Vincent Bragg was still in prison when he came up with the idea for ConCreates, a creative agency network that’s staffed by current and formerly incarcerated individuals.
“I come from such an unconventional background,” he admitted.
Bragg was serving time for more than five years in federal prison for running a drug empire. While behind bars, Bragg said he noticed the untapped creative potential of prisoners—and realized that brands could benefit from their thinking. So he decided to do something about it.
“During that time, I studied as much as I could. I read as much as I could. I hung out with guys who were creative and business-minded,” said Bragg.
Upon his release, Bragg started his own ad agency. He also joined a program called Defy Ventures, which provides entrepreneurship opportunities to men and women with criminal histories. The program helped him work out the agency’s business model, and gave him the chance to pitch his idea at competitions for entrepreneurs.
“I think I lost more than I won, but ultimately it shaped [my] confidence and the ability to talk about the business,” he said, adding that it also helped him get past the shame and embarrassment of being imprisoned.
Through a program mentor, Bragg was introduced to Tim Jones, executive strategy director at 72andSunny New York.
“Tim and I instantly hit it off,” he said. “Our missions were in alignment.”
From there, Jones forged a partnership between 72andSunny New York and ConCreates to help the latter craft its positioning, proposition and visual identity.
“They put together an amazing team to help us get where we are,” Bragg explained.
Bragg, who currently lives in Los Angeles, runs ConCreates alongside Janeya Griffin, co-founder and chief innovation officer of the agency. The ConCreates network spans 436 prisoners and 319 former inmates. It runs on a crowdsourcing model; contributors are paid based on how far their ideas advance.
The agency is currently in talks with a number of brands, including some well-known ones in the music space. For Bragg, many of the skills he honed as a criminal are the same ones he uses today—from networking to forming alliances.
“I was told by a man in prison that I ran my drug business like a Fortune 500, but my product was illegal,” said Bragg. “Those same principles are what I apply today to grow and scale ConCreates.”
“Obviously I’ve made mistakes, like showing up to a meeting unprepared,” Bragg said, “but ultimately I think the biggest mistake I’ve made in my career is just not realizing my potential sooner.”
Instead of letting his status as a former prisoner define or stigmatize him, Bragg has managed to use it to his advantage. “I see potential in things that most people would look at as an inconvenience,” he explained.
How He Got the Gig
Jones said he and Bragg instantly clicked when the two were introduced through a mutual connection.
“His passion for recognizing the creative potential of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people matched our passion at 72andSunny for expanding and diversifying the creative class,” Jones said. “We’re very excited to be able to help take ConCreates to the next level.”
Perseverance helped Bragg break into an industry he knew nothing about. He advises others to keep that in mind when the going gets tough. “Know what it is you want to do, and be intentional about doing that thing,” he said.