Refoundry Entrepreneurs

After a year of paid training, Refoundry participants move off payroll to launch their own ventures. They remain on site, receiving continued support in business management and planning; access to expanded sales markets; graphic design and marketing assistance; and more, before moving out on their own when their businesses have achieved financial self-sufficiency.  

Meet our Refoundry entrepreneurs!


Gene Manigo,  Owner & Founder Kambui Custom Craft

Gene was born in Charleston, SC and raised in Brooklyn, NY. In the fall of 2015 Gene began Kambui Custom Craft, specializing in home furnishings crafted from salvaged wood. Gene's pieces accentuate the natural beauty, character and form of the hand-chosen materials he uses to craft in his one-of-a-kind pieces. A well-respected mentor, in 2017 Gene became a certified pastor, allowing him to minister in NYS prisons, and launched his own prison ministry, Tri-Unity, to assist others returning home to build the tools they need for success.  Kambui Custom Craft pieces are available at the Brooklyn Flea every Saturday and by special order. His exquisite mirrors are available at the Cisco Home Gallery in ABC Home. For examples of Gene's work, see below or find him on instagram at @kambuicustomcraft or



Ralphy Dominguez & WALTER ESCOBAR, owners, Pen & Pistol

Born and raised in the South Bronx, Ralphy Dominguez was a star student athlete when the lure of quick money in the drug trade landed him in federal prison. There, he enrolled in a leather work class and discovered a true passion for this artisan craft. After release, Ralphy began to draw his own designs. "When I put pen to paper I felt I was reinventing myself, as if I was now able to create the life and future I wanted." Dumas's famous line from The Count of Monte Cristo came to Ralphy's mind: "More dread from a pen and a sheet of paper than a sword or pistol." In that moment, Pen & Pistol was born. Ralphy understood that this sense of self-determination could help others choose creativity over crime. Ralphy and business partner Walter Escobar teamed up with Refoundry, which supports their goal of employing and inspiring others emerging from prison, and providing consumers with high quality handcrafted leather goods. Find Pen & Pistol products at West Elm's Broadway and Chelsea stores, at Lazaro Soho, every Sunday at Brooklyn Flea in Dumbo, and online at, or on Instagram at @penandpistol or

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Refoundry Ventures offer one-of-a-kind custom pieces made to order - for more information email


Dexter NURSE, Refoundry training program graduate

Not all Refoundry participants pursue their own businesses. We help each participant access their particular passion and definition of success, and provide the infrastructure and support to help them achieve their goals. After completing Refoundry's initial training regimen, we helped Dexter apply to graduate programs, and he will be attending the Columbia School of Social Work in the fall of 2017. Dexter has many talents and interests; he is on the Advisory Board of Carnegie Hall's Musical Connections program, and wrote an article for Playbill about how music helped him while in prison and to prepare for returning home. He is helping the non-profit Creative Time plan for their next event, and has applied for a grant to provide people coming home from prison the opportunity to play and record music. Until he enters Columbia in the fall, Dexter will run Refoundry's Hand-in-Hand events.  

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James L. Eleby Jr., Owner & Founder Eleby Designs

James grew up in Harlem and was first arrested at age 15; he never spent more than six months out of prison until he joined Refoundry in 2015. In September 2016 James launched his own venture, Eleby Designs, specializing in home furnishings crafted from salvaged wood and metal. Crafted from his artistic vision, James carefully selects pieces of wood, and assembles them in a unique design, often creating breathtaking mosaics grain, tone and texture. James was profiled in a November 22, 2016 Wall Street Journal article, “Budding Entrepreneur Leaves Prison Past Behind.”  James has commented, "Before I used to drive around looking for places I could rob; now I drive around looking for things that have been thrown out that I can transform into treasures." Eleby Designs pieces are available at Brooklyn Flea and by special order. For examples of James' work, see below or find him on instagram at @elebydesigns or     JAMES & ELEBY DESIGNS ARE ON HIATUS UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE