Marquis Mckenzie Sr. exemplifies the importance of not letting your bad past define your future. When he was only 15 years old, the 32-year-old dropped out of school and began hanging out with older people who were “living the street life.”
Despite having no prior offenses, he was sentenced to 24 months in prison and four years probation for armed robbery about a year after dropping out of school.
“The only thing I can remember is my mom crying in the courtroom and begging the judge to please… give me a second chance,” he recalled in an interview with CNBC Make It. “The only thing that the judge would say is, ‘I’m sorry, this case is out of my hands.’”
Throughout his time in prison, he witnessed numerous fights and stabbings. He was fortunate to be reassigned as a “houseman,” which entailed cleaning the dorm. His dorm was the cleanest for six months of his tenure. In his pursuit of excellence, he earned his GED while in prison and aspired to become an educator.
He was released in 2008 after serving his sentence, and he served two years of probation before it was terminated due to his good behavior. Mckenzie attributed his life transformation to his family. “My family told me I didn’t have to go anywhere or rush to figure things out, but just don’t procrastinate,” he explained.
However, his quest for a decent living was hampered by the fact that many employers were unwilling to hire him due to his criminal record. As a result, he decided to become his own boss, and he was able to build a successful business through hard work. His time in prison as a houseman inspired him to start a cleaning business after he was released.
“If I can clean in here for free and get this recognition here, how hard would it be for me to go out clean?” he asked. “I knew that the properties and buildings that I was going to clean weren’t going to be as dirty as the prison. So, I figured that I found my niche right then and there.”
He founded The Dirt Master in 2015, and it was later incorporated as a Limited Liability Corporation in 2018. According to CNBC Make It, the company made a profit of $92,000 last year. According to the platform, he earns $150,000 per year from his commercial cleaning business in Orlando, Florida, and his work at the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, an organization that fights to restore voting rights to formerly incarcerated people.
Mckenzie, who was incarcerated and was reforming to fit into society, hires ex-prison inmates to clean various commercial office spaces in the greater Orlando area. The father of three stated that his decision is based on the belief that everyone deserves a second chance and that welcoming ex-convicts will help them avoid returning to prison.
“We have to think about giving opportunities to those who are coming out of the criminal justice system, so they don’t go back out and commit more crimes,” he said.