From jail to Dragons’ Den — Emily O’Brien’s journey continues


It’s late Could, and Emily O’Brien is packing up her belongings for the second time in six months.

Her first transfer took her from a Kitchener jail, the place she spent 10 months for smuggling medication, to a residential midway home in Dundas.

Now, she’s heading again into the group.

Since leaving Grand Valley Establishment for Girls in December, it’s been a little bit of a whirlwind for the 30-year-old Hamilton girl, who was not too long ago granted full parole after being sentenced to 4 years in jail in 2015.

Within the final six months, she has pitched to a panel of judges on CBC’s enterprise actuality tv present Dragons’ Den, given greater than 40 talks at faculties, ladies’s teams and firms and continued to develop her specialty popcorn enterprise Cons & Kernels.

Now, the 30-year-old is constructing units for her new podcast Criminally Acclaimed, which is being produced with Digital Canaries Leisure, and making ready to launch a “mini-flagship” location for her enterprise at Dundas’ The HOP City Market — previously the Horn of A lot — after making her connoisseur popcorn in shared kitchen house at The Kitchen Collective for the previous few months.

For sure, O’Brien has been busy.

Learn extra: A Hamilton woman’s journey from St. Lucia to prison

“That is what I do know I’m able to,” stated O’Brien, who not too long ago moved again to her mother’s home earlier than she will get her personal place later this summer season. “With the power I used to be born with, now I’m channelling that into manner higher issues.”

In July 2015, O’Brien was arrested at Pearson airport for importing medication on her manner again from a visit to St. Lucia.

Whereas coming again into the nation along with her co-accused, she was stopped by a border providers officer to whom she confessed having shut to 5 kilos of cocaine sewn into her underwear.

She later pleaded responsible to the offence and was sentenced to 4 years in jail, which is the place she brainstormed the concept behind and launched her enterprise.

The HOP City Market proprietor Jason Gloster first related with O’Brien when she delivered her popcorn to his dad and mom.

After assembly her and studying about her drive and fervour, Gloster invited O’Brien to launch a pop-up store at his location this summer season. In flip, he hopes his enterprise will profit from her social media following.

“Her story is what I actually favored,” he stated. “Everyone makes errors and does dumb stuff once we’re younger.

“She’s only a very intriguing, inspiring, actually pushed particular person, and he or she’s native.”

Whereas her focus is now directed towards having a constructive influence on herself and others, O’Brien says her choices weren’t all destructive earlier than she went to jail.

She labored onerous to construct her small social-media enterprise through the day, which is how she met her co-accused, however she would celebration onerous at evening.

“There are positively some days that I nonetheless miss that way of life, however I’ve changed that socializing at evening and partying with socializing within the morning, going to the fitness center, assembly new individuals,” O’Brien stated.

One of many individuals she met is Simon Winterson of Digital Canaries.

The 2 related over a photograph shoot on the massive movie firm’s jail set, and as soon as they met in particular person, Winterson discovered O’Brien to be a “actual character” with an attention-grabbing story to inform.

He requested if she’d be involved in doing an audio and video podcast for his or her leisure division, and the remainder is historical past.

O’Brien is “dwelling proof” you may’t rush to make assumptions about somebody based mostly on their historical past, he stated.

“You may by no means decide a ebook by its cowl,” he stated.

With the onerous work she’s put in over the past six months, O’Brien was granted full parole, which implies she doesn’t need to do check-ins anymore, and he or she not has to name from a landline as soon as per day.

She should nonetheless keep away from bars and report her relationships.

After getting out of jail, O’Brien needed to share her story with the hope of serving to others earlier than they bought into the identical bother she did, however she didn’t understand how it might be acquired.

She stated she’s been shocked by the quantity of people that have reached out to supply assist but in addition by the methods by which she’s having an influence on others.

She hopes by being candid about her journey, she’s going to encourage others within the system to share their story and see the place it may possibly lead them.

“A mistake can lead you one place however so can proudly owning that mistake,” O’Brien stated. “Clearly you’re not pleased with it, however I’m pleased with how I’m proudly owning it.”

O’Brien’s dad stated he’s “very, very proud,” too.

Whereas his daughter was in jail, John O’Brien stated a part of their discussions targeted on what social good may come from Emily’s expertise.

“You’ve had a horrible expertise, albeit self-inflicted, however on the identical time … even in case you may stop one woman from dealing with the identical kind of state of affairs that she did, then it might be a very good use of her enthusiasm and power,” he stated.

However he couldn’t have imagined it might go fairly the best way it has in how Emily has turned a “tough state of affairs into a very good state of affairs.”

“As we went alongside and sort of journeyed alongside along with her, we did begin to see the sunshine on the finish of the tunnel,” he stated. “ her comparatively younger age, there was a terrific life forward if she selected to pursue that course, and that’s the encouragement we sought to offer.”

Subsequent for O’Brien is focusing extra on her talking engagements and hiring individuals to signify Cons & Kernels on the road.

She is promoting her product at locations together with the YWCA’s Enterprise Out of the Field and is engaged on different partnerships going ahead.

She’s additionally working with a number of authorized companies to assist their purchasers put together for jail and is planning to put in writing a ebook.

“I’m actually truly pleased with myself,” she stated. “I notice I’m able to a lot.”

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