From drugs, sex, prostitution, David Sharpe has seen it all. Hopelessly lost since his teens, a father at 15, jailed in his twenties, David has found his way back to a healthy life through entrepreneurship. Enjoy reading one of the most unusual stories we’ve done in the eighth year of Entrepreneur Journeys.
Sramana Mitra: Dave, tell us where you’re from. Where were you born and raised – what kind of circumstances?
David Sharpe: My name is Dave Sharpe. I was born in Clearwater, Florida which is right outside of Tampa Bay in 1983. I turned 30 last November 17.
Sramana Mitra: Tell me a bit more about the circumstances. Where did you do school? What did you study? What kind of mental set are you coming from as an entrepreneur? What’s your family background?
David Sharpe: The fascinating thing is I don’t come from an entrepreneurial family. My mom was very involved in a lot of what I did, extracurricular wise. I was a sports player. I was an athlete. By the age of five, I was on a baseball field throwing the baseball around. My parents divorced when I was 2-years-old, but my dad always showed up for my baseball games. Then I had a stepfather, still do. My mom and my stepfather are still married.
Primarily, I grew up in a blue-collar family. Dad was a plumber. Stepfather works for Sears Inc. He traveled all over the country. My mom was a go-getter. She instilled principles and values in me that I look back on today and really thank her for. She is very overbearing. She’s a hard driver. She’s somebody that expects a lot out of you and growing up, there was a lot of bumping heads with my mom. I have a lot of the same characteristics in my personality. But that instilled, I believe, some of the values and the principles that have allowed me to experience some success today.
School was important. I did well in school, but the emphasis was always on getting to practice on time – driving through, getting a quick bite to eat, rushing through my homework, and making sure that I got to practice on time. My childhood, generally, was mainly focused on athletics. All the way up until I started to run in to some bumps in the road of my life, that is what I did. I started to take a hard pivot right and started to make bad decisions in my life when I hit 14. I was homeless. I struggled with drug addiction once.
Sramana Mitra: How did you get into the fold with drugs and everything? Was it bad company?
David Sharpe: The very first time that I used drugs, it was fascinating. I dibbled and dabbled with my parents’ alcohol cabinet. They didn’t use drugs, by the way. So one night, I was going to a middle school basketball party or basketball banquet and I went to one of my buddies whose mom smoked pot and I said, “Hey, would you get me a little bit of that stuff rolled up and bring it to me because tonight, I want to try it out after this party.” That night, we went to a party and me and my buddy held a couple of girls hostage, dragged them out into this little area in the woods, and then we fired up this joint. We got extremely high for about 15 minutes until we saw headlights. Then the paranoia kicked in and we ran. We came back to the house right as the party has ended. That was my first experience.
The next year, I went to high school. Immediately within the first 30 days, I started hanging out with the wrong crowd and started skipping school. That year, they instituted a 10-day policy which meant that if you missed more than 10 days in the school year, you’ll automatically fail. About 30 days into my ninth-grade, I had already missed 10 days. My attitude was, “Why should I go back?” By that time, literally within 90 days, I had moved out of my mom’s house. I had moved in to a house that was a prostitution, heroine and cocaine ring. Those were the two businesses that they were in. I was exposed to entrepreneurship in its finest and rawest form on the streets. That began my journey. I experienced a lot of things, a lot of ups and downs and all arounds in my teenage years.
Sramana Mitra: What drew you out of that?
David Sharpe: It was a long, hard road. I got into that world at about the age of 14. Officially, I was out of my mom’s house when I was 14 years old. By the time I was 15, I’d met an older woman who I then impregnated. She had a baby when I was 16 years old. I turned 16 on November 17, 1999 and my daughter was born on December 10, 1999. By 16 years old, I had not only my life that I couldn’t take care of, but now another life that I was held responsible for.
At that point in time, I was able to do that because I had learned some of the tricks of the trade, hustling in the streets, and survival mode kicked in. My instincts kicked in. Because of that drive and those principles that were instilled in me from sports and my mom never giving up and finding a way to get things done, I found a way to survive. I found a way to support my daughter. I found a way to pay bills. Even get places of my own where I lived with my daughter’s mom and my daughter.
I ended up becoming my own best customer and I got really deep into hard drugs. By the time I was 18, I was going in and out of jail and institutions. Right around 2008, I was in a high speed pursuit with a police and I had a warrant out for my arrest. My probation officer was looking for me. I crashed my car into a house and I got away that night and turned myself in two weeks later. Thus, began my journey of recovery. During this treatment, I was given a downward departure in the legal system, which meant that they recognized that I was not a criminal; I had a drug addiction problem. That has always been the case. Ever since I quit doing drugs almost six years ago, I’ve never had an issue with the law since. It’s interesting how that works.