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Meet the Company Creating Jobs for Former Gang Members Homeboy Industries' mission is to create jobs for former L.A. gang members. Now with a forward-thinking CEO and high-profile licensing and distribution deals, Homeboy is taking good works to an even greater business level.

By Melinda Newman

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

At the two-story Los Angeles headquarters of Homeboy Industries, one of the country's largest gang intervention programs, you can purchase pastries, sandwiches, coffee mugs, T-shirts, onesies, freshly baked bread and much more. But the biggest item Homeboy Industries sells is hope.

Founded 25 years ago by Father Gregory Boyle, then a young Jesuit priest at the Delores Mission Parish in the heavily gang-infested Boyle Heights neighborhood, Homeboy Industries takes former male and female gang members and trains them through its social enterprises. It also offers counseling, legal aid, educational programs and services such as tattoo removal.

For the first few years, Boyle focused on job placement for the ex-gang members (or "homies," as he calls them) who were eager to change their lives--especially those with prison records. But he quickly found that the number of homies far outpaced the available jobs. In 1992, with money donated by the late film producer Ray Stark, Homeboy Industries (renamed from Jobs for a Future) bought a dilapidated bakery--simply because it was available--and started Homeboy Bakery. "If it had been an upholstery shop … If it had been a print store …," Boyle muses. "There was no business plan at all. Zero. Stupid."

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