Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in arts but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Raphaelle Duche Holt, executive assistant of Art for Redemption, located in Denver, CO, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Art for Redemption is the premier marketplace for prison art in the US. Our artists are all impacted by the criminal justice system, either currently incarcerated or recently released from prison. We are also the first external company authorized by the Department of Corrections (DOC Colorado) to contract with incarcerated individuals. As of today, people in federal or state prisons and jails are only allowed to have prison jobs or DOC affiliated jobs that pay, on average, 0.63$ per hour.
Our mission is to support the creative power of artists behind walls by offering them a market value pay for their skills. The money they receive allows them to support their families (the cost of incarceration burdens families and feeds the cycle of mass incarceration), contribute to their societal debts such as victim restitution, and most importantly, they can save up to prepare for their successful release into our communities. When you get out of prison, you have no money to get established. Plus, the obstacles faced to finding housing and employment due to the discrimination against felons, it is no wonder that the recidivism rate reaches 78%. We aim to bridge the gap between these artists behind walls and society to break the generational trauma of mass incarceration and shift the US criminal justice system to a more rehabilitative model rather than simply punitive.
We sell original one-of-a-kind prison art pieces as well as print-on-demand T-Shirts, Hoodies, etc., featuring each artwork!
Tell us about yourself
Buck Adams started Art for Redemption over two years ago. The idea came to him while he was serving three years in Arkansas Valley Correctional facility in Colorado. He witnessed how many talented artists there are inside and how the DOC rules prohibit them from receiving actual pay for their skills and restrict them to trading a hand-drawn birthday card for a few stamps, for example. Buck thought these artists deserved better: to be seen for their talent and to be paid for their skills. That's how AFR started!
As for me, Raphaelle Duche, I met Buck while volunteering inside a minimum-security prison for a workshop with AVP (Alternative to violence project). My husband has done 13 years in the penitentiary, and together we went through incarceration, the halfway house, parole, and now... freedom. It is an understatement to say how difficult it has been to get established after his release.
We faced daily discrimination because of his record (even me, not a felon but the wife of one), and I know too well that we made it because I had some savings to get us started. So every day that I process a newly received artwork, that I talk to the incarcerated artist or his mother, brother, or wife on the phone, I don't think I could better spend my time. Because not only AFR is bridging the gap between society and these individuals that are coming back into our communities after decades behind bars, but it empowers them to believe they can do something good. The money from the sales helps them participate in their family's lives and heals this guilt that all of them feel for burdening their loved ones. It gives them a purpose, something to look for, and financial means to further their willingness to get out and do good.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
The first time we paid an artist after selling his art piece. That is something I will never forget. The ultimate goal, in a sense, but also the beginning of it all. Being the first external company approved by a DOC to contract with incarcerated individuals has set us in a position where we aim to implement this prison reform in the other 49 States.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
For me (Raphaelle), the hardest thing is to keep in mind it's a business. Because it is so emotional and relevant to my personal life, I find the line between the human aspect and the business aspect to be blurred at times. But that is also a strength in the sense that I work relentless hours, weekends or not, because there are about 2 million people incarcerated in the US today, and many families are impacted by it.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Find sustainable financing sources. Nothing happens without it.
- Get a team of hard workers that believe in your project and are not going to count their hours.
- Don't hesitate to seek help and put finances with agencies that can help you grow (marketing, e-com, PR...) Know your weaknesses and go ahead of them.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email firstname.lastname@example.org; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
Feel inspired to start, run or grow your own subscription business? Check out subkit.com and learn how you can turn "one day" into day one.