David and Jessica Martin are the proud owners of multiple businesses that net the parents of five (with potentially twins on the way) over a million per year. Though both were born in or near Chicago, they met at a Houston gas station while David was still deep in his previous life selling weed.
Both husband and wife served time in jail, and neither shies away from sharing that part of their journey. Before Jessica turned herself in to serve a six-month sentence, she developed a business plan to create a credit repair business.
That company, Empire You LLC, now nets over a million by itself, and helped birth the couple’s other ventures: a trucking company (DR Martin Transport & Co.), Airbnb lease properties, an entrepreneur coaching program and online trucking classes, giving them not only legal streams of income, but a platform to speak on the power of second chances.
“I knew my [jail time] was coming, so we prepared for it,” said Jessica. “We opened up an LLC, June 2017. I turned myself in July 2017. I started repairing the ladies’ credit while incarcerated, and when I came home, I started repairing my family and friends’ credit, and grew it to be a million-dollar credit company.”
David, a graduate of Texas College in Tyler, took a little longer to trust that legal income would be enough to provide for their family. Admittedly, he did some things out on the streets he’s not proud of and ended up “serving a little time.” But even after he bought a dually truck and trailer and began his trucking career, Jessica said David’s mind was still on fast money.
“We had a successful credit repair business but his mind was still on selling drugs. He had drugs in the truck,” she recalled.
During that period Jessica spent many nights in her prayer closet “begging God to change David’s mindset.” At some point those prayers were answered, and David’s mantra of “grit, hustle and execution” transferred from activities that got him locked up to work that helped the couple grow their businesses legally.
David, however, offers a more down-to-earth explanation for his transformation.
“I got robbed probably a week before my daughter was born. They could have killed me. But I’m here today to tell my story and to see my daughter every day.”
Jessica, whose Illinois legal issues followed her to Texas, making it near impossible to find employment, saw entrepreneurship as the only viable option. But it was one she already had her eyes set on.
“A lot of people don’t catch this. I caught this very early on with having a child at 16, that working for somebody else was not going to cut it.”
Jessica wanted wealth, but also the freedom that comes with business ownership.
“When you’re employed it kind of has you in a box. You can only do so much. You can only say so much or you might get fired. But having a business, owning something for myself, it’s going to go down to my children and grandchildren. I can sell it if I want to. It’s mine. It can’t be taken away from me.”
“Community, law enforcement or whoever, give people a chance. You go to jail to rehabilitate yourself, right? Some people go to jail for doing, being on or selling drugs. You can’t do that while you’re in jail. Some people go in there and read their Bible, get closer to God, closer to family, because they have time to think and not be out in the world fighting and surviving. But even people working jobs are fighting every day to survive,” said David, who sees business ownership as often the only viable option for the formerly incarcerated.
“You have to create your own lane. A lot of people are going to close a lot of doors in your face, but you cannot let that stop you,” added Jessica, who, with David still advocate for more second chances.
“I believe that people with a background should still be able to work, especially if they have the skill,” stated Jessica. “Okay, they made a mistake. Look, I made a mistake and I was arrested, as well. I can’t get a job, but I own a multi-million-dollar company.”