Rags-to-riches tales of people who’ve made it against all odds are an endless source of inspiration and a reminder of the indomitable nature of the human spirit. They show us the power of resolve, perseverance, and boldness to propel people to untold heights in life.
As a successful entrepreneur in the field of real estate and the automotive industry, Marcus Withers knows the value of grit, determination, and flawless execution. But as a son of two educators, he also understands the importance of having a solid foundation and support, especially at an early age.
“My mom sacrificed a lot for me to be able to go to private schools through eighth grade,” Withers recalls. “When I got to eighth grade, I begged her to let me get out to public schools because the schools that I went to were very small and they didn’t have a lot of students.”
Thanks to a curriculum emphasizing field trips and travel, Withers could see beyond the part of the town where he lived or where he went to school, the Exploratorium. Having visited 42 states and six Canadian provinces before getting to the ninth grade, Withers was set on a path that wasn’t like those of the kids around him.
“You don’t hear stories about kids growing up in the neighborhood having all these experiences,” he explains. “Usually, kids grow up in the hood, and they do what they do.”
Now, with a successful entrepreneurship record that spans decades, Withers is in a position to not make a difference in the lives of the kids growing up in Louisville today. And not only kids — the message he wants to share and manifest through his various endeavors affects families, even whole communities.
“We got to lift as we climb, bring people up with you,” says Withers. “You always got to reach back and empower others.”
Withers approaches his mission to uplift and empower in several different ways. Arguably, the most effective way to help others is to provide them with affordable housing opportunities. It’s been a sore point in Louisville as much as any other large American city, but it’s also something the city aims to rectify. Through an 80-unit real estate development, Withers wants to do his part.
“Growing up in the inner city, I feel like affordable housing, that’s how I give back,” he says. “That’s how I create great living spaces for African Americans to have somewhere to live, in nice places. I’m called to do that. That’s what I’m supposed to do for inner city youth.”
Withers also supports the Simmons College of Kentucky, a historically Black college with which it shares the mission of empowerment and elevation. He is also a member of the Theta Omega Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Incorporated, upholding the chapter’s mission to bring about union of men of similar high ideals of scholarship and manhood in order to stimulate the attainment of ideas and ambitions of its members.
And when it’s Christmas, or time to get back to school, Withers will be there, organizing drives to get people the supplies they need to celebrate the holiday or start the new school year well.
Creating jobs and business opportunities also counts as a way to uplift people into a better situation, and Withers has been doing plenty of that, too. One of his business projects was the rehabilitation of Joe’s Palm Room — now simply The Palm Room — which was a notable part of the city’s cultural tapestry.
In the end, however, it’s the stories that have power. While Marcus Withers’ story wasn’t the most dramatic one, it still shows how far people can get when someone gives them a chance.
“I’m blessed to be the kid of my mom and my dad, giving me the opportunity, so I’m not the kid sitting down the block,” he says. “I’m an influencer in the community in a positive way.”