In 1989, Florida headlines filled with the news of a newborn left by a dumpster. Today, that baby boy is a grown man - and a multi-millionaire. From being abandoned to becoming a business owner, this is Freddie Figgers' story.
A '90s Kid
Nathan and Betty Mae Figgers were a happily married couple residing in Quincy, a city of around 7,000 people in Gadsden County, Florida. Their lives were changed forever with one decision late in the 1980s.
Betty and Nathan did not have kids of their own, but the duo served as foster parents for many children. That is until they decided to take things to the next level: the couple adopted a two-day-old baby boy born on September 26, 1989, and named him Freddie. Little did they know what their adopted son's future held.
A Loving Family
Both Betty Mae and Nathan were in their 50s when they adopted their adorable newborn. Mr. Figgers was a handyman and maintenance worker while the Mrs. worked on a farm. And according to Freddie, his childhood was filled with unconditional love thanks to them.
"I saw my father always helping people, stopping on the side of the road helping strangers, feeding the homeless," the proud son shared. "He was an incredible man, and for them to take me in and raise me, that's the man I want to be like." But life wasn't all rainbows and butterflies.
They Went Dumpster Diving
Freddie grew up in a household where love was in abundance. But other things were not, as the Figgers sometimes struggled financially. But the dedicated parents found ways to get their son the things he wanted. One strategy was dumpster diving, AKA looking through people's garbage for interesting finds.
"It's an old saying, 'One man's trash is another man's treasure," said Freddie. And there was one particular treasure the young boy searched for: "I was always fascinated by computers. I always wanted a Gateway computer, but at that time, we couldn't afford one," he explained. Then things took a sudden turn.
Freddie Wanted the Truth
At some point during their years of dumpster diving, Freddie became curious about the past. Specifically about his biological mother and the conditions around his 1989 birth. So at the age of eight, little Figgers asked Nathan to share whatever he knew.
Nathan was likely a bit hesitant to tell his adoptive son the truth. It wouldn't be easy to share the real details around the boy's birth. How would Freddie react? The information he was about to learn had the potential to turn their worlds upside down.
"She Threw You Away"
What Freddie learned next devastated him. "[Nathan] said, 'Listen, I'm going to shoot it to you straight, Fred. Your biological mother, she threw you away, and me and Betty Mae, we didn't want to send you through foster care, and we adopted you, and you're my son,'" Figgers recalled of when he found out the truth.
Freddie's biological mother abandoned him next to a Florida dumpster. "When he told me that, I was like, 'Ok, I'm trash,' and I felt unwanted," Figgers shared. "But he grabbed my shoulder, and he said, 'Listen, don't you ever let that bother you.'" But the young boy couldn't escape his past.
The Endless Bullying
Freddie felt beyond adored and cared for by Betty Mae and Nathan. But learning that his biological mother left him by a dumpster understandably put a dent in the eight-year-old's self-esteem. And to top it off, children in school cruelly teased Figgers.
When peers learned that Freddie had been left by a dumpster, they wouldn't let him forget the traumatic event. "Kids used to bully me and call me, 'Dumpster baby,' 'Trash can boy,' 'Nobody wants you,' 'You're dirty,'" Freddie said. Things quickly escalated.
His Father Couldn't Help
The bullying soon went from verbal insults to physical altercations. "I remember getting off the school bus sometimes, and kids used to just come behind and grab me and throw me in a trash can and laugh at me," Freddie recalled. What could the Figgers do?
They decided Freddie's dad had to get involved. So Nathan waited for his son at the bus stop to protect him from the bullies. But that plan backfired when the kids made fun of the elderly father, too. "Ha ha, look at the old man with the cane," Freddie recalled them saying.
A Dream Come True
It seemed that there was no way to stop the bullying. Things seemed rather hopeless, and Freddie probably never imagined these kids would one day look up to him for his multi-million dollar success. Fortunately, Figgers found safety at home with Nathan and Betty Mae.
And after countless weekends spent dumpster diving for a computer, Nathan and Freddie hit the jackpot when they found a broken Macintosh computer at a local Goodwill. "We persuaded the sales associate," said Figgers. "And he said, 'Hey, I'll give it to you for $24.'"
He Had To Fix It
Luckily, that was a price the Figgers family could afford to pay. "So we took the computer home, and I was just so ecstatic," Freddie shared. The old Macintosh was totally broken, but it wouldn't be the nine-year-old's first rodeo, as he often spent time playing around with old radios, clocks, and VCRs.
Freddie had already learned a thing or two about technology from taking apart the old electronics his dad brought home. So now was the time to put that knowledge to use. "When I got home, and it wouldn't come on, I took the computer apart," Figgers said. What happened next changed everything.
A Life-Changing Moment
After taking apart the computer, Freddie got to work. "As I was looking in it, I saw capacitors that were broken," he said. "I had soldering guns there, and I had radios and alarm clocks, so I took parts out of my father's radio alarm clock, and I soldered them into the circuit board."
Figgers worked with parts of the old electronics as he tried to get the broken computer going again. Finally, after about fifty tries, the nine-year-old got the Macintosh to turn on. It was at this moment, as the computer screen lit up, that Freddie understood his life-calling.
A Healthy Escape
Figgers was thrilled as he took apart old electronics and used the pieces to fix the computer. And once the Macintosh came back to life, his body filled with satisfaction. That's when Freddie knew that he was meant to work with technology. Soon, the Goodwill find turned into an escape from reality.
The Macintosh became a way to survive the daily bullying. "That computer took away all of the pain of getting bullied," Figgers explained. When kids teased him in school, there was one thing on his mind: "I can't wait to get home to play with my computer," Freddie said.
Figgers eventually took those tech skills outside the bounds of his home. At the age of 12, the young teen was in an after-school program. But while most of the kids were at the park, Freddie preferred to be somewhere else: the school's computer lab.
A flourishing computer whiz, Figgers spent afternoons fixing broken computers. "If the hard drive was corrupt, I would swap it out. If it needed more memory, I would add more RAM. If it needed a power supply, I would switch it out," he shared. It wasn't long before some of the staff took notice.
An Invite to City Hall
And it wasn't just anyone who realized that Freddie had a knack for tech; it was someone quite important in the community. The mayor of Quincy, Florida, was at the time also the after-school program's director, and she noticed the talented 12-year-old.
After observing how Freddie fixed one computer after another, she invited the youngster to the town's city hall. "She shows me all of these computers in the back, oh gosh, maybe 100 of them stacked up, and she says, 'I need these computers repaired,'" Figgers recalled. That was the start of his career.
A Profitable Gig
Freddie would later find a way to make millions, but he started out small. Although he was definitely making bank for a twelve-year-old. Quincy's city hall paid Figgers $12 an hour to fix the endless stock of broken computers in the government building.
"It wasn't even really about the money," Freddie insisted. "I had an opportunity to do something that I loved to do, and it was just so fun to me." Figgers developed a routine: every weekday, he'd go to school and then make his way to city hall for work. Then, another opportunity came up.
Could He Code?
Freddie was over the moon with this new lifestyle. Barely an adolescent, he had a rather well-paying gig that kept his mind distracted from the bullies at school and kept his wallet full. Best of all, Figgers was happy every day spent fixing the pile of computers.
One afternoon, the teen heard the city manager yell, "Hey, Freddie's a computer dork, he could probably help with this." The town needed a specialized computer program to track its water pressure. But creating one required coding skills, something Figgers didn't have.
He Saved the City $600,000
The Florida town had already consulted private companies that offered to develop a water pressure checking system. But these organizations charged about $600,000 for the project - a price that Quincy couldn't afford. So when the city manager wondered if Freddie had the skills, the youngster quickly took the chance.
"I said, 'Sir, listen, if you give me an opportunity, I could build the same program,'" Freddie explained. "So he gave me that opportunity, and I built that program exactly to the specifications that they needed. I didn't get paid $600,000; I got my regular paycheck and went home." But Figgers would soon be rolling in millions.
A High School Drop-Out
Freddie probably became a town favorite as news spread of the local computer genius who saved Quincy, Florida, hundreds of thousands of dollars and provided them with a necessary tool. The event also helped Figgers realize something: he didn't need a traditional education.
So a few years later, at the age of fifteen, Freddie took a step in a totally different direction from the way he'd lived so far. Figgers dropped out of high school and opened a computing business. But his parents were less than pleased by the decision.
His Dad Got Sick
"They believed in education, work, retirement," Freddie said of his parents. "I wanted to break that chain; I wanted to do something different." Nathan and Betty Mae disapproved of their son dropping out of school but still showered him in love. Then things took a devastating turn.
A couple of years after dropping out, Freddie's computer business was thriving. And then Nathan started showing symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. It seemed that from one day to the next, Mr. Figgers' condition deeply worsened. Nothing could prepare the family for what happened next.
A Traumatizing Experience
One of the things Nathan did as his Alzheimer's developed was to get up in the middle of the night and act out scenes he watched on the family television during the day. This was often harmless, but when Mr. Figgers re-enacted a violent movie, it resulted in "the most traumatizing thing that ever happened to me," as Freddie put it.
"It was about two o'clock one morning, and my father used to like this old western called Gunsmoke, and he came into my bedroom, and he thought he was [the main character] Matt Dillon," Figgers detailed. "He had a rifle in his hand, and he told me... 'I'm going to need you to get out of town.'"
His Dad Was Gone
After a "bit of a tussle," as Freddie described it, he took the weapon from Nathan. Figgers patiently coaxed his dad to bed and then fell back asleep. But when the tech whiz woke up the next morning, another surprise awaited: Nathan was nowhere to be found.
Leaving the house alone, without telling anyone, was one of the things Nathan began doing as his Alzheimer's progressed. But knowing that didn't make it any easier for Freddie and Betty Mae each time it happened. This ultimately inspired a million-dollar idea.
