MDC Humanitarian Award Recipient
Catherine Hoke, Founder & CEO, Defy Ventures
Kim Morris, Founder & CEO, The Cleaned Space
Coss Marte, Founder & CEO, ConBody
Seth Sundberg, Founder & CEO, Prison Bars
Lunch: 12:30 - 1:40 pm EDT
Catherine Hoke knows about being a long shot. As the first female wrestler on her high school boys' team, she got pinned repeatedly... and quickly. Hoke’s underdog spirit led her to launch Defy Ventures in 2010, a nonprofit that equips formerly incarcerated drug dealers and gang members start legal businesses. The program works: Defy has incubated and funded 100 of its graduates’ startups. Defy has scaled nationally, achieved a 95% employment rate, and a recidivism rate of less than 5%. Prior to Defy Ventures, Hoke founded the Prison Entrepreneurship Program in Texas, which posted similar success rates. She also improved at wrestling, becoming the 1994 California Women’s Freestyle Wrestling State Champion, and still fights big boys in Brazilian jiu-jitsu to this very day.
In 2009, Coss Marte was imprisoned as the ringleader of a multi-million-dollar cocaine operation. Overweight and warned by his physician that his lifestyle would kill him, he got in shape using the only tools available: His cell and his body weight. He quickly lost 70 pounds and taught his methods to other inmates. After his 2013 release, Marte founded ConBody (founded as Coss Athletics) bootcamp for health-conscious professionals, which has more than 2,000 customers. Marte’s bootcamp has been featured in Men’s Fitness, Men’s Health, and on CNN. He is the winner of Defy’s business plan competition, helping him secure $75,000 of a $100,000 equity round.
Kim Morris began her comeback by becoming the valedictorian of her GED class during her two-year prison term. She went on to earn a paralegal certificate. Since her release, Morris incorporated The Cleaned Space, an eco-friendly cleaning service for property managers. After just three months, her business has turned a profit. Morris’s vision is to scale the business nationally, providing opportunities for underprivileged women and others with barriers to employment. She recently won first place in the national Defy Ventures competition, earning a $10,000 seed grant toward her business. Morris is the proud mother of a 21-year-old daughter.
Standing 7’1”, Seth Sundberg played basketball for the University of Hawaii. After a pro hoops career that took him to China and Estonia, he became the branch manager of a financial-services company. Then his life took a turn: Sundberg pleaded guilty to tax fraud and served several years in prison. Nutritional foods were rare in prison, so Sundberg created a recipe for a tasty granola snack called Prison Bars---and since his release, he’s sold 1,200 of them. Sundberg took first place in Defy’s San Francisco business-plan competition, and he is attending San Francisco State University to earn a bachelor’s degree in Economics.