expert. But what are some ways that the, our average listener, they don’t own a social impact enterprise? They just don’t? And that’s okay. Not everybody has to, but what are some ways that they could they could help, whether it’s helping you in your mission or helping returning citizens, or even just, you know, figuring out how to create socially impactful businesses, business structures? What are what are some, what’s some of your advice? That’s, I really want to hear that.
Na’im Al-Amin 36:58
Absolutely. Thank you for that. Some ways to support swagging, we’re always looking for opportunities to connect with employers, right? As I just outlined, there may be opportunities through a foundation that is attached to that employer, while that a person that looks to support us may not know how they could directly, you know, carry out those steps. It’s always good to be introduced to employers. Okay, we’re looking for volunteers, right? People that have bought into that idea of helping people impacted by mass incarceration and want to leverage their time. You know, their acumen and skill sets and relationships to help us in our mission. Right, that’s critical. And then lastly, sharing the idea of diversity, equity inclusion for returning citizens. What does that look like in terms of diversity, equity inclusion, from a sweat Inc perspective, diversity is developing relationships with employers, before our clients are released from prison to help them transition back and stakeholders. Equity is creating market value assets that allow our clients to be portable in various industries, inclusion, that’s promoted ownership for people impacted by mass incarceration and elevating the status of people or organizations in public and power to do something about it. And so to our program, you know, our clients who have been considered penny stocks are elevated to CEOs and entrepreneurs and have a direct impact in the community.
Lauren Conaway 38:31
Yeah, well, that. I mean, that’s incredible. And I mean, I think, you know, you and I hang out, it’s kind of a mutual fan club that we have like. Like, I’ve just always been such an enthusiastic fan, but I love those actionable insights. Now, here’s, here’s the question that I want to ask what what is the future for you as a founder and for SWAGG, Inc.?
Na’im Al-Amin 38:59
Awesome, really great question. And so the future for me as the founder and the future for SWAGG. You know, my future is in preparing the next generation to carry on the future of that next generation and beyond. And so with that, it ties into you know, what is my role as swagging that is to serve, connect and ask, right, but also to be a servant leader. And so, ownership for me, Lauren, that’s it’s of two types, right? And so ownership is of a sociological perspective and an economical perspective. From a sociological perspective, ownership is about being resilient. It’s about doing what you say you’re going to do. It’s about showing up. It’s about having a big heart from an economical perspective ownership. is about creating a revenue generating model that elevates the status of the people around you, while providing purpose and profitability. So like, that’s my future is to help people get to that version of themselves that they believe is the best. And for our clients, like I said, they’ve been counted out. And you know, I don’t think that’s so for those that have ownership, the future for swagging. What we do is promote ownership for those impacted by mass incarceration. And so a real quick segue into that as we, as we close out, mass incarceration, it has a technical and a real definition. So the technical definition of mass incarceration is the rate at which a nation incarcerated their citizens, and so for Missouri, that the incarceration rate is 735 per 100,000 people, that’s actually the highest incarceration rate in the universe, right, where we at Lauren, unfortunately, there are 51,000 people incarcerated in Missouri, there are 1300 people returning to the community, every year of those 61,097% will return to the community, the recidivism rate, or the likelihood that you will go back to prison with within one to three years, goes to 30 to 70%. Right. And so the goal for swagging these is to get recidivism or the likelihood that you go back to prison after leaving to a functional zero, meaning that you’re not going to prison unless you’re making those decisions, kind of thing. So yeah, 50 states 50, prison, excellent sweat. And we want to also have our own transitional Senator where we partnered with the Department of Corrections, and be able to drive down those numbers even further.
Lauren Conaway 42:01
Well, I’m gonna I look forward to seeing all of that, I’m also going to make an ask of you, and I don’t generally do this, I can totally do it online, offline, but I’m not gonna if you have any, returning citizens who identify as female, or as a gender minority, send them innovators way, man, I want to I want to do what we can to help create a sense of community and a culture of championship for folks who really need it. And that starts with people like you, and you know, just connecting, having you connect to them to opportunities, I can’t imagine what it must feel like for them knowing that you’re in their corner. But I would love for innovator to be a part of that as well, by the way. So I’m just gonna throw that out there.
