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“I’m not saying I’m going to change the world, but I guarantee that I will spark the brain that will change the world.” – Tupac Shakur
Good morning, Heroes,
This week’s quote was provided by our featured hero, Marlin Jenkins.
It may come as no surprise to those who know me that I’m not very well-versed in the music of Tupac Shakur. I’m more of a 90’s rock and country man myself.
However, I definitely understand his logic here.
We may not be able to reach millions of people, but the positivity we bring to others’ lives is still significant. Whether it’s through music like Tupac or just a friendly word of encouragement, all of us have the ability to influence others.
It’s up to each of us whether that encounter and that influence will be positive — or negative. Choose wisely.
For this week, I challenge all of you to say a kind word when you really want to yell an expletive or use a certain finger. Haha.
Difficult, I know. Same for me.
But, it’s how we begin to re-frame our mindset. You can do it.
“An asset, without question.”
That’s how Marlin Jenkins unapologetically describes his childhood and his past.
Born to a single mother in Peekskill, NY, he grew up poor, homeless for a time, and fatherless for most of his life. However, Marlin is anything but bitter.
Instead, he says he’s had “a great life.” Marlin is not a victim of his circumstances. Rather, he’s a conqueror.
When asked how his past shaped him, his answer to me was truly inspiring:
“First, we had to be creative with everything – money, food, time, housing.There’s a scene in Will Smith’s “Pursuit of Happyness”, when he is convincing his son that he has a time machine, they see dinosaurs in the train station, need to find a cave and doing his best to hold the door closed when in the bathroom stall – that represents our way of surviving, imagining a better life, and visioning how to pursue it.My past has shaped everything about my present and my future.”
Despite all of the setbacks, he still graduated from high school. And, in a great display of brotherly love, waited a year so he could attend Fordham University with his twin brother, Michael, who suffers from cerebral palsy. He didn’t want Michael to go alone.
His post-college years took him to various telecommunications companies, including Verizon and AT&T. However, after 9/11, he started his own business: QuadInfinity (QI), a gaming facility. In founding QI, Marlin “realized [he] wanted to do more with and for people.”
“While I ran QI, I donated time and space to homeless families through a nonprofit partner. At the time, I didn’t think much of the decision, but after watching the families interact in the space, laugh, share and overall enjoy themselves, I was inspired by their happiness. It was this interaction that led me to want to create a business solving a problem for families like my own.”
And so he did.
Fueled by the heartbreak of seeing a little girl crying to her mother about not being able to finish her homework due to lack of Internet access, Marlin started his current company, Neture. That was what “connected me (no pun intended) to solving the digital divide,” he explains. “I was fortunate enough to have experience in telecom and nonprofit management to enhance my path.”
Founded in 2015, Neture is “a start-up offering low-income Bronx residents free access to online education, healthcare and finance resources. Residents can also buy 25 megabit per second (Mbps) broadband for wider web surfing if they want to,” according to Marlin’s feature in BBC. As he told me, “… as the world becomes more and more digital, more and more families are being left behind.”
Neture is on a mission to fix that problem.
But, the plan isn’t without its doubters. In a recent post on LinkedIn, Marlin writes:
“I was testing the service in the South Bronx and presenting my early research to some angel investors and one prominent angel said something that I will never forget. Upon hearing my service and target market, he said, “Why would anyone focus on that market? No one wants to invest in that market, there’s no money to be made there.””
Obviously, this shocked Marlin as it would anybody. But, after digging in and doing his research, he found what he called his “holy grail” – The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid by C.K. Prahalad.
Why is Prahalad’s book so important? As Marlin told me, “It’s important because it answers a fundamental question that many don’t want to consider – how to create a profitable business that serves the billions of working poor in the world.”
For the angel investor who said “no one cares about that demographic,” Marlin explains, “The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid proves that wrong.”
He overcame poverty. Now, he’s overcoming the doubters.
Marlin 1, Angel Investor 0.
However, the real winners in all of this are the families Marlin and Neture continue to help. His life, experience, and continued generosity speak volumes for all of us who wallow in our self-pity.
You don’t have to be a victim. If Marlin Jenkins can overcome his circumstances, you can overcome anything. As it says in Isaiah 61:3, “…bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”
Marlin turned a rough beginning into a magnificent ending that helps so many people. That’s the beauty of the human spirit.
I’ll close with Marlin’s advice to all the folks out there trying to overcome difficulty as he did:
“Don’t let anyone tell you that you aren’t enough – you are the best there is at what you want to be – go show em!”
Check out the full interview with Marlin at HeroStory.org/Marlin-Jenkins.
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