In retrospect, I can very clearly identify the series of events which propelled me to start Entrepreneurship 101.
In 2007, while working at Harvard Kennedy School's Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management, I started to volunteer at a local county prison as a GED tutor in order to see how the policies my department was proposing at a high level, influenced individuals directly.
While tutoring GED, I was awakened to the following realizations:
1) People in prison have lower educational levels than average, and while officially many were passed through to 8th or 9th grades, in actuality, the majority of people in prison have reading, writing, and math levels comparable to a third grader. It is incredibly challenging to raise someone's literacy and math levels to GED level in a once-a-week tutoring program -- and VERY few people in state prisons have access to this type of help.
REALIZATION 1: I found that if I added dollar signs to mathematical equations, and assigned business-related reading assignments, suddenly people understood!
2) Even if people in prison attain a GED, it is nearly impossible for them to find a job post-release that pays above minimum wage and will allow them to support a family. One study found that 65% of employers will NOT knowingly hire a person with a felony record. Add to that the problem of lower educational levels than average, and work history gaps - and even lack of work experience - and the problem becomes much more serious.
REALIZATION 2: Despite these hiring barriers for formely incarcerated people, there is always the possibility of self-employment.
3) I disovered I was surrounded by entrepreneurs! An academic study showed that people in prison have higher-than-average entrepreneurial aptitude - and I saw this very clearly. Most of the people I talked to had operated small businesses in the past, and the vast majority saw themselves as entrepreneurs in the future.
REALIZATION 3: There is a tremendous demand for entrepreneurship education from people in prison -- people wanted to start legal, legitimate businesses but lack the tools, resources, and contacts to do it.
A few months after I started tutoring at this prison, I opened up the first E101 class - which was waitlisted, and which has continued to be waitlisted, ever since.