By Becky Darling
REMOTE (Reintegration, Education, Mentoring, Opportunity Through Entrepreneurship) is a social business focused on the entrepreneurial education of marginalized populations: incarcerated persons, those transitioning out of prison, and persons transitioning out of homelessness. The program consists of a six-month entrepreneurial education program, followed by a 2–3 month incubator program to get businesses off the ground, and finally a Microfinance institution to provide loans to the successful individuals of the program.
Armaan Bhutani founded REMOTE in the summer of 2013. Armaan is a third year business major, with concentrations in finance and entrepreneurship and a minor in economics. He first became interested in Social Entrepreneurship while living in India, but didn’t necessarily understand the concept until coming to Northeastern and taking Social Entrepreneurship with Professor Shaughnessy. Armaan was particularly interested in reintegration due to his studies of the prison system during his debate career in high school. He discovered that most of the organizations dealing with this issue were focused on helping “troubled youths”, but very few thought it was pertinent to work with older generations. With his background and experience in entrepreneurship, Armaan decided to use that knowledge to address this problem. Armaan described that, “It was obvious to me that people coming out of prison and those who were homeless had trouble finding jobs and I figured that the best way to circumvent this issue was to help individuals create their own jobs and in turn jobs for others like them in the community.”
With the Social Enterprise Institute’s help, Armaan was led to Haley House where he met with Daniel Cordon, the head of the Transitional Employment Program, and the partnership began. Armaan explained that, ” Danny warned me of the issues that I might come across working with this population as he spent 20 years in prison and understood the psychology behind it. After speaking with Danny, I adjusted some aspects of the business model and I was then introduced to a group of 12 people who were formerly incarcerated. I told them about REMOTE and they all seemed hopeful, yet skeptical about the organization.”
Armaan began his first round of classes in June of 2013, and will complete the classes next month. Although the program started with 12 students, only 4 will be graduating from the class. “I feel like individuals in the class are now just friends of mine and are some of the nicest people I know. I have learned from the first cycle, that I need to put more emphasis on written and verbal communication. It is extremely important to build a relationship with everyone in the class and make sure that they feel comfortable throughout the program.” Over the course of the initial cycle of classes Armaan has learned a lot and hopes to apply this new knowledge and experience to his next cycle, which will begin in a few months.
When asked what advice he would give to budding social entrepreneurs, Armaan replied, ” Don’t be afraid. Everything you do comes with challenges and obstacles, but when you are able to overcome these challenges, the reward is priceless. I encourage all young entrepreneurs to be confident, no matter what people tell you. If you believe in something, regardless of whether it works or not, you will gain from the experience and perhaps stumble upon something bigger and better. When I first began thinking about REMOTE, various friends and family members seemed to be worried that I would get hurt working with this population. They thought that it was impossible for this population to change and that there was no point in trying. I decided to power through and in the process, I’ve become friends with these people and helped them while doing it. I hope that the success of REMOTE will not only solve the problems of the students, but also help open the eyes of the rest of us and remove the negative stigmas associated with these marginalized populations.”