Welcomed by an elderly couple, Freddie Figgers has become the youngest person in the United States and the only African American licensed as a telecommunications operator.
The American Freddie Figgers built a company that is now worth US $ 62 million (R $ 334 million).
But his path to becoming a millionaire was far from easy.
Freddie was abandoned as a baby next to garbage cans in the countryside of the American state of Florida, in the United States.
“The children made fun of me; they called me ‘garbage baby’ (‘garbage baby’, in Portuguese), they said ‘nobody loves you … you’re dirty’. I remember when I got off the school bus and children grabbed me and threw me in trash cans, laughing at me, “he told the BBC’s” Outlook “program.
“It got to the point that my father had to wait for me at the bus stop and accompany me home. And the children disturbed me even more, making fun of him: ‘Ha ha! Look at that old cane man’.”
Freddie’s father, Nathan, was 74 and his mother, Betty May, 66 when they took him in.
They had their own biological children and had taken in dozens of other children over the years – many of them while their own parents were in prison – and planned to stop when they were old.
But suddenly Freddie arrived.
He had no one who wanted him, so they adopted him and raised him as if he were his son.
When Freddie started asking questions, Nathan told him his story.
“He said, ‘I’m going to tell you straight away. Your birth mother abandoned you, and since Betty and I didn’t want to send you to shelters, we adopted you.’ I felt like crap and I always remember when my dad grabbed me by the shoulders and said: ‘Never let it bother you’. “
“My parents gave me all the love that anyone could wish for. They did everything for me. I never felt the need to look for my biological family because my mom and dad, my Betty and my Nathan, were everything to me, I loved them. “
“They are great people. They taught me to be honest, to always do the right thing, to never forget my origins. I saw my father always helping people, stopping on the way to meet strangers, feeding the homeless …”
“He was an incredible man and I want to be like him.”
From trash to wealth
Nathan had two jobs, as a maintenance technician. Betty May, on the other hand, was a farmer and, although the couple did not have much money, when Figgers was nine, he bought him a life-changing gift: a broken Macintosh computer.
“On weekends I went with my father to do what we call ‘diving in the trash’, walking through different neighborhoods in search of things that people would throw away, as the saying goes: what is trash for some, for others, it’s a treasure. “
“I’ve always been fascinated with computers. I dreamed of a Gateway computer, but we couldn’t afford to buy it.”
At the time, his father took him to a second-hand store, where he convinced the salesman to sell them an old, damaged computer, for which they paid $ 24.
“I was happy. Since I didn’t care, I disassembled and realized that a component was broken and everything flowed naturally. My father worked in maintenance and had many things at his disposal, such as soldering guns, radios, watches …”
“I took parts of a clock radio and soldered it and after about 50 attempts I finally managed to get the computer to work. It was then that I knew that was what I wanted to do in my life.”
“That computer erased all the pain from the bullying I suffered. While being bullied at school, I thought about how much I wanted to go home and play on my computer.
“I learned to program when I was 10 or 11 and started writing basic programs. It was my starting point.”
Shortly after learning the language of computers, Figgers got his first job. At 12 years old.
“I attended an after-school course in a computer lab.”
“There was no computer technician, so when a machine stopped working, they would shut it down and stack it with the other damaged ones. I would take and replace the damaged parts of one with the good parts of another.”
At the time, the program’s executive director was the mayor of the city of Quincy and, seeing what Freddie had done, she was surprised, she asked his parents for permission and took him to City Hall.
They had dozens of broken computers there and Freddie dedicated himself to fixing them by going to the site every day after school. He was paid $ 12 an hour, but “it wasn’t so much for the money … I had a lot of fun!”
Three years later, when he was 15 and still working for City Hall, a company offered a water pressure gauge monitoring program for $ 600,000. Employees thought it best to entrust it to Freddie, who created the program they needed at the same salary they were paying him.
It was then that he made a decision.
“At the time I was bored with school, so I decided to go out and start my own business, although my parents said.