Inmates to Entrepreneurs: Lawrence Carpenter

Lawrence Carpenter, Owner of SuperClean Professional Janitorial Services and ZBS Trucking, LLC; Chairman of Inmates to Entrepreneurs.

Lawrence Carpenter, who recently was featured in Black Enterprise’s “Success Beyond Bars” series, is one of a growing number of returned citizens who has found financial stability and professional satisfaction in owning his own business.

Carpenter grew up in one of the poorest, most dangerous parts of Durham, North Carolina. He was cared for by his grandmother, due to his mother’s struggle with addiction and his father’s time behind bars. Carpenter hung out with the older guys in his neighborhood and by the time he was 11years old, he was selling drugs. When he was 17 years old, he was in prison. One of the things Carpenter learned while selling drugs was that he liked being his own boss, and that he was really, really good at it.

Being in prison as a young man was “kind of like camp, I was in prison doing the same things I was doing in the street,? explained Carpenter. Six years later he was released, but “there had been no reform and there was no hope.” He started a family, but ended up back in prison for 11months. “That 11 months was way worse than the first six years,” Carpenter noted.

When he came home in October, he was intent on earning a living to support himself and his family. By Christmastime, he was near broke. He had opportunities to make ends meet by selling drugs again, but was committed to making this time different. He had a daughter and he wanted to be there, for her and her mom, for the rest of his life. He decided to start a janitorial service and obtained the necessary licenses.

This is where Carpenter’s story as an entrepreneur gets really interesting. And it’s interesting because this is exactly where many would-be-entrepreneurs get stuck. How do you get your first customers? You get creative, you get scrappy. Carpenter went to the grocery store and picked up the apartment guides that sit there each day, every day, on a rack free to anyone who wants one. Then he created a flyer about his janitorial services and faxed it to every single apartment complex listed in the guides. He started getting calls, and now his business, SuperClean Professional Janitorial Services, has commercial and residential contracts in several states and employees more than 60 people. His business has been so successful that he also has launched ZBS Trucking LLC, a hauling business.

“It helps to have guidance about how to start,” noted Carpenter, who now is the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Inmates to Entrepreneurs Inc., a 28-year-old North Carolina-based organization whose free “Starter U: How to Start, Run, and Grow a Business” video course is online on the Internet and available on Edovo tablets in prisons and jails in more than 30 states. Carpenter has plainly found his mission, “it’s helping others.” For more info. about Inmates to Entrepreneurs: