OKLAHOMA CITY – Second and third chances. Bryan “Whiteydawg” White had a few that didn’t work out. Then one day in 2015, a brainstorm led to a new business and a brighter future.
White found his calling while driving east with his dad Robert White on Frisco Street in Clinton. The John Deere store he passed was nearly finished, but the parking lot badly needed power washing and paint striping.
White didn’t have equipment yet, but he saw an opportunity – and a chance to work.
“I can do that!” White told his dad before rushing in to talk to the store owner Bob Lorenz and transportation supervisor Mike Hyman.
They knew a good business deal when they heard one, so White got the job.
Robert White let Bryan buy a basic power-washing rig on his credit line at Home Depot. Whiteydawg’s Powerwashing/Painting/Asphalt Sealcoating/Striping Service, LLC, was born.
“I really appreciate Bob and Mike literally helping me start my business,” White said. “I give them many thanks for giving me my first contract and supporting my company by still giving me work.”
It had been a while since White felt good about himself or anything much that he’d tried to accomplish.
Struggles with bi-polar disorder and depression led to alcohol problems, drug abuse and ultimately incarceration for non-violent offenses – mostly forgery -- in Texas and Oklahoma.
White’s family was from Cordell, but lived many years in Pampa, Texas. When his parents retired and returned to Clinton, White stayed behind for 10 years or so.
Eventually, he returned to Oklahoma to help his aging parents. That’s when some old trouble caught up and landed him behind bars again.
“I guess you could say I was trying to kill the pain, but I didn’t go about it the right way.” White admitted.
He had previously applied for employment services through the Vocational Rehabilitation program offered by the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services.
The first time, he didn’t follow through, but by March 2015, he had a business idea, a little experience and a big desire to do something different with his life.
VR counselors Amy Martin from the Weatherford DRS office and John Thomason from Oklahoma City worked with White to develop a plan for services through VR’s self-employment program.
In 2015, DRS’ Vocational Rehabilitation and Visual Services program provided job preparation and employment assistance to 13,074 Oklahomans with disabilities that are barriers to employment. Agency counselors, evaluations and technician teams helped 2,300 job-seekers go to work, become taxpayers and reduce their need for disability benefits and social services.
DRS helped White with career counseling and guidance, vocational and self-employment evaluations and financial assistance to purchase a professional power-washing system and trailer.
To ensure the best chance for success, the VR team required White to attend a year of business management training at Southwestern Oklahoma State University. He worked with SWOSU’s Center for Economic and Business Development to develop a solid business plan.
White learned about the renewed demand for the power-washing industry with potential annual profit estimates of $55,000-$65,000, according to SWOSU research.
“They say that I’ve got one of only three power-washing businesses in western Oklahoma,” White said proudly, while showing before and after photos and a list of new bids on his phone. “I’d like to work more in Oklahoma City, but there’s a lot of work right here.”
In addition to DRS, White credits the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services’ drug court in Washita/Custer County with giving him strong motivation to change.
“I wasn’t supposed to get a chance through drug court because I had too many strikes against me, but they gave me a choice of 18 years behind bars or two to four years in the drug court program, so I took what turned out to be a chance to change my life,” he said. “A lot of good of things have happened out of a bad thing, and I will finish the program in October.
Adult drug court programs are structured, court-supervised treatment programs that provide non-violent, felony offenders with an alternative to incarceration, if they cooperate and stick with the program. The average annual cost per person for drug court participation is $5,000, compared to a $19,000 average annual cost for incarceration, according to the ODMHSAS.
White had to part ways with some of his old friends, but he’s enjoying life at home on Foss Lake and making new friends at his church, The Avenue, in Clinton.
“There’s nobody equal to Pastor Ross Foster as a person, pastor or friend,” White said.
White seems amazed at the transformation that has taken place in his life and willing to give all the credit to DRS, drug court, his pastor – just about anybody that played a part when he decided to start over.
“I give the credit mostly to God,” White said.
These days, he is busy doing a great job for his customers around Clinton, Weatherford and Elk City and helping his parents. He’s thinking about buying more equipment and someday hiring other Vocational Rehabilitation clients to take on the extra work that is starting to come his way.
“We all have problems in our daily life and need structure and a chance for a second, third or even a fourth chance to start over,” White said.
“This quote by Thomas Edison fits the bill for me: ‘Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.’”