Welcome to Higher Order. We talk to creative people with ambitious ideas that are out to change the world. Today, we learn how Vincent Bragg, the founder and CEO of ConCreates used his time behind bars to create an advertising agency unlike any other. Learn how he has found an untapped creative network to help generate radical ideas for some of the world’s biggest brands and all from inside prisons across the country, creating life-changing opportunities for prisoners and real measurable business impact for brands.
Josh Coon: So Vincent, we really want to dig in and talk about ConCreates and the impact that it’s having. But in order to do that, we feel like we have to go back and kind of get a little bit of your origin story so people can understand kind of how the whole idea came about. So could you take us back a little bit and kind of talk about what put you on the road to ConCreates?
Vincent Bragg: Absolutely. So essentially, I was indicted for a conspiracy charge to distribute cocaine. I was guilty, went to prison. I really just was all about how do I come out of prison as a better person, a better mind, a better human being. So I studied everything I could get my hands on from law to corporate law to real estate law. Read over 450 books, I wrote three books, and just was able to just really witness the creativity or the brilliance behind bars. I watched so many men create creative career paths or creative hustles as we like to kind of say, just like doing all sorts of different things to make a living and using that potential and that creativity.
Vincent Bragg: I witnessed one of my guys who was in prison for bank robbery, and he had given a founder of a startup that we were in prison with some ideas that actually had made national news. And from that moment, I kind of really thought about, hey, we could do this for other brands. And so, I approached that man and I told him, “Look, I know you’re in here for bank robbery. I know you’ve robbed banks. But essentially, you’re a strategist. I know brands that will pay top dollar for strategists of this caliber.” So we actually started to ideate on what an agency would look like. And March 1st of 2016, I was released from federal prison. And as a way for me to continue what we created, I started ConCreates.
Devon Higby: Awesome. So, this idea of the folks that you met while inside sort of having this innate symmetry, the skillset that they came with was so naturally in line with marketing creative work, why do you think that is? What is it about the world that they were coming from or just inside the walls together that sort of made those two so linked?
Vincent Bragg: Well, I think there’s a few elements. So, one of the elements would be options and opportunity. So, we founded this company on the belief system that creativity without opportunity is what leads to criminality. And without having that opportunity to express that potential creative energy, it shows up in other areas of your life, and potentially, like I said, leads to criminality.
Vincent Bragg: The other thing is just the camaraderie I believe that is formed from prison culture, and really thinking about the hierarchy of things, and most people who have criminal history, been criminal school, if you will, which is you know what prison essentially turns into, if you’re not willing to kind of work on yourself. I believe that becomes the next element where it’s like people are either in prison thinking about how to become a better criminal or how to become a better human. And those that have been wanting to become better humans and have this creativity built up with inside of them, kind of just created this I guess lightning in a bottle, if you will.
Devon Higby: That’s really fascinating. And I’ve heard some of the research that we’ve done and some of the other podcasts that you’ve done that we listened to, you mentioned that about you’re either inside learning how to be a better criminal or how to be a better person. How do you tell the difference?
Vincent Bragg: I don’t know how to really describe it. I feel like it’s the guys that are not participating in prison politics. It’s the guys that are sitting the law library or reading books. They’re on their bunk writing stuff and things like that. You kind of get to that point where you start to recognize, hey, this guy is different. He’s not necessarily isolated from everyone, but his mind is different, he’s developing something. So then you kind of tap into that and say, hey, what are you in here for? And guys kind of swap those stories and you talk about backgrounds and you tell stories about when you were in different prisons or when you were in the world. And you just start to really start to see these individuals are cooking up some type of plan.
Vincent Bragg: And nine times out of 10, it boils down to entrepreneurship, when you think about the criminal mind or people who have criminal history, I think a lot of that stems from creativity and entrepreneurship. And so, you begin to notice those individuals because they stand out.
Josh Coon: Did you start ConCreates while you were on the inside or was it when you went out? So tell us a bit more about like, when did it really start to take shape for you?
