Accomplished Social Entrepreneur | Founder, Comeback Snacks | Prison Reform Advocate
Emily O’Brien is the founder of the booming social enterprise Comeback Snacks. Her evolution from prison to a successful entrepreneur is a story that helps individuals and organizations find inspiration to transform challenges into opportunities. Emily’s keynotes recount her struggles and wins, addressing painful lessons, resilience, determination, forgiveness, and the ability to find strength within oneself to build positive opportunities from hardship.
While in Federal prison, Emily’s entrepreneurial spirit motivated her courageous decision to make a powerful comeback. Inspired by the unique seasonings her fellow inmates used on their popcorn, she founded Comeback Snacks (Cons & Kernels). Relying on hand-written letters to communicate with people who would assist her with market research, branding and business strategy, Emily laid the foundation of Comeback Snacks while still in prison.
After her release, she hit the ground running, building her social enterprise by offering her popcorn snacks at various events and networking with local business owners to boost sales. Comeback Snacks is now available at major groceries, independent stores, and online retailers across North America.
Emily uses her business and voice to advocate for prison reforms and eliminate the stigma attached to people with prior convictions. She provides formerly incarcerated persons and those in need of a second chance with employment and mentorship opportunities to lead them down a new pathway of confidence and new opportunities.
Emily partners with several organizations, including the Elizabeth Fry Society, a non-profit social service agency in the Canadian justice system. She has raised funds through her business to support great causes like The Yonge Street Mission to help at-risk youths. Emily was recognized for her efforts by receiving the 2020 YWCA Women of Distinction Award for Business Leadership & Entrepreneurship, The 2022 Women Empowerment Award as the Entrepreneur of the Year, and also the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Community Service Award in 2022.
Emily O’Brien has been featured on Global, CTV, CBC, Vice, SiriusXM, CHCH, The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, Toronto Life, and much more.
It’s easy to be told to recover or rebound after a difficult circumstance in life, but this is far easier said than done. Join Emily O’Brien, CEO and Founder of Comeback Snacks, as she walks you through her own ‘comeback blueprint’ that she has designed after successfully navigating the criminal justice system and the world of entrepreneurship.
Starting a small business is tough. Can you imagine what it’s like starting one behind bars? Join Emily O’Brien as she takes you through the trials, tribulations, and life lessons acquired after starting her successful business in federal prison and elevating it to new heights after her release. From forgiving one’s past mistakes to helping others in need, Emily discusses how the real ‘profit’ needed to succeed in business and life is not simply financial, but emotional.
As a female entrepreneur in the male-dominated food retail industry, Emily O’Brien has learned how to survive in a tough market while facing constant pressure. From starting her own business in federal prison to navigating the peaks and troughs of Canada’s food industry, Emily’s experience and lessons learned while successfully growing her company, Comeback Snacks, are shared through two crucial components of successful entrepreneurship today: kindness and resilience.