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Transforming Hustle

Catherine Hoke

Catherine, CEO and Founder of Defy Ventures, shares her story of public failure and how Defy is her own second chance of giving second chances. She “transforms the hustle” of people with criminal histories nationally both in prisons and post-release. With a recidivism rate of less than 5% and employment rate of 95%, Defy provides opportunities for people with criminal histories to create new legacies of success instead of perpetuating the cycle of incarceration in America.

About Catherine Hoke

Catherine, CEO and Founder of Defy Ventures, shares her story of public failure and how Defy is her own second chance of giving second chances. She “transforms the hustle” of people with criminal histories nationally both in prisons and post-release. With a recidivism rate of less than 5% and employment rate of 95%, Defy provides opportunities for people with criminal histories to create new legacies of success instead of perpetuating the cycle of incarceration in America.

It was on the wrestling mat that Catherine developed a noteworthy endurance for humiliation (to this day, she owns the school’s record for getting pinned the fastest and the most in her first year). Her bruises and losses prepared her to come alongside others who need to be “scraped off the mat,” shined up, and put back in the fight. Driven by her hatred for injustice and love for the underdog, Catherine founded Defy Ventures in 2010 after being given her
 own second chance to lead. Defy Ventures is a nonprofit that “transforms the hustle” of people with criminal histories by providing entrepreneurship, employment, and character training as well as executive mentorship, startup funding, and business incubation. For her work, Catherine became an Ashoka Fellow (2013), and was recognized by Fast Company as one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business (2014). She also received the MDC Partners Humanitarian Award and was named a #MakeTechHuman Agent of Change by WIRED and Nokia for being one of “17 Global Influencers Expanding Human Possibility Through Technology” (both in 2015). Catherine left a career in venture capital and private equity to pursue 
her calling. At age 27, she founded the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP), a nonprofit organization that serves men in the Texas prison system. PEP was nationally recognized for its groundbreaking results. Defy Ventures is her 2.0 version as she has built a nationally scalable model for transforming lives and creating new legacies of success. A three-time marathon runner, Catherine enjoys practicing Brazilian jiu-jitsu and sewing in her spare time. She resides in New York City with her husband, Charles.

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