Leading The Charge For Change
By Sheryl E. Taylor
When traveling the country, Marcus Bowers always makes sure to visit every city’s Martin Luther King (MLK) Boulevard—there are more than 900 streets in 42 states and Puerto Rico named for the Civil Rights leader.
This UHD alum has noticed a common theme throughout his travels.
“Every MLK is the same. It’s like the neighborhood I grew up in,” said the native Houstonian. “They’re not very different … same type of people, same type of struggle, same type of fights, same type of life … it’s just the way it is.”
Bowers grew up in Houston’s South Park—a post-World War II development in the south-central area of Houston where many of the streets are named after WWII battle sites and people.
As a middle and high school student, he got into fights often.
“I chose to take a different path,” said the youngest of six siblings. “When people around me were choosing the gang life … I fought back.” Bowers lost his best friend to gang violence.
Even through these challenges, he doesn’t describe his upbringing as a hard life, because for him it was the “norm.”
“Walking every day to and from school was the truth … from the drug dealers to the gang bangers to the dropouts,” Bowers said. “There weren’t a lot of success stories around me. It’s up to you to get out and find success when it’s not around you. You don’t realize anything different until you get out. When you do get out, you look back and realize there was something better.”
For Bowers, there was something better—the military and college.
After high school, he served four years with the Navy’s SWCC (Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen). Bowers considered his service an influential chapter in his life.
“I love talking about the military. It literally saved my life,” the 36 year old said. “I traveled the world and received a free education. The military provided me with a way out.”
Bowers wants to bring together veterans to help dispel the myths associated with serving in the military within inner-city neighborhoods.
“I want them (veterans) to speak louder against the negative rhetoric … and echo my voice to lead and encourage people that there is a better way.”
After the military, he earned an associate’s degree from Houston Community College. In 2011, he graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration from the Marilyn Davies College of Business.
“UHD gave me the opportunity to work full-time. The evening college experience was just what I needed. I didn’t have to change my lifestyle,” he added. “One of the great things about UHD is that you can maintain your life while advancing your future.”
His mother didn’t graduate high school. With a ninth grade education, she raised six children. As the first person in his family to graduate from college, Bowers felt different with a UHD degree.
“My mindset changed. I didn’t want to get a job … I wanted to create them,” he emphasized. “A college degree isn’t a license to stop.”
An Enrepreneur Is Born
In the summer of 2012, he decided to start a business with fellow veteran, Warren Broadnax.
With $800, Bowers sold bundles of hair extensions from the trunk of his car, and he never looked back.
Now, seven years later, their company She’s Happy Hair is one of the largest suppliers of virgin hair in the United States, with eight stores across the country and more than $22 million in annual revenue. Recently, the company signed multimillion dollar partnerships with Walmart and Macy’s.
Earlier this year, the Houston Chapter of the National Black MBA Association honored Bowers and Broadnax at its 19th Annual Leadership Empowerment Scholarship Banquet, which recognized pioneers of excellence and innovation.
Sense of Responsibility
“The most powerful thing I learned from studying business at UHD was that social responsibility matters,” said Bowers. “Business is not just about making money, it’s about making a change in the community. If not you, then who? You have the resources to make change as a business leader. When you’re successful, you have to take care of your customers and their communities because they take care of you.”
Each year, the She’s Happy Hair Foundation sponsors national Back to School Drives, Christmas Toy Drives and various events that impact communities in multiple U.S. cities, as well as the the annual Mike Bowers Scholarship, which honors Bowers’ late brother who passed away in 2015. The $1,100 scholarship is awarded to a Worthing High School basketball athlete who is in good academic standing and has been accepted to a university. The unique award amount represents MikeBowers’ jersey number (11) that he wore as a basketball player at Worthing. The Foundation plans to extend this scholarship to other Houston-area high schools in the near future.
Every Veterans Day weekend, Bowers hosts The Fish Bowl Experience (similar to the “Shark Tank” TV series) that offers a platform for aspiring entrepreneurs (college graduates or vets) to pitch a business idea to a panel of eight multimillionaires who also are veterans and college graduates. The first business idea received $30,000 to open a Houston restaurant.
Bowers has begun work on his first book, “Martin Luther King Boulevard: Road, Street Mindset,” which he hopes to complete this year.
The proud UHD alum also wants to give back to his alma mater. Bowers sees his success as a means to give back to the community through youth, education, veterans, business and entrepreneurship initiatives.
“Do you want to just live or be remembered? If you’re not creating anything or leaving a legacy, then what are you doing? We need to share the blueprint for success.”
Editor's Note: Story reprinted from the lastest issue of UHD Magazine Fall 2019.
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD)—the second largest university in Houston—has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974.
As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive four-year university led by Interim President Dr. Antonio D. Tillis. Annually, UHD educates more than 15,000 students; boasts more than 51,000 alumni and offers 44 bachelor’s, nine master’s degree programs and 16 fully online programs within five colleges (Marilyn Davies College of Business; Humanities & Social Sciences; Public Service, Sciences & Technology; and University College).
UHD has the most affordable tuition among four-year universities in Houston and one of the lowest in Texas. The University is noted nationally as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, Minority-Serving Institution and Military Friendly School. For more on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit www.uhd.edu.