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How this Graduate Went from Incarceration to Entrepreneurship

Kevin Kramer has achieved quite a bit in his life thus far. He’s a graduate of Mott Community College (MCC) and an experienced health and wellness coordinator at an addiction recovery center in Michigan. He’s also a small business owner, launching his entrepreneurial journey while heavily involved with larger responsibilities.  

“I started my own business while being a full-time single dad and still working with people in addiction recovery.”

That drive and commitment helped fuel Kevin’s educational and professional success. It’s also why the MCC chapter invited Kevin to give the keynote address at its recent NSLS induction ceremony. 

Kevin’s energy in pursuit of his goals is an inspiration to new and existing members of the NSLS. In part, because of just how far he’s come.

How Drug Abuse Led to Redemption 

In his keynote address at the MCC NSLS induction ceremony, Kevin said he had a fairly regular childhood except for the overwhelming urge to be accepted by his peers. 

That desire led him to experiment with drugs in middle school, which turned into a full-blown drug addiction in high school, where he overdosed for the first of six times. 

“Drug use gave me an immediate crowd, which was my driving need, and reinforced the drug use. I was self-centered and self-seeking to the fullest extent, and then it got worse. After six hospitalizations for overdoses, I know that I’m lucky to be here. I’m blessed.” 

He then began experiencing greater pressures and significant obstacles to getting the money necessary to feed his addiction. When asking for change from people no longer sufficed, he resorted to theft. 

“A home invasion charge led to a 60-month prison sentence, which was the moment I knew I’d finally had enough. I was going to do what I could with the time I was given to make positive changes in my life.” 

Making the Most of Time and Resources  

During Kevin’s incarceration at Thumb Correctional Facility, he was introduced to representatives from MCC and the NSLS, whom he credits with helping him get his life back on track. Those connections and his willingness to form goals led him to success. 

“It started with a vision, which led to writing down goals and taking action. That’s a very brief summary but the bottom line is this: your mindset is key and so are the fundamental skills of discipline and consistency. I developed them over time and understand the importance of them.”

Kevin was released in 2021 and moved into a recovery community. He channeled his energy into fitness and realized he wanted to share that passion with others who were struggling. Two years later, he’d designed and launched the health and wellness program for which he’s now the coordinator. 

“I run a mindfulness recovery program focused on showing people how living in alignment with their values brings genuine happiness. Every day I’m so grateful and truly believe that this gratitude brings more blessings into my life. When I got out of prison, I was overwhelmingly grateful just for a new toothbrush. I try to bring that gratitude into every aspect of my life and work.”


How the NSLS Framed a Path to Success 

Kevin credits the NSLS with developing the kinds of skills that helped him transcend his past and create a new future. 

“Being a member of the NSLS has been instrumental in the way I’ve reached my goals and grown as a person. Primarily, my membership pushed me out of my comfort zone so that I could take action steps toward my objectives. It also helped me resolve my paralyzing fear of public speaking, which has been instrumental in so many opportunities.” 

When it comes to leadership, Kevin knows that mentors are all around if you know where to look for them. He regards many people in his life as role models and reminds us that leadership skills are often demonstrated outside of the traditional leader-group paradigm. 

“I look up to my father because his mindset has been able to guide me into developing characteristics that are necessary for the growth I’ve undergone. I also look up to my mother for showing me how kindness and compassion can be taught through taking action, as she has taught me for years. I’d also include my employer who has a facility for turning visions into reality.”

Kevin’s Advice for Future Leaders

Kevin’s work on learning new skills and developing his business have given him the space and context to think about the ways in which he views leadership. 

“Leadership means taking experience, strength, and hope to help others work toward actualizing their potential in a mutually beneficial relationship.”

Leadership and entrepreneurship both require a certain perspective on teamwork and service. Kevin believes that servant leadership is a key to his success. Instead of wanting to fit in and be loved, he now looks for ways to serve and cultivate relationships

“Humility is key in growth. Stay open and when you become a leader, remain humble. Take all the blame for team failures and give all of the credit for successes back to the team.”

As for Kevin, he’s set his sights on the next goal he intends to achieve. 

“I’m committing to building sustainable income, primarily in my business, in order to create financial freedom for myself and my family.”

As for his debilitating fear of public speaking, he's overcome that too. He gave a moving and empowering induction keynote address where he proclaimed, “Gratitude is what continues to bring more abundance into my life. If you can embrace that and stay present in your journey, I can promise you that all of your wildest dreams will come true. Gratitude is key. Presence is key. Enjoy the journey.”

Learn more about how to visualize and transform your life in this episode of Motivational Mondays, featuring guest Robin Arzón, VP of fitness programming and head instructor at Peloton.