Vincent Bragg: So, for me, I would say we founded ConCreates in 2014 in federal prison. And the reason why I say that is because that’s where the idea was born, that’s where we started to really recognize the talent and cultivate it and onboard. But it wasn’t until 2016 I joined a program called the Defy Ventures which is a prisoner entrepreneurship program for men and women while they’re in prison, and then also a post-release program from when you get out. I joined that program post-release, and they taught me how to incorporate, they taught me a lot of the, kind of, I guess the easiest way for me to say it is Defy for me acted as a translator.
Vincent Bragg: So, for me being a former drug dealer, I was able to see a lot of the parallels in running a business versus running a drug empire. Essentially, I ran a business, but it was just an illegal product. And so, I got a lot of those technical understanding from Defy Ventures. And then another really great thing I think that Defy Ventures does really well is they bring in volunteers from all sorts of different industries and backgrounds and entrepreneurs and really successful people who actually mentor you. I was able to get mentorship from so many different people, folks who had military backgrounds, folks that had creative backgrounds, folks that started their own businesses, folks that were intrapreneurs versus entrepreneurs.
Vincent Bragg: I was introduced to a gentleman named Tim Jones, who’s the lead strategist of 72andSunny New York office, 72andSunny being one of the global kind of leaders in the advertisement space, our missions really aligned, and we were able to form a partnership. I guess that’s kind of why you guys know about us.
Josh Coon: Right. And so, give our audience a little bit of the lay of the land on sort of like how it works. You have 430-ish people incarcerated now that you’re working with or formerly incarcerated. How does your network kind of work? Can you give us some numbers, give us some feedback on like kind of how you’re sourcing ideas and how it all kind of comes together?
Vincent Bragg: It’s just a process, right? It’s just a protocol. So it depends on who we’re engaging. So we have kind of like a different model for when we engage agencies, we have a different model for how we engage brands. But essentially, a brief is dispersed to our network of individuals in prison and outside of prison. There’s guidance given into how to think about whatever particular problem. And depending on the budget determines who we target. I mean, obviously, the smaller the budget, then the less amount of people we target. We try to be really specific into what kind of demographics, psychographics, geological locations things like that when we think about how we disperse a brief. And they have an email system in prison that allows the incarcerated to email their friends and family. And those are how the ideas come in.
Vincent Bragg: So we get those ideas, we sift through them. We do research against it, we find out what people are talking about maybe in that subject, what people aren’t talking about, how do we carve out a white space. And then we narrow those ideas down, we narrow those ideas down from say 50 to five to the actual idea that’s actually going to be made. And then execution.
Devon Higby: That is such I think an innovative methodology, obviously, not just the population that you’re working with here and crowdsourcing within, but how you approach it I think is really different. I know that a lot of what is written about ConCreates talks about the stigma of incarceration and what the goal and one of the goals and values of ConCreates is sort of this transformative experience for its team members. What changes have your team members been able to make in their lives, whether still inside or outside and what is the transformative power of a second chance?
Vincent Bragg: That’s a really, really, really, really great question, really loaded, and I will do my best to articulate that. So, obviously, I really believe in storytelling, even just with my own story. Like being able to, I’m sitting down with $10 billion companies, $100 billion dollar companies, that is transformative within itself. It’s like, hey, I don’t have to do something illegal in order to be at the table, right? It also helps me even to think about kind of some of the traumas that I might have endured while in prison and how those things helped me to navigate through society in that particular manner.
Vincent Bragg: One of my guys, I told you he robbed 27 banks, he was recently released about four months ago and he came home to being in Fast Company and all this media and all these different rooms. After doing 17 and a half years, yes, the creative part is really, really great, having that opportunity to be in a creative environment and do creative things, but then what about the social skills that it takes when you come from a prison, prison is really violent, and that isn’t acceptable in society, right?
Vincent Bragg: So I think a lot of those kind of transformative things that are happening are just because of the opportunity. It forces you to kind of think about things differently. How would I handle this, even though this is counter to prison culture or my belief system, like how do I actually deal with this? How do I communicate this? How do I articulate how I feel or without resorting to the thing that I know which could potentially be violence or argumentative or whatever the case may be? So, I think that’s a huge kind of thing that I think people don’t really realize, and coming out of prison and acclimating back into society is there’s just a huge cultural difference and I believe that ConCreates is providing that insight in that particular training for the men and women.