Na’im Al-Amin 42:53
I really appreciate that.
Lauren Conaway 42:54
Yeah, for sure. And I have a human question for you. Okay. And usually the human question I when I when I first so friends who are listening, when I do pre show prep and Na’im can actually back me on this, I say the human question is a dumb question that has nothing to do with anything. That’s how I describe it. But I’m actually going to ask you here what I think is a serious question. But I hope it’ll be a fun question for you to answer as well. And here it is. If Nipsey were standing next to you right now, what would you say to him?
Na’im Al-Amin 43:26
Thank you. For being you know, I would I would tell him if you thank you for taking the time to speak to me. Nipsey was at a place in his life where he didn’t have to take those 20 minutes to talk to me. Yeah, first and foremost. So I would say thank you for your time. And then I will say, you know, I love you because, you know, your your your message changed my life. Yeah. And you know, I’m glad you know, the day that you were born and peace and blessings beyond your death and and I’m just grateful to be you know, a part of your story and get to tell your story and share our story. And it’d be in ensconced and swagging.
Lauren Conaway 44:11
Yeah. Well, I love that. And I knew that you were going to make me cry with that. So that’ll be that’ll be fun. But, you know, it’s just thank you. Thank you so much for sharing. I do actually for our listeners at home. I just want to point something out because I think that this is really truly beautiful. But you know, Na’im here, he had a 20 minute conversation with a cultural icon, really? I mean, Nipsey has reached that status for sure. It was a short conversation and it changed your life changed my life. And by extension by changing your life, it changed the life of the countless people that swag ink affects every single day. And so I’m going to, I’m going to issue a challenge Just to our listeners at home, and I’m going to say, find that 20 minutes that you can use to share of your expertise or share of yourself, whatever it takes, find that 20 minutes to share with someone else. And hopefully, you might you may change their life, you may not, you may just give them a better 20 minutes. But if more of us do that the effect could be exponential. So I’m going to challenge our listeners at home to do that. And then what I’m going to do is I’m going to thank you, my friend for sharing of yourself so authentically vulnerably, you know, for the service that you bring to constituents who really need it. And thank you for taking the time to chat with us today.
Na’im Al-Amin 45:43
My pleasure. I mean, it’s just a wonderful opportunity to be heard, to be seen, to be felt. You know, because that hasn’t always been so. I’m grateful to be on your platform. I’m grateful to have you in my circle at top gun can see the peer network. Right. So I’m just really excited. Lauren, thank you for being the best version of yourself. I’m a fan of everything that you do. Whenever we’re in the same space, my energy goes up a notch.
Lauren Conaway 46:14
All right, well, that makes me very happy. Another thing that makes me very happy is Full Scale. Need to hire software engineers, testers, and leaders? Full Scale can help. They are the episode’s sponsors, and they are also producers of the Startup Hustle podcast. So we want to give major claps for that and props for that. But they have people and the platform to help you build and manage a team of experts. When you visit FullScale.io, all you need to do is answer a few questions and then let the platform match you up with fully vetted, highly experienced software engineers, testers, and leaders at Full Scale. They specialize in building long-term teams that work only for you. You can learn more when you visit FullScale.io. Friends, another quick plug. I’m gonna plug Startup Hustle really quickly. But I don’t know if you know this. We actually have a chat group called Startup Hustle chat. You can find us on Facebook. Definitely check that out. That is a really good way to get in touch with the Startup Hustle hosts. And one of the things that I love to do is watch the conversations that are happening to try to get show ideas. And so, I invite you to join the Startup Hustle chat community, reach out to us via the website, but let us know what’s on your mind. Let us know what stories you want to hear. Let us know about awesome entrepreneurs and founders that you want us to talk to. So I encourage you to do that. And friends, I encourage you to keep coming back. We love that you listen to us week after week, making us a top 20 entrepreneurship podcast on Apple. We’re very, very proud of it, but it’s only because of you. So keep on coming back and we will we’ll catch you next time.