Successful reentry: Kamarlo “Marlo da Motivator” Spooner has created a career in trucking and real estate

Kamarlo Spooner shows his father, Joseph Spooner, his new truck. (Photo by Nicole Spooner.)

Kamarlo “Marlo Da Motivator” Spooner is the kind of second chance success story we’re happy to share. Hopefully it will inspire others to search for the opportunities that exist and carefully prepare for them. Just like Marlo did.

We were impressed by his accomplishments when we originally wrote about him six years ago, but now he’s achieved even more.

But first a little background. Spooner served three years for drug sales and firearms convictions. While incarcerated, he participated in various programs, especially carpentry, welding and auto mechanics, to prepare for a future career.

Upon release, he initially worked as a carpenter, but in order to make more money to support his family, Spooner learned to drive a truck and held two different jobs for six years before being hired by Waste Management to drive a garbage truck in the suburbs of San Francisco.

In his free time Spooner volunteered around Alameda County, Calif., on various projects to help people who had been previously incarcerated. At one meeting, he met an Alameda County supervisor, who was also the president and CEO of Tri-CED Community Recycling. The state’s largest nonprofit recycling operation, Tri-CED operates 18 residential route trucks daily in the cities of Hayward and Union City.

Getting his second truck driving job

“I had my uniform on, and when I told him I was a driver, he asked me about my job. He said, ‘You don’t want to come work for me, do you?’ I told him I’d think about it. He said what they focus on is helping the previously incarcerated get work.”

Spooner had almost forgotten about their conversation, when a week later he got a call from the business agent at his union. The agent told him that the CEO had been calling and asking about him. He joined the organization in the summer of 2017. And he hasn’t looked back.

His work day begins at 5:30 a.m. and lasts until his route is finished. He’s guaranteed eight hours of pay, even if his route is done in four hours. Spooner is often assigned to drive other routes in addition to his own, but anything extra pays overtime.

What Spooner likes best about Tri-CED is the flexibility. “They’re understanding, because they hire people who have been previously incarcerated,” he says. “Some individuals have struggles when they try to merge back into society. They don’t have the skillset that other people have. Tri-CED lets people leave early. I go to speak in the prisons, and as long as I do my route I can leave.”

“Another great thing about working there is to be around people who have been previously incarcerated. I can help them and also learn from these individuals.”

Starting his own company with a single truck

After a morning of collecting recyclables, Spooner may be off to his second shift as the driver of Spooner’s Hauling, a company he launched last year. And he sometimes drives on his days off.

“I realized that there’s a need in trucking. I’ve been driving trucks for a long time, so I asked myself ‘why not start a trucking business?’”

Spooner saved the money to buys his first truck, a 26-foot box truck with a lift gate. (These trucks usually cost between $48,000 and $60,000.) He does all the driving now but is planning to hire someone to take over that duty soon. The advertisement on online job boards, states that “People with a criminal record are encouraged to apply.”

Currently he sticks to hauling goods between points in northern California but would like to expand the business to carrying freight between northern and southern California and to Arizona and Las Vegas.

He also plans to purchase another truck within a month and hire an additional driver. His ultimate goal is to not drive at all.

“I eventually want a fleet of trucks,” Spooner says. “I don’t have a set goal. The short-term goal is to have six more trucks before the end of this year. I want to hire at least seven drivers. Maybe eight total to have one extra in case someone isn’t available.

Spooner gets his gigs from a load board, an online marketplace where companies look for haulers. (DAT Load Board is the one he uses, although there are others.) Then he bids for the jobs. Lately he’s been hauling furniture, toys and general freight.

Writing books and buying property

When he’s not driving trucks, Spooner spends part of his time visiting local prisons and schools to inspire people with his story. He has also written three books:

  • From da Bottoms 2 da Top: It’s Not where You Start That Defines You, You’re Defined by What You Make of It – In this book, Spooner tells his story, how he faced and overcame hardships and how he achieved success.
  • Speak Despite da Fear – Written for 6- to 13-year-olds, this is the tale of Marley, who overcame a speech impediment to become the first black woman president of the United States.
  • What U Meant for Evil: Sometimes Your Fears Can Unlock da Gift That God Has on the Inside of You – Also written for children, this is the story of Kaikarlo, whose painful experiences of being bullied as a child were used by God to turn him into a track star.

In addition to driving trucks and writing books, Spooner is buying up properties. He currently has five and is looking to purchase more. He especially welcomes tenants who receive Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers, which allow very low-income families, the elderly and disabled people to secure housing in the private market.

“I want people in there who have never had a home before. I want to help people from that population,” he says.

After starting several businesses, Spooner reflects on what he’s learned from the experience. The most important thing he learned is that it’s not an easy task.

“No matter how much planning you put into it, it will take more work than you thought,” Spooner says. “If you’re not committed or persistent, you would tap out really quick. But I am a person who can commit and persevere in the struggles of starting a business.” And that’s been the key to his success.

Editor’s note: This is the first of what we hope will be a series of articles on successful reentry. If you have – or someone you know has – a story to tell, please contact us.

For other articles on this topic, click on the hyperlink next to Posted in below:

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