Fatherhood, starting business helps senior turn life around

Kara Berg
Lansing State Journal

Lansing – Martell Davis was one of the first students Catherine Bates met in her role as an assistant principal in the Lansing School District.

Davis was in seventh grade, and even then Bates said she knew he was special.

“His leadership skills as a seventh grader were outstanding,” Bates told the Lansing State Journal. “His ability to convince his peers that his way is right and they should just do whatever he says – it really made him stand out to me.”

Now 18, Davis is a senior at Sexton High School, just weeks away from graduation. He co-owns a business, Lansing Mobile Detail, and is a father to 15-month-old Madalina.

Martell Davis

Starting the mobile car detailing business and becoming a father helped Davis turn his life around, his brother, Undra Brown, said.

Davis started Lansing Mobile Detail in October with Brown, and a friend, Faraji Loggins. But the idea was all Davis, Brown said.

He brought the team together. He quit his part-time job to focus on the business.

“No one took him seriously until he got one van,” Brown said. “He had an idea and turned it into something.”

Brown is one of 19 entrepreneurs in Clinton, Eaton, Ingham and Shiawassee counties chosen to be a part of the Lansing Economic Area Partnership’s entrepreneurship initiative this year.

Supporting small businesses: LEAP names the aspiring entrepreneurs picked for its third One & All training group

During the intensive two-month program, they’ll receive business and communication training, coaching and mentoring, an extended professional network and a small seed investment.

Davis, who has held jobs since he was 14, said he grew tired of working for someone else.

He got the idea for Lansing Mobile Detail after he witnessed Loggins’ job at a car wash and saw the popularity of mobile detailers grow. They used Loggins’ experience to the business’ benefit, Davis said.

Lansing Mobile Detail launched in October and it took several months to get things moving smoothly, Davis said.

“It took a lot of adapting and changing prices,” he said.

And on top of school and fatherhood, it was tough to run a business, he said. But unlike most, COVID-19 actually helped Davis because he needed the extra flexibility virtual school allowed.

“I can stay at home and watch my daughter and still do schoolwork,” Davis said. “It gives me a little extra room to run my business…If I had to go to school physically, I’d be way behind.”

He said his goal is to create a mobile application for all detailers to use to find jobs – similar to an Uber for mobile detailers.

Lansing Mobile Detail has a brick-and-mortar location, near Lansing Community College, but the business model is to travel to their customers, Brown said.

Prior to Madalina’s birth, Davis wasn’t on the best path, his older brother said. He got suspended from school for fighting, he didn’t have great grades and wasn’t on track in school to advance to the next grade, Brown said.

But once Madalina was born, Davis “completely changed how he operates and how he acts,” Brown said.

“He’s not selfish, he’s looking at the future and what he has to do to provide for his family,” Brown said. “He got serious about not fighting, being a positive influence, mentoring people. His entire friend group, all they do now is brainstorm and talk about business. He’s heading down a more positive path.”

Seeing her “babies” grow up and move toward a positive path in life is amazing, Bates said. She started choking up as she spoke about how proud she is of Davis, Brown and Loggins.

“I totally respect their effort and drive and determination,” Bates said. “The way of the streets doesn’t end well for our young men…For (Davis) to find this drive and determination and this goal to hold onto and work for…and to find something to motivate him to provide for his little girl, to turn himself around so dramatically, is amazing.”

From the day Bates met Brown, she said she knew he was “destined to be his own boss.” He had many great ideas and had always been business-minded, Bates said.

“If you can picture a 14-year-old coming to school dressed in dress pants and a tie, that’s been Undra from day one,” Bates said. “This young man has been, from day one, destined to do great things in the business world.”

She’s proud to see the always-independent Brown ask for help and guidance and loves seeing the men invest their energy in something positive.

“They’re young, these are babies, really stepping into the adult world,” Bates said. “I can’t say that at 17 or 18 I was focused on my own business.”

She hopes people in the community will give them a chance to grow their business. The COVID-19 pandemic has been a hard time for all small businesses, but they stuck with it, Bates said.

“I hope this business is one of the standout small businesses in our community because they deserve that,” Bates said. “We as a community really need to be their village. As their counselor and assistant principal, I was part of their academic village. Now their village needs to extend as they walk into adulthood.”