After showing Gov. John Carney the inner workings of his new business in Wilmington’s Riverside section, Markevis Gideon crisscrossed the warehouse floor too many times to count.
At each turn, he found another person ready for his embrace. Wearing a teal suit with a navy NERDiT NOW t-shirt, matching his six-year-old company’s color scheme, Gideon shared handshakes, fist bumps and hugs with community leaders, government officials and friends and family. His smile never wore out.
“He only hears yes,” said Sarah Fulton, the board chair of a nonprofit Gideon started a few years ago.
The swarm of suited guests assembled Thursday to celebrate Gideon’s latest venture: the opening of a 50,000-square-foot warehouse that could blow open the scope of NERDiT NOW’s operation. It’s a company that’s taken several forms — its longest residence was a recently-ended stint as a repair shop in Stanton’s First State Plaza — and is now Delaware’s only R2 certified electronics recycler.
Businesses either send loads of old IT devices to NERDiT NOW’s warehouse or have Gideon’s team pick-up the discarded tech. NERDiT NOW then recycles the electronics in a way that keeps company data secure and meets state and federal regulations. They guarantee nothing ends up in a landfill.
It’s in this form that Gideon believes he can best achieve his dual goals of creating a successful business and helping others do the same.
He’s already made headway. In the last two years, NERDiT NOW has donated more than 10,000 devices. The nonprofit he started from the Stanton store now enrolls around 75 people a year in a free pre-apprenticeship program and is preparing to open its own space downtown.
“We want people to open up their own stores,” he said. “I want to teach people to become entrepreneurs.”
A nerd’s journey to success
Gideon can appear as a polished speaker, reflexively entering his pitch on the ways NERDiT NOW tries to make an impact. But he’s also unafraid to be loose. With the DJ playing Kool & The Gang’s “Celebration” on the loud speakers and the governor seated behind him, Gideon danced his way to the podium Thursday. He asked the crowd to chant “John Carney.”
The people closest to him say he’s had a unique spirit his whole life.
“Just the other week he was like, ‘Mom, I’m a millionaire, I just don’t have the money yet,’ ” Gideon’s mother, Regina Ransom said. “I was like, ‘You’ve always been a millionaire in my eyes.’ “
His grandmother once found Gideon taking apart her VCR. He wanted to see how it worked. As she prepared to get on the young child, Gideon’s grandfather said to let him be. Soon after, the VCR was put back together.
Not long after that, Gideon started selling candy in the neighborhood. Ransom said he noticed the older guys wanted pizza and hot dogs so he took his candy money and, thanks to a ride from his grandfather, reinvested in round frozen pizzas at Save-A-Lot. Gideon returned to the block selling $5 pies.
“My other kids wanted to be outside playing, Kevie wanted to be inside fixing or doing or making something different,” Ransom said.
Later she added, “He always was the one to make money, more money and more money.”
By 18, Gideon accumulated a lot of around 30 used cars at Widener University that he bought and sold between classes. He says a “bad day” in which he lost his girlfriend, job and car then led him to China where, as a four-month trip turned into a five-year stay, he launched his next business: a bar.
Shot down by Shark Tank, he finds his niche in Delaware
He returned to the U.S. for his now-wife Kristen and started NERDiT NOW in 2016 out of the apartment they shared. He did some work from a truck resembling an ambulance, thinking he’d one day run a completely mobile business.
But a year later after finding that not enough people could track the ambulance down, he opened a small storefront on West Newport Pike. The First State Plaza store came next about a year after that.
NERDiT NOW gained notoriety in 2019 when it took a new concept for a mobile repair kiosk to ABC’s Shark Tank. They walked away without a deal, but parlayed the attention into new community partnerships and an expansion of the nonprofit.
The warehouse became available earlier this year when Second Chances Farm, a hydroponic facility that hired former prisoners reentering society, closed facing a series of lawsuits and financial issues.
The back of the warehouse is already filled with stacks of WiFi routers, camera lenses, cell phones and computers. Now, Gideon is looking for 50-75 more workers to get the warehouse up to capacity.
Elijah Jackson’s interest in building computers led him to a new job with NERDiT NOW earlier this year. The 2018 Delcastle High graduate also conveniently lives down the street in Riverside.
Jackson is part of the early team that is developing NERDiT NOW’s processes and filling out the physical space. Every day, he’s excited to find what treasures will be arriving at their doors. On one day, they can come across a sophisticated graphics card. The next day, they’re testing Google thermostats.
“We’re nerding out over it,” he said.
Contact Brandon Holveck at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @holveck_brandon.
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