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Interview by Michael Harris

MH:
Tell us about your nuclear family and your upbringing. KR: I was raised by two great parents in Des Moines, Iowa. I also have a sister. I bet you’re scratching your head wondering if there are any "black folks" in Iowa. Well I'm one of the few. My parents got a divorce when I was 9. This caused a lot of disharmony in our household, however, my mother who has always been a strong woman continued to make do with the resources she had. During this time my father moved out of town. He paid child support, and tried to be a long distance father, but it wasn't the same. It was hard for my mother being a single parent trying to raise two children. The stress this caused my mother resulted in bouts with depression, alcoholism, and a low self esteem. When I was 14 my mother lost her job. She had been employed as a cook at a nursing home for 12 years. This was just another blow to our family. She sunk further into a state of depression. My sister left for job corps because my mother could not afford to take care of the two of us. The landlord kicked us out of our apartment. As a result, we became homeless. We traveled around staying with various members of our family until we were accepted to live in the projects, referred to the Home of Oakridge (but consider by many as Roach Ridge, because of the roach infestation problem). However, it was better than sleeping out doors. We made the best out of it. However, it was a culture shock. We had always been middle class people. This drastic turn of events would be a turning point in my life. In 1988 my mother was still unemployed and collecting welfare, she was still battling depression, and drinking heavily. I tried to help out my family by shoveling snow in the winter, cutting grass in the summer, and selling cookies and candy as a door to door sales person. The extra money helped buy food at the end of the day so that me and my mother could eat. When other kids were playing basketball, football, or other recreational activities, I worked. I never had the chance to live the life of an ordinary child. I had responsibilities that only adults should be faced with at an early age. However, I make no excuses. Life "is what it is!" That same year crack cocaine hit our community harder than an "atomic bomb!" Our role models became crack heads, our teachers became crack heads, and even some of our parents also became crack heads. For others crack cocaine became the "economic messiah." We were poor people, and many of us kids gravitated towards this illegal hustle- game to make money so that we could get out of the financial rut that many of us were in. It's not that these kids yesterday or today don't have morals; the problem is they don't have any money. That is why these kids today, and yesterday when I was growing up sold drugs. Selling drugs is a "reaction, not an action." It is a reaction from the constant poverty struggle that many of us from lower socio-economic community face everyday. One can’t really say what they wouldn't do until they’ve been faced with opening the refrigerator to discover no food, settling for shoes with holes in them while being taunted by other more privileged kids, or witnessing your mother having sex with men just to keep the lights on. We should never cast the blame on someone until we know the whole story, because we don’t know how we would react. Right? I became heavily involved in selling dope for five years. First, to help my family and then I got caught up in something that was bigger than me. Sometimes people become addicted to drugs, others become addicted to the lifestyle, and that was me. I know that God allowed me down this path for a reason: to get to the other side where I stand today. By the age of 20 I was in Federal prison for dealing drugs. I would remain there for seven years. I realized that many people get caught up in the revolving door, not because they like to be in prison but because they fail to plan before they leave prison. I was totally dissatisfied with how my life had taken a turn for the worse. I wasn't raised to be a drug dealer. I wasn't raised to be a menace to society. My parents raised me just like others raise their children: to get an education, to be respectful to others and to be a good person. I had become what I refer to as a "product of my environment." However, I was going to do something about it. I wasn't ever going to embarrass myself or my family by going down that road again; therefore, I was going to create a new path for my future, a path that would be built on a solid foundation and not the shaky ground that I had once stood on for five years while dealing drugs. I was now more determined than ever to create a better life for myself. I believe the best way to change a person’s socio-economic condition is by getting an education, and that is what I set out to do. I realized I was a great salesman but that I was selling the wrong product, an illegal product.  The first thing I did was enroll in school, and after only  two months of studies I took the test to receive my G.E.D. and passed.  Then, I immediately began taking college courses. After three semesters of college, the Pell grants were taken away from prisoners, and the college program dropped. However, I refused to give up my hope of getting an education. So, I decided to educate myself. I found great joy in reading books. I read history, philosophy, theology, and economic theory. The more I read, the more I wanted to learn. When prison life started to get the best of me, I used books as therapy to take my mind away from the confinements of my prison cell and away to a more promising vision that I knew was in store for me;  I knew as long as I kept my faith in God, got an education, and was willing to work hard upon my release, I would succeed. In 1995 while still incarcerated I stumbled across a real estate investing book in the prison library. I read it. Today, I believe God lead me to that book, that day. I learned that 17% of the world’s wealthiest people had accumulated much of their wealth through real estate investing. This was the business for me. I didn't want to go back to those old ways of street hustling. I'd made a mistake. I was a kid.  