Josh Coon: That’s amazing. And the way that people change is internal and external forces, so you’re providing a vehicle for them to see themselves differently and also for the world to see them differently. That’s got to be driving some transformation and helping people. Did you see all that right from the start or has some of that kind of come to life as you’ve gone through this work with ConCreates?
Vincent Bragg: Absolutely. We’re still going through it right. There’s still kind of things that are being uncovered that maybe we didn’t anticipate. But ultimately, I knew, his is I think the vision part for me in creating this business was the problem that I attempted to solve, it’s like, when you think about businesses, you think about entrepreneurship, you always think, what is the problem that you’re solving? So, one of the problems is economic. How do we provide a viable economic solution that would be an alternative to doing something illegal but still doesn’t change who you are or your innate talent or even your lifestyle for that matter.
Vincent Bragg: So, when you have someone who made millions of dollars selling drugs, and then they get out of prison, I don’t think they’re going to go work at Walmart. It’s a huge waste of their potential and talent. And again, that brings me back to how it leads to criminality. There’s all this creative potential, I’m working at Target or whatever. I’m making minimum wage, it’s not the best use of my time or potential, frustrates me, now I’m trying to figure out how I can live that same life.
Vincent Bragg: The first initial problem I believe that we’re solving is the economic thing, right? But then the other thing is the social stigma. How do you get individuals who think that all they’re ever going to be is a drug dealer or a bank robber or a gang member or whatever, and not realizing that these mentalities also have value even in the corporate space.
Vincent Bragg: So, you might think of a gang member as someone who’s violent or whatever, but there’s some traits in that position that could potentially be valuable to an organization like ConCreates, meaning, how do you inspire leadership? How do you recruit? All those different things are really important to build in an organization. You inspire loyalty, you build trust, you build a network, you recruit, all these different things are valuable. And beginning to show someone that there’s more value in themselves than maybe they’ve been taught or maybe society has shown them is very, very powerful in that.
Vincent Bragg: So, that was kind of my initial vision about it, it’s like, hey, how do we change the way that they look at themselves? How do we change the way that society looks at them? How do we provide an economic opportunity that’s viable for individuals to stay the course. And everything else kind of just is evolving. This is a living, breathing entity. So, it’s constantly evolving and changing and new things are being uncovered based on different personalities, different backgrounds, different everything.
Josh Coon: That’s awesome. And one of the things I wondered about is like, sometimes leaders don’t talk about what it means to them personally and some of the challenges they face. So for you, is it constantly motivating for you to be able to reach out and kind of provide what you’re providing to all these people to help them change their lives or are there days where it’s almost like the enormity of it, the responsibility for it can be daunting? Talk a little bit about what it feels like for you to kind of lead this effort through ConCreates?
Vincent Bragg: First, before I answer that question, if this is the first episode, you are on point with the way you, no one asked me these types of questions. And I think I go through this thing. We had this kind of team meeting with our core team of 14 people. I’m kind of the person that everybody leans to. So it’s like, you guys are dealing with me, right? One person. But I’m dealing with everybody. On an individual level also, an overarching kind of thing. And when you think about the population of individuals that I serve and represent, it’s a lot of alphas, a lot of people, you know, it’s frustrating, right? It becomes friction, it becomes all of those different things. And like I said, we’re always evolving and learning different ways to communicate and express and not be disruptive, but at the same time, not withhold anything.
Vincent Bragg: Sometimes like that dialogue becomes harsh or whatever. So, yes, I’m inspired every single day to help to make these changes, not only within the individuals that I serve, but even also within myself.
Vincent Bragg: So, I was talking to a founder of a company, we were talking about founders therapy as kind of an idea. And he was just telling me one year that his company grew 300% and he realized that if he didn’t grow 300%, they weren’t going to be in a good position. So I thought that was valuable information that, as much as I’m trying to help other individuals grow, I in turn as a leader also have to grow and I also have to not only do the work for the brands and agencies that I work with, but I also have to work on myself as well.
