May 20, 2020
“I launched a Company While Serving Time for Coke Smuggling” –
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,
Instagram, Comeback Snacks on
Instagram, Emily on
LinkedIn, Comeback Snacks
HERE ARE SOME OF THE THINGS WE TALKED
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
Connect with the Stigma Podcast in the following
Connect with host Stephen Hays here: Stephen Hays Personal Website,
What If Ventures (Mental Health