Tracey Syphax’s inspirational story for 400,000 Philadelphians living with criminal records

May 2, 2024

Tracey Syphax [Leading with Conviction™ 2019] is a numbers guy — he remembers his inmate number, 226926, and the first time he saw seven digits in his bank account.

“The big picture: Syphax, a Trenton-based real estate developer who co-owns Booker’s restaurant in Philadelphia with his wife, remade himself from a drug-addicted hustler who spent seven years in prison into an entrepreneur.

“When Syphax came home from prison in 1993, he found a job as a roofer and later became the CEO of his own company which generated $1.8 million seven years after he founded it.

“Why it matters: Syphax’s story is inspirational for the more than 400,000 Philadelphians with criminal convictions who want to change their lives after their time behind bars. …

Second Chance Month, Third Chance Month. It should be 12 Chance Months in a year. … We should be giving people the opportunity to succeed in life.

“Axios sat down with Syphax to learn about his life lessons for [formerly incarcerated people] looking to transform their lives. The interview was condensed for clarity.

“On what inmates have in common with entrepreneurs: ‘The ability to be fearless. They’re risk-takers. They’re hustlers. … They’ve sold product. They know organization. They know networking. They’ve just been sold the wrong game.’

“On how solitary confinement changed his life: ‘I was able to find solitude. One thing I did have was a window that faced the New Jersey Turnpike. … I spent a lot of my days gazing out that window and plotting how I was going to change my life.’ …

“On why he set foot back into prisons after his bid: ‘I love teaching in prisons because I tell them all the time I’m the former 226926. You can’t tell me about what you can’t do and what cannot be done. … Entrepreneurs jump out of the plane, and they cut the parachute on the way down.’

“On second chances: ‘Some of them never even got a first chance. … Second Chance Month, Third Chance Month. It should be 12 Chance Months in a year. … We should be giving people the opportunity to succeed in life.’”

Read the full story at


On a recent trip to Las Vegas, Tracey Syphax joined Chef Jeff Henderson for “Breakfast with the Big Homies,” a Chef Jeff Project to “reach young men and women before the criminal justice system does.”

Syphax posted on Facebook, “The young king speaking in the photo was amazing. It’s always appropriate for those who have traveled the road less traveled to drop our knowledge, but when a young 17-year-old gets up and articulates his road to redemption to his peers, it moved me.

“S/O to the visionary leader Chef Jeff for the monumental, life-changing work being done here in Las Vegas to slam the prison doors shut when it comes to our young men and women.”

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