Devon Higby: That’s amazing. And when you guys have that therapy group pulled together, will you let us know because I feel like there are a lot of things that everybody in this business, no matter sort of what level you’re at, whether you’re leading a team or leading the entire company constantly struggles with in terms of how to be present, how to be thinking forward, how to be innovative at the same time that you’re doing, and you’re wearing so many hats.
So this actually is a natural segue because we want to focus a little bit more on the agency and the industry side of ConCreates. And so, I loved when you were talking about building this team because that’s a challenge across the industry is sort of how do you get the right people in the right roles and then get the tech around them to do their job. So, can you start us off maybe by telling us a little bit about the agency and sort of what you specialize in and how you work with clients?
Vincent Bragg: Sure. So I think that we have some really core strengths as far as industries to think about. But then also, we really specialize in out of the box ideas and cultural insights and nuances that I believe that aren’t really represented on the industry level, on the executive level. So when you’re thinking about an ad that’s about to come out for some huge company, and then there’s this huge cultural mishap where people are thinking about boycotting or people are super offended, things like that, that’s where we can kind of come in and say, no, that’s offensive, that isn’t culturally relevant. We’re able to kind of provide that because our men and women for one were your consumers before they went to prison, they’re probably consuming your products while they’re in prison, and they will definitely consume your products when they come home.
Vincent Bragg: So, the way that we kind of work with agencies is we act as kind of like a secret weapon for that very same purposes, hey, if you think about I don’t want to really say the campaigns that I’m talking about, but ultimately, if you don’t want this to happen, we’re the people to hire for that because we’re so diverse, we’re so unique from I believe every religion is represented, every race is represented, every age demographic is represented in prison. Prison is a very great snapshot of the world.
Vincent Bragg: And so, I think that’s really our core strength, and obviously, being full service we have production capabilities and execution as far as marketing capabilities as far as tech and stuff goes. I think our core strength lies in the fact that these men and women behind bars have nothing but time on their hands to think and imagine, and if you open up that kind of Pandora’s box, there’s no limit to kind of some of the great creative work that comes out of this group of people.
Devon Higby: As the leader of sort of all of this, what’s your workflow when you’re working with all these different demographics? You’ve got different religions, as you said, different races and different backgrounds and experiences, how do you tap the right group per project?
Vincent Bragg: Well, I think one of the things maybe that I kind of left out is we also have facilitators that I left behind when I got out of prison. Some people, their release date might be 2036. So, these individuals are able to really kind of be hands on with the guidance of our brief and insights that we provide them to kind of think about, where we’re actually really able to kind of hyper target whatever that particular demographic is.
Vincent Bragg: And I’ll give you an example, a company approached us out of Texas, and they were like, hey, we want to do X, Y, and Z, and we’re looking for a Latino demographic and this and that. Are you guys able to really target based on what we just kind of said? And this was before we even thought about what you’re asking for. So, at the moment, it was like no, and they were kind of trying to explain to us, a Latino male in Texas isn’t the same as like a Latino male in LA. So that kind of sparked that in us where it was like, well, how do we start to really categorize our network and things like that. That’s kind of what we’ve really been spending the last eight months doing is just compiling the network in a way that we know exactly who to send the brief to, what groups or what prisons to send these very specific specifications too.
Vincent Bragg: I think that’s the part that we do really well is picking the right individuals. And I believe as kind of the leader, that’s actually my gift. I’m actually able to see the potential in someone that maybe they don’t even see in themselves. So it’s really just about framing that in a way that they can understand and believe that they can do whatever the thing is.
Josh Coon: And you’re talking about the ideas that are coming from the men and women you’re working with, and one of the things I wonder about, I kind of think about it in my own head is my creative diet, like what you put in in terms of life experiences and inspirations dramatically impacts what creativity you put out. So do you think some of these ideas are so radically different from what a brand might see in their advertising world generally is because their life experiences are so different and so much closer to the demographic that you’re actually trying to market to?