However, I would be a man when I left prison at age 27. Therefore, I knew it was time to let the past be the past, and start being the man that my parents had tried to raise me to be. I knew if I applied myself and learned everything I could about real estate investing, that I could stay out of trouble, and help build the community, instead of destroying it.  While in prison I read over 200 books on the subject of real estate. Real estate investing helped save my life. I now use it as a tool to help save other people's lives; and to provide hope to the hopeless and help to those who feel helpless. MH: Thanks for sharing so openly. How did you meet Katrice & win her over? KR: My wife met me at the Grey Hound bus station when I was released from prison. We were introduced by my cousin who worked with Katrice as a Registered Nurse at Tampa General Hospital. We met and immediately fell in love. I thank God for introducing me to Katrice. She has supported me during my up's, and down's. It’s so true that behind every great man, there is an equally great woman! MH: Tell us about your business and the real estate seminars. KR: I started my parent company First Time Development, Inc in August, 2000 to help first time home buyers buy their own home. Every American should be able to own their own home. This is by far the greatest investment you can ever make. However, many people don't realize that home ownership is possible. F.T.D, Inc rehabbed, and then resold affordable homes to people under $100,000. Since then, my company has been renamed to Rehabber's Superstore, Inc. I still rehab homes, and resell them to first time homeowners. In addition, I also teach other people through one on one consultation, and through my "Get on the Bus" tours, and House Hustling clubs how to buy and sell real estate for a profit. MH: Do you remember the very first real estate deal you closed? KR: I bought a house at 310 21st Ave. S, St. Petersburg, FL. I was so happy when this deal closed. It was a condemned home that I picked up for $2,500. I invested $30,000 into it to rehab it, and resold it for $64,500. It took six months to do the complete renovation. I worked on the house after my full time job at a furniture store. I made a $35,000 profit. I was now on my way. MH: So, when you “made it” so to speak, what was something out of the ordinary you bought yourself, which you previously couldn’t justify? KR: A 1997 Dodge Viper MH: Would you share some of your long term and short term goals? KR: I have a passion to educate others. I love to provide opportunities to the less fortunate. We are losing too many young people to the streets and then ultimately to prison. Many of them live in this Thug mentality that is only created a generation of hoodlums. Someone has to reach out to them and show them other alternatives than selling drugs. I have been able to reach them because of my story. They can relate to me because I once lived in their shoes. It is important that we all do our part to save this generation. When we give up on them, we give up on ourselves; they are our next generation of leaders. We have to give them the tools to lead prosperously. MH: If someone asked you how to achieve a goal, what would you tell them?. KR: Never give up on your goals. If I had done that I would probably be back in prison now. However, you have to set realistic goals. A goal is like a road map that you must follow to help guild you to your pre-determined destination. We are all striving to head to the top of the "mountain of success." Just remember to keep your map handy by your side. When you find yourself traveling off route, get back on course. Success is right around the corner. MH: If you could have dinner with anyone from the past or present, who would it be and what’s the number one question you’d ask them? KR: Donald Trump. I'd ask him, his keys to success? MH: Let’s pretend that you have enough assets, producing enough income to support your lifestyle, how would you be spending your days? KR: Spending time with my family, and helping other people achieve their dreams. MH: How do you overcome and deal with racial prejudice? KR: I ignore it. This is 2006, not 1906. Can't we all get along by now? Racial prejudice is ignorance. We are all human beings.  MH: If a young person came to you for advice on how to succeed in life, what would you tell them? KR: Get an education and work hard. No one owes you anything. Success is not going to drop on your lap! You have to earn it! Don't try to take the short cut; it will only land you in jail. Do good business, pay your taxes and keep everything you do legit. MH: Your favorite charity? KR: Any charity that helps underprivileged kids. MH: The most recent fiction or non-fiction book you’ve read? KR: 'The Covenant' by Travis Smiley  MH: The last movie you saw? KR: Idlewild  MH: Fantasy vacation? KR: I would love to visit Egypt. I plan to visit when my children are old enough to understand the significance of the trip. MH: Where do you see yourself five years from now? KR: Working less and spending more quality time with my family. MH: You have some amazing threads. Who is your tailor? KR: Surprisingly, I still buy off the rack. My wife and I like to shop for deals. MH: Man, tell us about that bling, bling? KR: I buy my jewelry from Carlos Martin Jewelers;  he is amazing.

All Photos by Michael Harris©2006

Meet:  Kenneth Rushing
'Outstanding Man of Tampa Bay'

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