UpStart helps entrepreneurial people create work for themselves, giving them a purpose that helps them break the cycle of reoffending.

Upstart was a 2-year pilot programme launched in 2019. Inside Job is an Upstart business.

Why we facilitate entrepreneurship in prison

Lack of work:
Only 25% of people find a “job” when they leave prison.

It’s what prisoners want:
50% of people in prison want to work for themselves. UpStart

gives them that opportunity.

It repurposes weaknesses as strengths:
Many prisoners have strong entrepreneurial traits, being

comfortable with risk taking and valuing autonomy.

It works:
Successful prison entrepreneurship programmes exist in the US

and Germany, which have created 100’s of businesses and jobs. UpStart’s mantra is, if you can’t find work make it!

How UpStart works:
by developing practical business plans and supporting the people who make them.

What UpStart achieves


Purpose and Confidence

We know not every UpStarter will build a business. We know that not all of those who do will succeed. However they will have seriously considered their purpose in life and set a new direction.

James is a talented chef, father of 6, heroin addict, serial offender, and UpStarter, who is building a business, being a good Dad, determined to stay clean and not go back to prison.


Perspective and Pride

When two people sit down, imagine and plan together they both learn.

As mentors we learn we are not so different from our mentees; most of us want, and value, the same things from life. But our assumptions, expectations, confidence and resilience can be very different – and all that’s holding us back.

Mentoring is an opportunity to realise how much we have learnt over the course of our lives, from our mistakes and successes and the people who have mentored, supported and inspired us. Its also an opportunity to make all that experience available to someone else.


Aspiration and another route to successful resettlement

Prisons understandably try to provide for the “average” prisoner. With scant resource and caring for an extremely wide spectrum of people, prisons focus on basic numeracy and literacy and low level skills. UpStart is an opportunity for the many prisoners at the other end of the spectrum. Those who have had responsibility, are educated and need to be allowed to aspire.

UpStart lifts everyone, staff, other prisoners, families and mentors by seeing proud people present their vision of their future and get the support they deserve.

Tom Whybrow KPMG. James’ Mentor

Impact of UpStart to date

Award winning Street Food
Full of Chaat

Gazebo Jerk Hut

This is James at KPMG, following up with his Mentor, Tom. They offered him a spell working in their private dining kitchen. We also arranged for him to spend time working with award-winning street food business “Full of Chaat”. Covid brought preparations for Gazebo Jerk Hut to a grinding halt. However, James intends to resume its launch as soon as possible. He still believes in himself and his idea, is still drug free, living on the right side of the law and is there for his wife, children and new grandchild. A result.

James in KPMG’s Kitchen

Inside Job

This was the runaway surprise of the UpStart Pilots. We have, with the support of HMP Birmingham, helped Jonathan develop Inside Job, an in-prison recruitment consultancy. It launched in September 2019, with a jobs fair. It has organised 3 job surgeries (pre-covid) and secured job offers and jobs.

We have employed a professional recruitment agent to accelerate the programme’s development in a bleaker post-Covid employment environment. We have received an award from People’s Postcode Trust to support Inside Job – a grant-giving charity funded entirely by players of the People’s Postcode Lottery

How UpStart reduces reoffending

We know what to do to stop the cycle of reoffending because the Ministry of Justice has done the research…

It has identified key factors which impact recidivism – addiction recovery (not part of our work) and 7 others. Three are obvious, external and tangible: housing, family and work. In other words, somewhere to live, someone to love and something to do…

Four are internal and intangible – but every bit as important: having hope and being motivated to change, knowing other people believe in you, being given the opportunity to contribute and having an identity not based on criminality. In other words, I know who I am, that I can, that you believe I can and that you’ll let me try…

Beating Time hits these four factors hard.

Choirs Beating Time enables prisoners to hang onto their mental health and be a recognisable version of themselves. All our programmes reinforce non-criminal identity, whether as singers, songwriters, performers, entrepreneurs, workers or parents. The people we work with know we believe in them, because we invest in them creatively, emotionally, and financially. We create the opportunity for them to contribute, on lots of levels: to their prison community as performers, to their families at our Family Days, to the workforce, through Inside Job and as Entrepreneurs, through UpStart. By retaining a sense of self and creating opportunities we generate hope and motivation.

How UpStart came about

By Heather Phillips

A very good friend of mine who lives in Texas and works at a senior level in the Oil and Gas Industry has been involved with the Prison Entrepreneurship Program for several years. In 2016, I read the Centre for Entrepreneurs Report “From Inmate to Entrepreneur”, which made a powerful case for prison entrepreneurship. Convinced and interested, I tried to meet with many of the people it identified as delivering enterprise initiatives in jail. Sadly, most had given up, because they could not find funding or support. However, I found two organisations, Enterprise Exchange and Enterprise Inspiration who were still working, mainly with marginalised groups in the community. Together we developed the prototype for UpStart and piloted it in 2019. The handover of HMP Birmingham from G4S to HMPPS and Covid have delayed further programmes, but we are ready to go when lockdown ends. We also found invaluable support in KPMG, who supplied some finance and great mentors. They will deliver some modules on UpStart.

Research supports the link between entrepreneurship and creativity.

It’s not a stretch to go from Singing to Start-Up. Creativity and Entrepreneurship are members of the same family. Before I set up Beating Time, I set up a small business “SingingWorks” which set up corporate choirs and did team building. Before that I built a legal practice. Every member of our musical team runs their own small business, whether leading Contemporary Choirs, writing and recording music, teaching or all three. Creatives and Entrepreneurs rely on vision, imagination, courage, execution and are prepared to put themselves out there. Over the years, it was obvious many of the people serving sentences we worked with, were natural entrepreneurs and creatively courageous. As Choirs Beating Time goes into each prison each week, we realised we were well placed to identify the regimes we thought could make it work and the people who would benefit. So, we did the thing creative entrepreneurs do – and gave it a go!

Click below to hear Einstein playing a Mozart Violin Sonata.