Vincent Bragg: I think there’s a whole bit of truth to that. I actually think from my experience is that the experiences aren’t really different. And the way I like to look at it is like different dialects. Even just here in America. So you think about the African American population of America. You go down south, they have a totally different dialect than say we do here on the West Coast or even on the East Coast. There’s all these different dialects, and even like from a corporate standpoint. I sit down with leaders all the time. I sat down with a guy, very huge CEO, and I come to find out, we’ve read a lot of the same books, we’ve come to a lot of the same conclusions, philosophies, things like that. It’s just I got there differently. I climbed the mountain differently than he did. But ultimately, we still both are at the top of the mountain.
Vincent Bragg: So yes, because the experience is different, I think ConCreates and myself kind of act as a translator. So, if you think about, maybe this might be a bad example, but you think about Lewis and Clark, they’re like kind of going across the entire country, they’re kind of navigating this space where they don’t really know how to communicate with different individuals and they bring a translator along with them to help them navigate through their journey. And I believe that that’s kind of what ConCreates acts as for the men and women we serve but then also from a brand perspective or an agency or industry perspective, we just provide that kind of translation where these two worlds can can coexist.
Devon Higby: That is, I don’t know, I find myself speechless after a lot of what you say, in part because there’s so much to it that is just kind of like, duh. It’s sort of like I don’t know why it’s so revolutionary but it kind of is all at the same time. And so, you have this business model that nobody else has and you have this population that you’re crowdsourcing for them and creating all these ideas that is so unique. And one of the things that I think you’re bringing to the market that no one else is those radical ideas.
Devon Higby: Can you walk us through how you pitch those radical ideas to these clients? I feel like every agency’s got clients saying, oh, I really want to think outside the box, I really want to like rally push to the edge, and then you give them an idea, and they’re like, oh, no, no, no. They sort of shove it all back into the comfort box. How do you pitch these radical ideas or how do you sell them? Are you and your team ever able not to be convicts to your clients or is that always in the mix?
Vincent Bragg: I think it is. For us, that’s okay. So for me, I think just even as like a CEO and founder of ConCreates, it’s like I get a chance to lead with my flaws. When I was in prison, I would read all these publications and I would see this CEO had to step down because of this and that and we thought this person was this. For me, I’m like, well, you guys already know what I’ve done. It’s like, even if I make any mistakes along the way, for me, it kind of just feels like, hey, I’m okay with my mistakes.
Vincent Bragg: But when it comes to like, and I’ve been in several pitches, and maybe the last couple weeks, we’ve lost pitches, or we might have came down to the wire against maybe another agency or whatever. But ultimately, we have so many ideas banked it’s just like, we can’t win them all. It’s just a numbers game. And being convicts, I think people really are impressed with what we present. I think a lot of times people would think that maybe our work would be subpar because of the stigma of being formerly incarcerated or incarcerated that the work wouldn’t have the same kind of weight or professionalism.
Vincent Bragg: But since we’ve been kind of really like in the majors, since we kind of got to the major leagues, we’ve been hitting home runs. So it’s not discouraging. We’re sitting down with companies and we’re like, this is what it’s going to cost. That’s the thing for us is more about, just because we’re formerly incarcerated doesn’t make the work cheaper, and really trying to exercise our work is just as good as your regular agency is really what it boils down for us is.
Josh Coon: Right, right. Thinking about your professional journey, what were the three biggest mistakes that you learned from as a creative professional coming into the advertising and the marketing world?
Vincent Bragg: I always remember this because I feel like it was so detrimental because it was a huge, huge, huge company. I’m not going to mention the name. But essentially, we had been having phone calls and things like that. I happened to be in the same city as my PLC at the time, and thought, hey, let’s get together. I approached the situation like it was maybe more casual, but come to find out, they really wanted me to come with a deck and creds deck and all these different things.
Vincent Bragg: So I think being prepared for anything is really important and it was a huge mistake because we haven’t done business with that company. I feel like if I was prepared, even though my impression was that it would have been more casual than anything, even if I still was prepared, I think I would have had a better outcome. So I would always use that as my number one thing is just to always kind of be prepared for anything. So, I would say that was one of my biggest mistakes.
Vincent Bragg: I think another big mistake, and this is more internal than maybe outward facing is really just thinking about how do you pick your team? When you see potential in someone else who doesn’t see that potential in themselves, what is that level of communication? Just really working on how to communicate what’s expected, just educating individuals. So you got to remember, I’ve taken a bunch of untraditionally trained individuals and put them in an industry that for them they might not even known existed. And so, I think one mistake that I made as a creator or a leader is articulating or educating maybe better as to what’s expected or what the proper protocols are and things like that. Maybe that’s probably number three, but that would definitely be a mistake.
Vincent Bragg: I think, again, this is probably like a piggyback off of what I said earlier, but just realizing like there’s a bigger component to what we’re doing outside of just really getting these radical ideas. And so, I’m going to answer two questions at once. And one of those questions that you asked earlier is like, are we going to always be convicts to people and how do you pitch and sell these ideas when they’re so out of the box and so radical?
Vincent Bragg: Well, one of the things that I think ties into this is like, this is also a social enterprise. You know what I mean? So, I think we’re so enamored with the fact that there’s just this new population of people that no one in the industry is really considered to be creatives that we’re forgetting like that we’re changing lives. We’re changing the trajectory of someone’s life based on providing this opportunity. So, that’s kind of the way I also sell it in the end, it’s like, it’s not just about the creativity in the work and the idea, but it’s also about the social impact that you’re having on these men and women’s lives.
Vincent Bragg: And so, to actually answer the number two slot is, yes, there’s this huge kind of like mental health component and reentry component dealing with this population of folks that I think we’re starting to uncover is also very, very important. And when you come from prison, for me, it’s the same as if you come from war. I wouldn’t say it’s exactly the same but it has the same kind of effects. When you’re in fight or flight mode 18 hours a day or 24 hours a day that just changing laws and releasing people and not preparing them for this overwhelming mental challenge that they’re going to have in order to reacclimate in society because prison rules are different than society rules.
Vincent Bragg: And as a small example, it’s like stepping on someone’s shoes or bumping into someone and not saying excuse me or cutting someone in line and not acknowledging that or apologizing is huge. It’s so big in prison, that when you walk out of prison, everybody’s moving so fast, they’re bumping you, they’re doing this, they’re doing that, especially in New York. You’re in New York, people are moving really, really fast and they’re not really aware of your presence or acknowledging your presence, if you’re not educated on like, hey, this is a reality for you when you get out of prison, you could potentially resort back to that way of life or that way of thinking. And that’s just something that I’m realizing that I think was a mistake in building a company and not factoring that part is.
Devon Higby: So what would be three tips you would have for someone who’s either currently incarcerated or formerly incarcerated who wants to be more than their worst day?
Vincent Bragg: My top three tips for sure would be to not take your foot off the gas, to be relentless. I don’t think, it’s tougher than doing something illegal. Like selling drugs I think is much easier than having a cell phone store and selling charges. You know what I mean? So that would be the thing. If you want to be more than your worst day, then don’t let up. The same way you took those chances that put you in prison, you’re going to have to take some chances and some risks to be successful in a legal endeavor.
Vincent Bragg: My next tip would be to educate yourself on whatever you’re getting yourself into. And I think that was even something that we used to talk about in prison is like, wow, I’m in federal prison, I didn’t realize it was going to be this much time for doing this. It’s like, well, then why did you get into that industry if you didn’t really know what the consequences or really know the landscape or anything like that? So really, just make sure that you’re just up on whatever industry it is you’re going into. What are the trends? How do you spot opportunities? How do you look forward into the future and see where things are going before they go there? Really just be informed, be informed would be number two.
Vincent Bragg: And then three, which is really should be number one, it’s just self-realization. I think prison gives you a lot of time and ability to really self-reflect. I think when you get out of prison, after doing all that self-reflection, that part kind of stops, where it’s like, yo, I’ve read all these books and I got a grasp on like myself. But then you get into environments that scratch away at what you’ve kind of built on. So I would really be more vigilant on your internal self coming out of prison.
