Name: Coss Marte
Birth place: East Lower Manhattan
Current Residency: New York, NY
Occupation: CEO of ConBody
The next father I will be featuring Coss Marte and like him I grew up in a city (Brooklyn, NY) in a time surrounded by heavy gang and drug activity in the 80's and 90's. As time went by my mother moved my sister and I, to Boston, MA. My sister and mother would eventually date men who were heavy in the drug game. So I am no stranger to the lifestyle. Matter of fact, I attempted to enter the game but the brothers on my block wouldn't allow me to be a part but more so protected me. I guess they saw something different in me from my mother and sister.
I even remember growing up, one of my past times with my dad was watching mafia movies and being mesmerized. I actually wanted to be a mafia queen, lol! One of my favorite movie is "Bella Mafia." I still laugh at myself wanting to live that life style. But now as I look back on my block in Brooklyn and I see the same men I grew up with trapped on the same block I ask myself; did they see nothing more beyond the block for themselves? What makes a person do an 180 in life once they have gone through the worst?
So today I feature husband, father and CEO of ConBody Coss Marte. Coss lived and was raised in the Lower East Side of Manhattan where he started selling marijuana when he was 11. He eventually moved on to cocaine and other drugs that by the time of the young age of 20 he was making $2 million a year. Around the same time he found out he was going to be a dad. Mind you he didn't want kids until he was 30. But was excited about the idea of becoming a father. He would just hustle right off the corner, right in and front of the bodega, on his block 24 hours a day.
Eventually he got caught and was sent to Rikers Island away from his family. But that didn't keep him from trying to do right by his finance and son so they got married while he was in Rikers Island. His mindset was I have to just survive to get back to my family which was a extremely difficult task to do in such a negative environment.
He had reached where he only had two months left to complete of his time in Rikers Island but ended up having an altercation with a correctional officer which added 3 more years time to his sentence. He contemplated writing a letter letting his family saying to forget about him bc at that point he was deeply discouraged. But his sister sent him a Bible and began reading it from front to back and realized his actions had a huge impact on his immediate family and many others. After a stint at Rikers Island, Marte was sentenced to seven years upstate, most of his time spent at Greene Correctional Facility in Coxsackie, NY. Eventually he found his atonement through helping others in getting their health back. It was during his prison sentence that his prison doctor told him he would die of a heart attack within five years because of his stratospheric blood pressure and cholesterol. Then prison, he says, altered his view of the world. “It really made me think about the stuff that I was doing before and how bad it was,” Marte recalls. “The problems I was causing, the effects to people’s bodies. And it really made me regret everything.”
To pass the time he began working out in his nine-by-six cell. Like so many incarcerated men before him—notably Joseph Pilates, who invented his eponymous fitness system in an English internment camp during WWI—Marte began developing his own form of exercise. He’d do pull-ups using a towel woven through the bars of his cell, and he’d wrap his mattress up like a backpack for squats.
Coss open his business with the help of Defy Ventures. The nonprofit holds a business plan competition, much like the show Shark Tank, to help people with criminal backgrounds become successful, legal entrepreneurs. Jose Vasquez, a program manager with the organization, says Marte won about $10,000 to help transform his hustle. But during that process he faced many barriers and discrimination bc of his background. Another aspect of his business that he knew he had to implement was giving the opportunity for other women and men who had a past a second chance by being physical trainers as well at ConBody and he hasn't fired anyone who has ever started with him.
What prevents you from going back to your old ways?
What helped not to go back and KNOWING everything was going to be ok. And realizing everyday I woke I had a place to sleep, clothes on my back and something to eat.
What are your hopes and fears for your son?
My son is just an incredible good kid and sometimes I wonder if he came out of my body. But I hope he keeps doing the right thing. He's a sheltered mommy's boy and I was like I want to hit the streets all day. I can't complain. maybe when he gets old he will want to experiment but I hope not. My hopes for him is just to the right thing and follow the right path. I guess my fear for him to follow my footsteps but to let me know if there's anything wrong and being open with him.
What would be your words of encouragement fathers who can relate to your experience?
Rewrite the script of how us dads went through trials and tribulations and not have your kids go through the same thing. I was raised in a spanish family growing up and being disciplined with belts, sandals, etc., and I have never had to physically discipline my son but I talk to him. Instead of repeating the patterns from generation to generation to have your kids grow up a different way.
Manhood for is a strong person. A person who is a go getter and provider for his household. Being responsible dad. And the acronym for dad for is Day After Day being open. Knowing he can contact me or call me whenever I am traveling or away.
Be there. Be present. Being vulnerable and having your kids seeing your vulnerability.
"It’s often reported that nearly 1 in 3 American adults, or about 30%, has a police record" (The Wall Street Journal) Yet, "ONLY 12.5% of employers say they would hire a formerly incarcerated individual" (Elite Daily) With 76% of inmates returning to prison (Coss Marte, TEDx Talk, Hong Kong), America has a serious problem with repeated mass incarceration.