Becoming successful for many business owner means overcoming your past.
August is National Black Business Month and News 6 is honoring them by putting a spotlight on the ones right here in our community.
The first business owner in our "Rooted in Central Florida" series knows all about overcoming obstacles.
Marquis McKenzie, 29, said he knows his journey to being his own boss didn't come easy. He's the owner of Dirt Master, a commercial and residential cleaning company. He said his story of becoming a successful entrepreneur goes deep.
“Sometimes, I do want to break down and cry, because it feels like I’m in a dream sometimes,” said Mckenzie.
When he was 15-years-old, McKenzie was arrested and spent two years behind bars for armed robbery.
"I just went out for no reason and made crazy decisions," said McKenzie. "Having that felony offense, it tags you for life."
But he’s not letting his conviction override his passion. He said he wants his story to be motivation for his own kids, and also for teens who make mistakes like he did.
“A lot of these youth don’t realize or see the clear message that you can make more money the legal way, instead of out in the streets,” said McKenzie.
When Reporter Jerry Askin asked McKenzie what he’d tell his 15-year-old self today, McKenzie said, “You’ve got to live with those decisions.”
When McKenzie isn’t cleaning, he’s spending his time motivating juvenile offenders through his nonprofit called CORE. The goal is to help them find jobs and not go back to jail. It also geared towards teaching entrepreneurship to at-risk youth
“I don’t want them out there in the streets feeling like they have to rob,” said McKenzie.
Read more about his nonprofit by clicking here.
Mckenzie has also traveled to Tallahassee pushing for the passing of Amendment 4 through his work with the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition. He’s currently the regional organizer for the organization.
He said he prides himself on giving back and helping others, knowing that things for him could have been worse.
“I think if I didn’t get stopped I’d be dead or incarcerated for a longer time,” said McKenzie.
If you’d like to learn more about McKenzie’s non-profit or his cleaning business, you can visit www.TheDirtMasters.com or call 407-406-9640.
Throughout the month of August and beyond News 6 and ClickOrlando.com will highlight some of the Black-owned businesses in Central Florida and the impact they are making in the community. Learn more at ClickOrlando.com/blackbiz.