By S.E. Fleenor | Photo by Sarah Harvey
Photo credit: Sarah Harvey
Matt Davidson understands what it means to persevere. From homelessness to incarceration to owning a small business—Matt has been through it all. Even if things haven’t always been easy, he’s never given up. “I’m no one special. I’m just like anybody else: I’m trying to make it.”
Matt’s humility and work ethic both trace back to his childhood. His father was a small business owner of a welding company and he raised his children to work hard. “My dad’s philosophy was: you got time to play, you got time to work.” While it was hard in some ways not to have a lot of time for play as a child, it instilled in Matt a desire to be his own boss and served as his first training in business ownership.
As a young adult, Matt received his Eagle Scout rank, an achievement he credits with teaching him self-discipline and public speaking, while also getting him to come out of his shell. Matt believes his Eagle Scout rank and his father’s tutelage have given him the skills and determination to get where he is today.
His journey from childhood to small business owner did not follow a straight path, however. Matt became a welder like his father, despite not wanting that to be his ultimate career. At that time, he had just been diagnosed with Macular Degeneration, an incurable eye disease that caused bleeding in his eye, hindered his eyesight, and prevented him from working anymore as a welder. Matt had returned to Denver for work and, suddenly, he had come all this way for nothing.
Jobless and struggling with his health, Matt became homeless. He stayed in shelters and found his way to the Denver VOICE, where he began selling newspapers. Matt was only a vendor for a short time, but it had a big impact on him. “The Denver VOICE gave me the motivation and the confidence to keep going.”
As he worked for the VOICE, he found stability, a place to live, and a job framing buildings. He continued with that work for a while, but his boss at the time was inconsistent with payment, a small check here, a small check there, which made it difficult for Matt to pay his bills on time. He found himself stuck in a cycle of late fees, penalties, and borrowing money. A few months ago, Matt decided enough was enough and started his own lawn care business, a twenty-year dream. “I was forced to step out on a limb,” joked Matt.
When he talks about his business, Lawncare M.D., Matt beams with pride. He sees his business not only as an opportunity to improve his own life, but also as a way to improve the lives of others like him. As someone who was formerly incarcerated himself, Matt knows how hard it can be to find a job afterward. He spoke of the frustration he felt as someone who had paid his debt to society, but still couldn’t secure a job because of his record. “That’s why with my business, I don’t really care about people’s record.” Matt knows that everyone deserves a chance and that’s what he’s all about. He also wants to hire folks who have experienced or are experiencing homelessness. He sees his new business as an opportunity to pay it forward.
Starting a new business is challenging and while Matt has secured several consistent clients, he still needs to make ends meet, so he has returned to the VOICE to sell newspapers while building his business. “It makes me feel good that I can still come back here after so long and I’m wanted. That doesn’t happen very often.” Despite any setbacks, Matt isn’t slowing down. He’s got his eyes turned toward the future. ■