Krystal Smith, 29, has been in prison for the past nine months, and in her first week of freedom, she is working toward a plan she mapped out while locked down -- one that she hopes will result in her own business: a mobile chicken wing truck called Wing Fling Mobile Cuisine. Smith participated in a new entrepreneurial program started by Ladies Empowerment and Action Program (L.E.A.P.), which partnered with Barry University. The 5-month program consisted of business and life skills classes geared toward planning small businesses.
Throughout the program at Broward Correctional Institute, L.E.A.P. volunteers met three times a week with approximately a dozen inmates, and Barry University professors taught lessons once a week for ten weeks. Guest speakers discussed various aspects of starting a business, and the course resulted in students creating their own business plans and presenting them in front of a panel.
The leap from incarceration to independent business may seem like jumping from arithmetic to calculus, but Smith, the first graduate of the program to be released, knows that starting her Wing Fling Mobile Cuisine will require lots of little steps, and she feels prepared. "I'll give myself a year and a half," Smith says. "I know that I have to get several licenses and things of that nature."
Next year, Smith is starting classes at the Barry University Andreas Entrepreneurial Institute, and she is currently looking for a job in food service to gain culinary experience and save money to start her own company. Smith is also researching childcare options for her 5- and 7-year-old daughters and her 2-year-old son. While in prison, she stayed busy, taking classes on codependency awareness, parenting, life skills, and etiquette. Now, she feels she is a better interviewer, a better communicator, and most importantly, a better mother.
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Gemma Betancourt, the President of L.E.A.P., further explains the program. "A lot of life skills are reinforced -- you just can't teach entrepreneurship... you have to change their mindset. You have to make them believe that they can do it when they are released."
Smith, who is now living with her cousin in Miami, had lunch with two L.E.A.P. volunteer founders this week. "I'm not ashamed to tell people where I've been, but I've utilized my time well," Smith says. "I made a few bad choices -- I have to acknowledge that so I don't repeat history." She was incarcerated last March for "battery on a law enforcement officer and aggravated battery with bodily harm," she says, adding that she acted in self-defense when she was in an abusive relationship.
Now, she is focused, directing her time, schooling, and careful planning toward Wing Fling. "At first I'm going to only have one truck -- and then I want several throughout South Florida," she says. "Everybody likes to eat. I think I'll do good -- I know I'll do good."
Well, if anything is a money-shot for a successful business, it's a chicken wing truck with a variety of homemade sauces. If Smith makes a go of this, we hope she parks a truck right in the middle of the New Times parking lot.