Entrepreneur Coss Marte started work at age 13, and by 19 was making $2 million a year. The problem was that his job was selling drugs on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. No stranger to jail, before the age of 20 Marte was arrested again and looking at his longest stint yet: Seven years in lockdown.
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While in prison, the then-overweight Marte had another problem: The prison doctor told him that his cholesterol had reached life-threatening levels. Marte was determined to beat it, but spending the majority of your hours inside a 9-foot by 6-foot prison cell doesn't leave a lot of room for exercise, and a series of locked gates prevented him from signing up at the local SoulCycle.
Thus he began exercising in his cell using body-weight exercises that he'd picked up from prison guards and cons, ex-military and otherwise. He created his own variants and routines using what was in the cell, which is primarily bars and a floor. Within six months he'd not only shed 70 pounds, but gained a following of cons who wanted to emulate his workout routine.
Marte was released after five years and unsurprisingly, could not find work. Disclosing that you have a criminal record tends to shorten job interviews. But as we've seen, Marte is an inveterate problem-solver. "I've always known how to hustle," he told The New York Times. "It's what makes me succeed, but it's also what put me in prison in the first place." Marte got a legitimate job cleaning toilets in a hotel. He spent his free time working out in a local park, where a passersby observed his pull-up routine, and asked if he could join in. Marte told him he could join in all month long—for $200.
The man agreed, and a business was born. Marte began renting local studio spaces and training people in his series of body-weight-resistance exercises, which he dubbed ConBody (motto: "Do the Time"). As his business grew, last year he secured a lease on a basement space on the Lower East Side, contracted with an architect and designer to fix it up, and launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund it:
The campaign reached its target, and today ConBody is a going concern, with thousands of clients passing through their doors:
"ConBody blew up, big time. And our classes are popular, [like] sold-out-fast popular," says their website.
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Marte, for his part, is trying to improve the situations of others besides himself and his clients. He makes it a point to hire ex-cons, guys who have the same problem finding work as he had, and credits his time inside with awakening him to the mission of helping others. "I helped 20 other inmates collectively lose over 1,000 pounds," he writes. "From then on I knew that my purpose was to give back instead of destroying individuals around me."