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Brothers change the course of their family's future

Family's reinvention captures American Dream
Posted at 7:09 AM, Nov 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-29 07:33:39-05

For Charlie and Jonathan Marquez, the jobs always start on the ground. Their workers have to measure and cut shingles and then make sure all their equipment is ready to haul up the ladder. Only then can they go up to the roof.

The story of their life and business is the same. They had to do hard work on the ground before they could think about getting to the top.

"You only have one life, one chance," Jonathan says. "You have to take full advantage of it."

The Marquez brothers own Champions Roofing. They install home and commercial roofs and they're known for specialty projects. But it hasn't always been this way. When they started their business in 2015, these sons of migrant farmworkers had no idea how to run a company.

Their success story is one in a series of SWFL Reinvented stories. We started the series based on what you said you would like to see on Fox 4 News. You told us you wanted to see stories about people who were in the same economic situation you're in. You're concerned about what happened during the recession, so you want to see people who lost everything or started with nothing and worked their way to success.

The Marquez brothers started with nothing.

"Well, our childhood was pretty tough," Jonathan says. "Our parents, they came here to the United States from Mexico. They traveled from state to state working picking tomatoes and picking oranges. Any job they could find. I mean, there would be times when we'd be sleeping in our car for a week or so waiting for the next crop season to start."

The brothers say their parents taught them a lot in those years, but what had the biggest impact was the importance of hard work.

"They put us to work at a young age. And they really taught us the value of working," Charlie says.

Growing up, they say they never really thought about having a career, and they certainly didn't think they would have their own business. By the time they were in high school, their father had a regular job as a roofer in Cape Coral. And, always wanting to teach his sons the value of hard work, he brought them along on some of his weekend jobs. They learned how to do the job. And when Charlie graduated from high school, he got an idea.

"I did some research online, and I found out you only have to be 18 to get a certified contractor's license in the state of Florida," he says. "So I was like, why not go for it?"

He got his license in 2015, and while helping out on a job at a house in Cape Coral, a neighbor walked up to him and said he also needed some roof work.

"We worked out a deal where he paid for the materials," Charlie says. "I told the guy, I just want to pull the permit. Because I just want to get the experience of pulling the permit."

He did the job, and a short time later, Jonathan came on board too.

"Me and my brother kind of looked at each other and said, 'let's do this,' you know, 'let's do this for our family,'" Jonathan says.

But there was no overnight success. The brothers struggled to get regular jobs and they found running a business brought on a new set of problems they didn't anticipate.

"To begin with, we didn't have the proper cash flow," Charlie says. "Starting a business getting no loans or anything like that, it's hard in itself."

They had no experience with sales or bookkeeping, either. So the Marquez brothers did what they always did, what their parents taught them to do; they just worked and figured it out. Marketing was another challenge, but Charlie began making slick-looking videos of their work, and when Hurricane Irma hit, customers began calling because they thought the business was larger than it was.

"There was a point we were getting 90 to 100 phone calls a day," Jonathan says.

They hired more workers, took on more jobs, and learned how to run a business. Today they have 18 employees and plan to open a new showroom by the end of 2019.

They see what they've become as a tribute to their parents and the idea of hard work.

"This is a gift to our dad," Charlie says. "[He taught us you have to] dedicate yourself to it. I mean, dedicate your life to it."