The First Invention
Freddie eventually found his father on that frightening morning. But the stress of the whole ordeal, and the fear that Nathan was somewhere alone and hurt, motivated Figgers to find a solution to the problem. "So I got my dad's shoes, I cut the sole of the shoe open," he recalled.
"I built the circuit board and placed it inside of the shoe with a 90 megahertz speaker, a microphone, and a wide area network card," Freddie continued. "I integrated that with my laptop - this was before Apple maps or Google maps - and I integrated that through the TomTom, Garmin platform." Would it work?
It Was a Tracker
So what exactly did all of those things on the shoe sole do? They provided a way to track Nathan's whereabouts whenever he wandered out the door alone. With the click of the keyboard, Freddie could see exactly where his forgetful father was. It was genius.
"My father could actually wander off, and I could press a button on my laptop and say, 'Hey dad, where are you?' I would come in as a loudspeaker on his shoe, and he would say, 'Fred, I don't know where I am!'" Then Figgers could pinpoint his location. The young man knew it was a valuable invention.
Nathan Passed Away
Nathan's Alzheimer's eventually worsened, and the tracker wasn't enough to ensure his safety. So Freddie started taking Mr. Figgers with him to business appointments. "One time I was in a meeting, and I looked out the window and... oh my gosh, my dad had let the back window down and climbed out," he recalled.
Freddie added, "So I was in panic mode, and it was embarrassing, but I was like, 'Hey, I have to go.'" A few years after developing the clever tracking technology, Figgers' dad passed away. "It honestly broke me," he said. "Because all I ever wanted to do was make my dad happy."
A Million-Dollar Invention
But shortly before Nathan's death, something amazing had happened: Freddie sold the invention! A company bought the rights to the tracker's technology for a whopping $2.2 million. Figgers dreamed of using that money to make some of his dad's long-life dreams come true.
For as long as Freddie could remember, Mr. Figgers wanted a Ford pick-up truck and a boat to go fishing. His proud son wanted to buy that, and more, for him. But Nathan passed away before the millions made it into Freddie's bank account. The computer wiz was heartbroken.
"Money Is Nothing but a Tool"
But the devastating experience taught Freddie an unforgettable lesson. "That really opened my eyes and taught me that money is nothing but a tool, and I'm going to do everything in my power to try to make the world a better place before I leave it," he shared.
Figgers added, "Knowing my father, he wasn't a rich man at all, but he [made an impact on] so many people's lives, and I want to just do right by everyone I meet and help everyone I can." But Freddie would soon be able to use money as a tool for good and for plenty of luxuries because more millions were on the way.
After the tracker, Freddie invented something else inspired by a different traumatic experience during a visit to an uncle in Georgia. "When we got to his house... [we] were knocking on the front door and he wouldn't come to the door," Figgers detailed.
The family managed to get inside the home and found the uncle had passed away from a diabetic coma. Had someone known that his blood sugar level was dangerously high, Freddie's uncle might've gotten help and survived. So Figgers created a glucometer that automatically shared a person's blood level with a relative and a doctor.
The Biggest Project Yet
The glucometer had the potential to save people's lives. And Freddie wasn't done helping those around him with his incredible tech creativity. There was another problem on the young inventor's radar: a lot of rural areas in the country still used dial-up internet while the rest of the country was already on 2G or 3G plans.
Freddie wanted to change that by building his own telecommunications company. But it wasn't simple. "I had to petition to show that the bigger telecom carriers are not going to come in and invest their infrastructure into a rural area," Figgers explained. The future was bright... and filled with millions.
The Youngest Telecoms Operator
The process took much longer than Freddie hoped, but the tech guru didn't give up. According to him, he tried nearly 400 times and invested tons of money until his idea got approved. But once it did, Figgers became the youngest telecommunication operator in the country.
The year was 2011, and Freddie was only 21 years old when his endless petitioning got him somewhere. At the time, he became not only the youngest telecoms owner in the nation but also the only black-owned telecommunications company in the U.S. And Figgers was only getting started.
An Expanding Empire
When the telecommunications company first got approved, it was a one-man show. Freddie was the boss and only employee, and for a while, all the business needed was his brain and tech creativity. Even when someone had to get their hands dirty to lay the foundation for a mobile tower, Figgers was on the ground.
Or if some cables needed to be installed, Freddie was there to figure it out. But eventually, the company kicked off and spread to other rural areas in northern Florida and southern states. Since 2011, Figger's telecommunications company has continued to expand and hire more employees. And with that came a lot of moolah.
Living in Luxury
An expanding telecommunications company and multiple inventions have earned Figgers the big, and we mean big, bucks. According to various sources, Freddie has a net worth of over $60 million at the time of this article's writing. Not too shabby, right?
So what has the man done with all that moolah? Aside from countless philanthropic efforts, Freddie lives the good life thanks to his hard work and unique talents. From a Florida mansion to signed sports jerseys and multiple high-end cars, the baby who was once abandoned by a dumpster is now a man enjoying the millionaire lifestyle.