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Neture’s Marlin Jenkins headlines the 5th edition of Hero Story. If you want to check out the write-up, head over to HeroStory.org/Neture.
Here is the full text of the interview I had with Marlin.
Hero Story: Please provide a brief backstory for those who don’t know you.
Marlin Jenkins: Born in Peekskill, NY, to a single mother, Regina, and two brothers, Allen and Michael (my twin). While I was poor most of my young life, I had a great life. We were in Peekskill until I was five, then moved to Yonkers until I was in seventh grade, then back to Peekskill until I graduated high school. I waited one year after graduating from high school to go to Fordham U with my twin (he is disabled and I didn’t want him to go away to college on his own, so we went together). After college, worked in telecom until 9/11, then in a variety of other tech positions. I created my first company, QuadInfinity, a gaming facility, when I realized I wanted to do more with and for people. Closed QI after a couple of years, because we couldn’t secure additional funding and took a leadership role in a nonprofit, Mid Bronx Senior Citizens Council…now Neture!
HS: Tell me about your previous struggles. You mention in your LinkedIn article that you were “very poor, fatherless for a majority of my life, [and] homeless at times.” How did that shape you?
MJ: 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.
HS: Being the man you are today, do you believe your past to be an asset or a liability?
MJ: An asset, without question.
HS: Talk to me about your early business ventures. What were they? How successful were they?
MJ: QI was successful in three ways: it was EBITDA positive; its failure taught me how to succeed in business; and it introduced me to my ultimate passion – creating a business for underserved populations.
HS: What gave you the idea to bring for Neture? Why now?
MJ: 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. Ultimately, it was the child crying to her mom about not having internet access or a computer at home to finish her homework that connected me (no pun intended) to solving the digital divide. I was fortunate enough to have experience in telecom and nonprofit management to enhance my path. Why now? Because as the world becomes more and more digital, more and more families are being left behind.
HS: The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid by C.K. Prahalad. Why is that book so important to you?
MJ: 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. I had an angel investor tell me, “no one cares about that demographic” – The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid proves that wrong.
HS: If you had to pick one quote to sum up your message … who said it and what did they say?
MJ: A quote by Tupac Shakur – “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.”
HS: What do you want to say to people (young kids especially) about overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles like you did?
MJ: 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!
HS: How can readers get in contact with you and learn more about Neture?
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