The road to success is a long and arduous one – but it’s one Marquette Dixon walks proudly.
Twenty years ago, Dixon launched his own landscaping business in Columbus, Ohio with an eye on eventually helping employ men re-entering society from the prison system. But, at the time, it was just him, his wife, a truck, and two pushmowers.
“I was actually working full-time at a steel mill,” he shared. “My wife would come and pick me up every day after work, and we would just go cut grass until it got dark.”
Dixon’s desire to work hard and succeed has its roots in his childhood, growing up on the west side of Columbus.
“I remember, as a kid, coming home with no running water, or to an extension cord stretching down the hall to the neighbor’s to keep our refrigerator on so food wouldn’t spoil,” he shared. “When I got married, I didn’t want that for my wife. I didn’t want that for my kids. So, I always pushed myself – I didn’t want to finish second. Second isn’t a bad place to be, it’s just not where I wanted to be. I had this fire, this burning desire to push myself to do better.”
That drive kept him going those first few years after founding Mowtivation Lawn Services LLC, and it soon paid off with an increase in residential clients and, after a few years in business, the ability to purchase a commercial-grade mower.
“That really opened the door to get commercial clients, and I ended up contracting with a local real estate company,” Dixon said. “I was still working at the mill, and as soon as I got off work I’d go cut, trim, and blow about 20 of their properties each day.”
When the recession hit in 2008, the steel mill Dixon worked at began cutting hours and laying off employees. By 2010, things were dire.
“My daughter was young at the time, and I didn’t even have enough money to buy her diapers,” Dixon said. “I thought, ‘I have to better myself,’ so I took a risk and went full-time with my business.”
His leap of faith paid off, and that same year Dixon got his big break: a contract with the City of Columbus.
“I’ve had that contract for over 12 years now,” he shared proudly.
Now, his business is a roaring success – with solid contracts, a host of employees, and new growth on the horizon. And, while Dixon’s perseverance saw him through some hard times, he knows his success wouldn’t be possible without the partnerships and relationships he’s built.
“I’d be lying if I said I’d gotten here by myself,” he said. “I’ve had some great people help me along the way – including my partnership with First Merchants Bank. Everything functions on relationships, and I love building those with my clients and with my business partners.”
“I always try to take time to talk to my clients, and over the years I’ve been invited to weddings, baby showers, birthdays, cookouts – you name it,” he added with a laugh.
It’s those relationships that have led to recent growth and the ability to hire H2B visa workers.
“I met several of these guys when they were working for another entrepreneur,” Dixon shared. “They’d come up seasonally and work. Sadly, that previous employer passed away, but because I’d built a relationship with them, I was able to complete the H2B process and have them come work for me – so they’re not losing that income that’s so vital to their families.”
It's part of Dixon’s philosophy as an employer – helping those who work for him improve their lives. He was able to realize his vision of helping those recently released from prison and is dedicated to being a strong support as they work to grow and gain the skills they need to succeed.
“I try to teach my employees not just the skill of landscaping, but the skill of managing a bank account, the importance of having a state ID, how to budget and create financial stability,” he shared. “So that they can be prepared for the future and can take care of their families the same way I take care of mine – that’s the most important thing.”
Dixon’s years as a successful business owner also mean he has a lot of knowledge to impart to young entrepreneurs just getting their start. The most important piece of wisdom he has?
“Just stick with it,” he said. “I believe starting a business is just like anything difficult that’s worth doing – it’s like marriage, it’s like working out. There’s going to be bumps, there’s going to be growing pains. But if you stick with it, there’s going to be rewards – you’ve got to see it through. Don’t give up.”
The landlord said always keep a rake with you – when someone gives you something, you keep that rake to pull information to you and use it to push what you don’t need away.