Markell’s Mantra: Never Give Up

The following article is the first in a series of short stories that tell how people in the District of Columbia are finding their place in a changing city, how our nonprofit partners are helping them thrive, and how LISC DC is supporting the work of these nonprofits.

It is hard to make plans for the future without a consistent source of income. Markell Holloman, a 35 year-old District of Columbia resident, knows this to be very true.  Markell has lived in the District of Columbia for more than a decade.

Over the years, he has earned certifications in medical assistance and in food preparation and safety.

After completing his studies, it took Markell several months to find jobs in his field. Layoffs often led to him being back in the job market and the cycle would repeat itself.

“I’ve always worked. It was having a stable job with financial security that was lacking,” Markell noted. 

Markell dreams of one day opening up his own restaurant. He gained a love for cooking by watching his mother and aunts make magic using whatever ingredients they had available. Markell began to dabble himself and has been cooking gourmet meals ever since.

During stints of inconsistent employment his dream seemed elusive – perhaps deferred – but never dismissed.

Markell HollomanIt is Markell’s “never give up” spirit that led him to take advantage of continuing education courses, gain certifications, work as a restaurant cook, find employment at temp agencies, and enroll in programs at Skyland Workforce Center*, a comprehensive workforce development service provider that connects job seekers with employment opportunities.

Markell was walking by Skyland one day (the center is located in the same neighborhood where he lives) and decided to stop in to learn about the services offered. Subsequently, Markell participated in two of its programs – STRIVE DC and Jubilee Jobs.

In the STRIVE DC program, Markell received help with his resume, participated in mock interviews, and discussed issues concerning how best to be prepared for a job interview.

“Skyland reminded me that an interview is nothing but a conversation between you and another person,” Markell stated.

At Jubilee Jobs, the focus was more on removing barriers to employment. One week after Jubilee Jobs’ orientation, Markell’s job counselor had two jobs lined up for him.

“My counselor, Ms. Conley, told me that helping me get a job is just as important to her as it is to me,” Markell recalled.

After interviewing with Misfit Juicery, Markell was hired almost immediately. With a mission of “fighting food waste one cold pressed juice at a time,” Misfit makes cold press juices out of perfectly healthy, yet aesthetically unappealing, fruits and vegetables. These juices are sold to 38 grocery stores in metropolitan DC.

Two months after joining Misfit Juicery, Markell was promoted to Production Manager. “As production manager, I am tasked with ensuring that juices are made safely, bottled correctly, and kept cold until they’re shipped,” Markell stated.

“On top of that, I manage five people, which is managing five different personalities. I love my job, especially because there is room to grow within the company,” Markell added.

The inner fire that ignited Markell’s entrepreneurial spirit is still lit. He feels more confident to pursue opening a restaurant in the future. For now, Markell is content working at a job that he loves, and that provides him with the financial security he once yearned.

* LISC DC provided a $10,000 operating support grant to pay a portion of Skyland’s manager’s salary, enabling the workforce center to open.