Josh Coon: That’s fantastic advice, honestly, for anybody. So what’s next for ConCreate? It sounds like you have really learned a lot in the last year, you’re talking about all the different audiences that you have, a lot of the different ways you’re relating to the people you’re working with. Kind of what’s next in 2020? Where do you see things going next?
Vincent Bragg: Obviously, we set a very realistic goal for 2019, which was to strictly become the agency to watch. I think we’ve done a really good job closing out 2019 becoming an agency to watch. In 2020, I think now we’re just focused on given the world something to see, which is what our output is going to be looking like. We’re kind of like in a few different arenas that I’m really excited about, which is kind of like branded content, stuff like that.
Vincent Bragg: I’m really, really excited about education. I think that is going to be a really big thing for us as an agency to be able to actually train the men and women behind bars on the skill sets that, and the different opportunities. So you think about a 30 second ad, a lot of people don’t really realize all the jobs involve that thing and just really being able to educate the men and women on those things I think is going to be really big for us in 2020 for men and women being released because of new law changes, policy changes, things like that. And I think ultimately, you guys can just expect to really just see really cool shit.
Devon Higby: What’s a trend in the industry for 2020 that you see coming?
Vincent Bragg: A trend in the industry that I see coming is honestly like really more brands actually taking a huge stamp. I mean, one thing I love like what Procter and Gamble is doing with some of their content stuff. And I think you’re going to start seeing a lot more brands gravitating towards that considering the marketplace is really adamant about buying products from a brand that actually stands for something that they believe in. And so, I think from a content standpoint, you’re going to see a lot more meaningful content.
Josh Coon: Yeah, I think that’s definitely true. And there’s everybody from Nike, there’s so many brands that are really taking a stand and trying to mean something to their audience. And at least a lot of the research that we do, the younger audience in particular is almost demanding it from brands.
Vincent Bragg: Absolutely. And same with us, we noticed that the younger crowd is almost like I would rather pay $10 for a bottle of water if I knew someone was getting it, you know what I mean? So, brands that actually are standing for something, it’s like, okay, cool, now how are you articulating that this is what you stand for? I think you’re going to start to see a lot more meaningful content. I say that from a standpoint of even brands are engaging us for that particular thing as well. I think that will be the trend of 2020, especially with, 2020 is a big year. There’s the Olympics, there’s the election, there’s the census. There’s all these different things that are happening that mean something to society or at least our country. And so, that’s what I believe. I believe we’re going to see a lot more meaningful content.
Josh Coon: Nice. Two final questions. One of the reasons that we’ve really wanted to talk to you the more and more we learned about you is we believe very strongly in what we call noble ambition, that ambition alone left unchecked can be powerful but it can also be destructive. But ambition combined with nobility, nobility meaning the betterment of all with good, can be transformative. And we think that you are somebody who certainly has seen and exhibited that kind of noble ambition. So could you talk just for a moment about how that sounds to you? Does that sound authentic, does that sound true to you? How has that maybe helped you or impacted the work you’ve done?
Vincent Bragg: Yeah. So for one, thank you because I think this has kind of been a thankless position that I’ve taken, and responsibility. But ultimately, when you think of mobility, you think of a Nobel Peace Prize or what would constitute a Nobel Peace Prize or something to that magnitude. And for me, I think just sitting in prison, again, I like to tell stories, so forgive me. So, I went to prison and everyone started turning their backs on me. I mean, people’s families I took care of, just all these different things left me kind of hardened and hurt.
Vincent Bragg: But once I got to prison and I started to really, really self-reflect, I started to realize that I took way more from society than I actually gave. I started to realize I didn’t have meaningful relationships. A lot of people hung around for the lifestyle. A lot of people hung around because I was a source of income for them. And so I started to realize I didn’t really have meaningful relationships, and being in prison, you’re in a cell with a guy for eight, nine months, you begin to know him better than maybe family members you’ve known your whole life. So, that’s kind of what set me out to really think about how do I do something meaningful, how do I contribute to society rather than take from it and how do I leave a legacy for generations to come?
