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Life Is What You Make It

An entrepreneur basks in his newfound freedom by building an ATM empire.

This story appears in the February 2006 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

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 and robbery, he was sentenced to life in 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 . 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 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.

In 2001, McKinney started investing in machines in California but ultimately decided to sell those machines and invest in a new life in , his wife's home state. He now owns more than 50 ATMs on the Big Island, Kauai, Maui and Oahu, and his business, Island ATMs, has become Hawaii's second-largest ATM company. He spends his days loading, repairing and monitoring the machines. And at last, he has found his place in life, living well off of approximately $400,000 per year.

Now, at 45, McKinney's life is just getting started. Having had time to heal from his past, he is ready to talk to troubled juveniles. By sharing his story, he hopes to "lift a kid up and get him to realize that there's a better way."

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