Former Inmate to Business Magnate with Coss Marte

Brian Thompson chats with Coss Marte, a former inmate turned business magnate. Coss is the founder of CONBODY, the first fitness method developed in prison. Through CONBODY and his two other ventures, Coss is fulfilling his mission to aid and uplift the formerly incarcerated community.

On the episode, Coss shares how he found his passion for fitness after losing 70 pounds during his incarceration as well as his struggle to start a company as someone in and out of the prison system. He also discusses how his “figure it out and survive” motto has spurred him to create three ventures, including one in the legal cannabis industry.

Episode Highlights

Mission-driven businesses do good from front to back.

Coss defines a mission-driven business as one that doesn’t just say it’s doing good upfront — but also does something good on the back end.

“You want to make money and do good as well,” he said.

For Coss, the tripartite mission of CONBODY is to destigmatize the formerly incarcerated community, ease their transition back to society, and change the criminal justice system — all barriers he’s faced as a formerly incarcerated person himself.

“I saw the pain I had to go through, and I really didn’t want people who were my friend or my people that were coming out of the system to go through that,” he said.

You don’t need a formal business plan.

Coss created his business plan for CONBODY while in solitary confinement. He didn’t have a formal mission, list of values, or vision statement. But he did write down the extensive workout he used to get fit while incarcerated and how he could turn that into an opportunity.

“I did what I wrote,” Coss said. “I came home and I started doing it in the local park where I grew up, and eventually, one person turned to two, to three, to five, to six, and my mission started evolving.”

If you don’t ask, you don’t eat.

Coss’s mother always told him: If you don’t ask, you don’t eat. It’s a strategy he took to heart when developing CONBODY.

“When I came home, I validated by getting one customer in the street, and just stopping them and talking to them and telling them what I’m doing,” Coss said. “I got a gazillion nos, but fortunately enough, I’ve had a few yeses.”

Coss eagerly shares his mother’s advice with fellow entrepreneurs who have smart but unvalidated business plans. That includes Ivy League MBA students who have incredible, technical business ideas but have yet to ask whether anybody wants their products.

“You gotta ask,” Coss said. “If you go to the market and nobody wants this shit you just lost a lot of time.”

Resources + Links

About Brian and the Mission Driven Business Podcast

Brian Thompson, JD/CFP, is a tax attorney and certified financial planner who specializes in providing comprehensive financial planning to LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs who run mission-driven businesses. The Mission Driven Business podcast was born out of his passion for helping social entrepreneurs create businesses with purpose and profit.

On the podcast, Brian talks with diverse entrepreneurs and the people who support them. Listeners hear stories of experiences, strength, and hope and get practical advice to help them build businesses that might just change the world, too.