Josh Coon: Fantastic. So final question for us, right? We’re all the audience, we’re listening to this. What can we do? How can we help kind of be the change that needs to happen? So from your point of view, if we want to change the stigma of people who’ve been incarcerated, if we want to allow them that transformational opportunity of a second chance, what would you advise us to do to kind of help be that change?
Vincent Bragg: Well, I think, I’m going to be bias in the way that I say this, but you have to give them a chance. You got to give us a shot. When you have brands or agencies like, oh, we would love to be a part of this, then ultimately, it’s like, hire these men and women, hire us. Let us show you what we can do to be able to present that value and to realize one mistake shouldn’t define someone for a lifetime.
Vincent Bragg: That would be my ultimate way for individuals to get involved. It’s like, I think it would be a great perspective to have someone with criminal history. And there’s plenty of entrepreneurs out there that have criminal history, and maybe those voices need to be amplified. So, if I’m talking to you specifically and looking at what it is you do, then maybe these voices need to be amplified on this platform in a way that continues to help individuals to use their voice to help further along that mission of changing the way that people view people with criminal history, and then also help people with criminal history view themselves.
Vincent Bragg: But if I’m talking to a broader audience, then I would say like, I mean, utilize exactly what it is you’re doing and think about this population instead of, diversity and inclusion for me just sounds a lot like people are just checking off boxes. Okay, we have a woman. Okay, we have a black guy. Okay, we have whatever. And no one thinks about people with criminal history and I’m not saying like it should be another box that’s checked off, but like these different experiences and perspectives make everyone’s life better when we’re able to understand where someone else is coming from.
Vincent Bragg: So, whatever business or industry you’re in, when you start thinking about how do you diversify your perspective, I would also be thinking about this population and hiring this population and giving them a shot at whatever it is they’re looking to accomplish on planet earth.
Devon Higby: Do you think that is achieved in part by removing questions on applications having to do with do you have a felony conviction in your history? Or is it more just not sort of limiting applicants who answer that question affirmatively?
Vincent Bragg: Well, I think it’s just like anything else, right? Like, yes, okay, even if I don’t ask that question, I can still run a background check and find out myself. So, I don’t think that really is the step. I think the step is, for me, personally is like, actually, what a win for ConCreates or just this population would be is the more that I show the parallels between this particular crime or this particular skill set in the corporate world is when people start to sit down in that interview and say, hey, it says that you went to prison for robbing banks. Tell me about that. We have a strategy position available and we’d like to know how you think and how you strategize. And I would like for people to start to think of this as an asset rather than kind of a liability. I think that would be a better solution to really start to think about the advantages of some of these different experiences, whether that’s criminal history or not.
Josh Coon: Fantastic. It’s been so great to talk with you. It’s been really inspiring. We love the work you’re doing. So anybody out there who wants to check out ConCreates, learn more, where can they go? What can they go check out to learn more about you and the work that you’re doing?
Vincent Bragg: So, our website is concreates.com, that’s C-O-N-C-R-E-A-T-E-S.com. And all of our social sandals are the same across the board. It would be @C-O-N-C-R-E-8-T-E-S. And that would be for Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, whatever. Yeah, if you are someone that has criminal history, reach out to us, join the network. If you are someone who knows someone who has criminal history or just inspired to be involved, reach out to us, our emails, our contact information is on the website. We’re looking forward to hearing from you.
Josh Coon: Awesome. Thank you so much for joining us and for your openness in the conversation. It’s been great talking with you and learning about all the great work that you’re doing. And everybody out there, you heard the handles, you heard the website. Go check it out and learn more for yourself. Thank you so much, Vincent.
Devon Higby: Thanks Vincent.
Vincent Bragg: Thank you both. I appreciate it.
Well, that’s our show. We hope you’re inspired to pursue your noble ambition. Let’s chase it together. This has been a Truth Collective production.