NEWARK — For the first time, the nonprofit Operation HOPE is working with formerly incarcerated women who want to start their own businesses, helping them develop plans and matching them up with mentors who will see them through those plans from week to week.

The group's Entrepreneurship Training Program has long worked to empower low- to moderate-income young adults, and now enters a joint partnership with the New Jersey Reentry Corporation, which just opened a new facility in Essex County last week, and numerous other community organizations.

NJRC chair and former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey said 150 women will participate in the program, which he calls "not just training to a job — it's training to a career."

"What we're doing with Operation HOPE is not only training them, but teaching them the tools of financial management so that they can operate a business, so that they can lift themselves out of poverty," McGreevey said.

Part of the services NJRC offers to women released from prison are financial in nature, educating them about banking and loans, cash flow, and simply putting money in a bank account and saving it.

McGreevey said that is in addition to even more basic guidance like establishing a stable workday routine: getting up out of bed, packing a lunch, going to a job, showing up on time, and acting responsibly.

Even for women who desire more, though, McGreevey said it is crucial they stick to those job essentials even as they develop their own plans and dreams.

"We just don't want to limit them to that minimum wage job for the rest of their life," he said. "We want to encourage them to get involved in the community, to make that investment."

The Operation HOPE program gives these women, for the first time, a chance to learn from a mentor who has been successful in the business sector.

At the completion of their education, participants will be able to give a "Shark Tank"-type presentation to test if their business plans are viable. After that, those plans just may become reality.

Patrick Lavery is New Jersey 101.5's afternoon news anchor. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email

Judi's guide to your mail in ballot

More From New Jersey 101.5 FM