Catherine Hoke

Founder & CEO Defy Ventures

The French Canadian immigrant made her entrepreneurial debut at age eight. She later became the first girl on the Davis High School boys wrestling team. It was on the wrestling mat that she developed a noteworthy endurance for humiliation (to this day, she owns the school's record for getting pinned the fastest and the most in her first year). Her bruises and losses prepared her to come alongside others who need to be "scraped off the mat," shined up, and put back in the fight.

Catherine left behind a career in venture capital and private equity to pursue her calling. At age 27, she founded the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP), a nonprofit organization that serves men in the Texas prison system. PEP was nationally recognized for its groundbreaking results, including a recidivism rate of less than 5%, and an employment rate of 98%.

Driven by her hatred for injustice and love for the underdog, Catherine founded Defy in 2010 after being given her own second chance to lead. Catherine became an Ashoka Fellow in 2013, and in 2014, was recognized by Fast Company as one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business. Catherine and her grads have spoken nationally to business and faith-based audiences including The Willow Creek Leadership Summit, SXSW, Catalyst, Harvard and Stanford Business Schools, EO, Chicago Ideas Week, Brooklyn Beta, and Philanthropy Roundtable.

A three-time marathon runner, former rugby player, and California State Wrestling Champion, Catherine still enjoys training and competing in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and submission grappling in her spare time. She resides in New York City with her husband, Charles.


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