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Life Is What You Make It An entrepreneur basks in his newfound freedom by building an ATM empire.

By Sara Wilson

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Editor's note: McKinney died Oct. 8, 2008, in a scooter accident in Honolulu. He was 47.

Dewayne McKinney was only 19 when he pains-takingly learned the true value of freedom. Wrongly convicted of murder and robbery, he was sentenced to life in prison and immediately thrown into a desperate fight for survival. Stabbed and assaulted numerous times, he lived in fear. And when it became too much to bear, he even tried to take his own life. But amid the despair, a faint glimmer of hope lived on, and McKinney dreamed of the day that freedom would once again be his. "I started to dream outside of my environment," McKinney recalls. "I started to go beyond my circumstances."

McKinney got his life back on January 28, 2000, three years after the real criminal confessed to the crime. Two decades of his life had been robbed from him, for which he received a $1 million settlement. Determined to make up for lost time, he started aggressively searching for a good investment for the money. When a member of his church mentioned the deregulation of the ATM business, which made it possible for individuals to purchase and operate ATM machines, he knew it was the opportunity he had been waiting for.

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