Former U.S. Navy Reservist and Midshipman John Weldon found a new calling while pursuing his MBA and MSIS degrees at Baylor University as a Business Plan Advisor for the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP).
Over the course of his two years at Baylor, Weldon worked with four different PEP participants who had a variety of interests, backgrounds, and aspirations. As a Business Plan advisor, Weldon offered feedback on participants’ business plans, using knowledge and skills he learned in Business School.
“Actually, I gained as much from the experience as the participants”, Weldon said. “Seeing how these participants are preparing to go forward in a faith-based way is very uplifting and hearing their stories motivated me in my pursuit of graduate studies.”
The PEP participants have viable business ideas but do not have Internet access for research or an educational background to fully develop their business plans. Weldon worked on business plans such as a barber shop and a new technology for the oil/gas industry.
“Some of the participants have never had anyone believe in them,” Weldon said. “Then volunteers come in, show compassion, listen to dreams, and believe that everyone deserves a second chance. This builds energy for the participants to move forward.”
Weldon also served as an Executive Volunteer with the PEP, which allowed him to attend PEP events in prison and to meet with the participants. During a PEP Pitch Day event, the Executive Volunteers are grouped in panels to hear and to give feedback on business plans.
“Participants often told me that they liked my energy and fresh perspective on ideas,” Weldon said. “I was younger than most of the participants and many of the Executive Volunteers, so I represented the future generation.”
Weldon was introduced to PEP during his first week in his MBA program. He decided to pursue involvement and attended an event with fellow Baylor Business students, where he met Bryan Kelley from PEP. “Bryan was very energetic and one of the most motivated people I met,” Weldon said. “I later learned that he was a graduate of PEP. His transformation was inspirational.”
As an Executive Volunteer, Weldon worked alongside other executives from around the country. During one event at the prison, Weldon met an Executive Volunteer who worked at Andrews Distributing.
“Our conversation about global supply chain led to additional discussions after the PEP event and eventually, I worked a summer internship at Andrews Distributing,” Weldon explained. “That internship experience, combined with my previous work experience in the maritime industry and IT education, led me to Exxon Mobil where I will pursue my post-MBA career.”
One of the four strategic areas of focus for Baylor Business mission is Calling. Weldon, who is committed to helping and serving others, exemplifies the Business School belief in that potential is God-given and that life follows a Calling. In addition to working with PEP, Weldon volunteered though Baylor with Blueprint Athens in Greece. He led a team that developed and delivered an entrepreneurship program in Greece. The team also consulted current and aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners, who were Greeks and refugees of other nationalities, and made recommendations.
To read more about Baylor’s involvement with and support of PEP, read Opening Doors, an article from the Summer 2017 edition of Baylor Magazine.
To learn more about PEP or to find a way to help, visit PEP’s website.
Story by: Laurie Wilson BBA ’84, MBA ’09, Director of Graduate Business Programs