Podcast Creator Re-Focuses His Hustle

Podcast Creator Re-Focuses His Hustle

October 13, 2021 | Aaron Smith

Logo for the podcast "Escaping the Odds"

Entrepreneurship has been an innate desire for me since childhood. Growing up on the South Side of Chicago, entrepreneurs were called “hustlers” and the products offered were an assortment of illegal products and illicit services. Nevertheless, it’s what I learned at the “school of hard knocks,” despite earning a bachelor’s degree in business management from Columbia College of Chicago. The hustle that I picked up on the South Side led to a 12-year federal sentence for running a heroin operation. I eventually served nine years, five months and was released with a vengeance to conquer the world of business. That desire was also the dream of many of the men I met while serving fed time. 

I knew upon my release that I had an obligation to be a voice as it relates to criminal justice reform through entrepreneurship. My idea was to create a podcast called Escaping the Odds, where I would interview people who were formerly incarcerated and became successful entrepreneurs. The two men that you will read about below aren’t an anomaly but the norm. They took their pain and turned it into a passion, which makes them legitimate hustlers—entrepreneurs. Both men are from Chicago, with almost 50 combined years of incarceration. They are both under the age of 50.

Yohance Joseph Lacour, better known as YJL designs, learned to handcraft leather bags and shoes while serving 10 years in federal prison. In the podcast, he discusses growing up in Chicago and his days as a journalist using his skills set to tell the stories of the inner city. Yohance’s craftsmanship and unique style of design will change the game. Check it out for yourself at yjlacour.com, and listen to him in Episode 5 of Season 1.

Marshawn Feltus is the owner of ACT Yoga in Chicago. At the age of 18 he was sentenced to 38 years in prison for first-degree murder. It was in prison where he fell in love with yoga. After his release, he began a 200-hour yoga teacher training and later opened a successful yoga studio. He graced the cover of Yoga Journal in 2018 and received the journal’s Good Karma award. He was interviewed for Episode 6 of Season 1.

Escaping the Odds, created by Aaron Smith, is the winner of the 2021 Media for a Just Society Awards podcast/radio category. This recognition is for Season 1, Episodes 5 and 6.