It’s like the internet meme of where it started and where it ended up.
Danny Persaud had dreams of attending Florida State University but he didn’t have a way to pay for it. So, he slept in his car outside of campus for three weeks, looking for work and trying to figure out how to be able to attend classes. When no solutions were manifested, he drove home to Tampa.
Today, in honor of significant gifts made to the college of business at Florida State, a classroom will bear his name in legacy hall. He also sits on the board of governors for the college of business, the executive board and the Jim Moran Institute board.
He’s sponsored hundreds of college students via funding, mentoring or scholarships, over the years.
“I always want to make sure the kids that couldn’t afford to go to Florida State could go,” Persaud says. “That was my goal the entire time. For those many years that I wasn’t in college, it was just brewing in my head. See, I don’t forget stuff.”
It’s true, after listening to him tell his story he does, in fact, not forget much. A result, no doubt, of his sharp brain and tendency to multitask.
When he’s not occupied with running MidFlorida Armored and ATM Services, based in Tampa, as chief executive officer, he has his hands in one of his many other business ventures, or he’s thinking up inventions, or renovating a hemp farm. A few of his businesses include Quick Claims, which helps the insurance industry streamline claims, Check Mates, a business that helps make online dating safer, and Eagle Investments.
And if all of that isn’t enough to keep him busy, he can also be found giving back to the Tampa Bay community in a number of different ways.
A hard worker, with a generous heart, Persaud’s ambitions can be traced back to a childhood with many obstacles.
Born in Guyana in South America, Persaud’s family immigrated to Tampa when he was a child.
After a few months in this new country, his family was kicked out on the streets on a wintry night. It was only the kindness of a stranger that helped the family find shelter.
This was the moment that Persaud became an entrepreneur, he says.
“When I saw the uncertainty in my mother’s eyes, that night, was the day the entrepreneur in me set fire … and it never stopped.”
Persaud remembers eating a bowl of cereal in the morning, and that would have to sustain him for the remainder of the day. “We couldn’t afford school lunch, so we didn’t eat,” he says.
His father has a shattered leg and the family had very little money, but asking for help was never an option.
“You don’t ask for help. You figure it out,” he says, of the mindset he learned from an early age.
The family ended up moving into a small home, in Tampa, which is still owned by Persaud’s family. He started working at 7 years old and by the age of 10, he was making more money than his parents.
“By the time I was 8, that was the last time my parents bought me anything. They would never have to pay for anything for me, or my brother or my sister again,” he says.
Growing up, he lived in a racially charged neighborhood. A neighbor would even encourage his German shepherd to intimidate Persaud, as he made his way to, and from, school.
“This guy would sic his German shepherd on me while calling me every name in the book,” Persaud recalls. “I was only 10 years old.”
Karma took care of that, years later, when Persaud realized the man was now building his pool. For the record, the individual did offer an apology to Persaud. But the damage was done. Persaud still tears up when sharing this story — one of the many traumas he endured during his formative years.
He shakes it off after a moment and adds, “I bought his house, too.”
It’s important to note, that there isn’t a hint of malice or pettiness when Persaud describes these little wins. It’s more like a process of healing old wounds and letting it continue to drive him toward success.
“Everything this country goes through, my family has been through it,” Persaud says.
Persaud was a good student, honor roll classes and involved in sports like basketball, football, baseball and track.
He had a grueling schedule of school, sports and working as much as he could. He often would only have a few hours at home each night.
When he came back to Tampa, after his failed FSU attempt, he immediately got into the armored-car business.
“My family and I have been through a lot and survived. But not only did we survive, we thrived,” he says.
Persaud joined a competitor, first, before he established his own armored-car business at the age of 25.
“I worked for five years. I never missed a day. I’m talking 365, days including Christmas and birthdays,” Persaud says.
Before he was 30 years of age, he was the CEO of his own company and had already started work on his primary passion, helping other people out.
Magic Johnson was Persaud’s idol while growing up. It was a regret of his that he never got to see him play before Johnson retired from playing basketball in 1996.
But as luck would have it karma, once again, played a role in realizing one of Persaud’s dreams.
In 2021 Persaud got to meet his idol at a Boys and Girls Club event. Thanks to generous donations, he got to spend some one-on-one time with Johnson, and the two now have formed a relationship that potentially will benefit kids in the Tampa Bay area.
Persaud is actively working to do “something major” for teenagers in Hillsborough County. He wants to build a trade school, centrally located, that will provide busing access and education, at no charge to families.
“I finally got to meet my childhood hero. Not only did I get to meet him, now I get to hang out with him. I get to break bread with him,” Persaud says. “Then we’re going to talk business together and see if we can do something for the kids in the Tampa Bay area.”
His other passion is the organization Wheelchairs 4 Kids, a nonprofit organization based in Tarpon Springs that is dedicated to improving the lives of children with physical disabilities by providing wheelchairs, home and vehicle modifications as well as other assistive equipment, at no charge to the families.
“If you don’t understand what [Wheelchairs 4 Kids] does, just picture yourself not being able to walk. And on top of that, you have a broken wheelchair. They can’t even get out of the house,” Persaud says. “Now you’re basically bedridden, and you’re forgotten.”
Wheelchairs for a quadriplegic individual can cost up to $50,000, Persaud adds, which insurance doesn’t always cover.
“So that’s my story, helping kids and helping them succeed. I’ve seen what I went through. It may be traumatic to some people. But there’s always someone going through something worse than what you are,” he says. “Everyone deserves a chance.”
When Persaud’s wife, Brittany, was pregnant with their daughter, Danika, he had a heart attack. He describes it as a surreal experience, as to be imagined, thinking you are dying.
“At that moment, I realized I was just going to have to help as many people as I can [in my lifetime],” he says.
When he bought a rundown farm in Lafayette County, he named it after his daughter.
DanikaFarms is now being restored and turned into a hemp farm, another accidental business of Persaud’s.
“We want to eliminate plastics in the world. We can make straws, we can make shirts, we can make towels, we can make socks. We have the technology,” Persaud says. “I suddenly became a hemp expert overnight. I learned everything I could about it. I toured the whole country, on my own dime, and met with farmers everywhere. So that will be the next big adventure. Don’t be surprised if you get a straw, in one of these restaurants, that have DanikaFarms on them.”
In addition, his 400-acre farm is creating jobs and giving people in the surrounding area of the farm an opportunity to make a living.
“If you give people a fish, they’ll eat for a day, if you teach them to fish, they’ll always be able to eat,” he says. “I take problems and find solutions to them. I try to make things better.” ♦
Photos by Michael McCoy, MP Studios[image_slider_no_space on_click=”prettyphoto” height=”300″ images=”14957,14956,14955,14954″]