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An Entrepreneur’s Journey: Denyzio Laboy ‘11 Perseveres to Make a Positive Impact on Underserved Communities

During his early years, Denyzio Laboy '11 didn’t have it easy. As a Native American and Puerto Rican in Brooklyn, he felt excluded from opportunities others had access to, and he struggled to find his way.

“I wasn’t always on the right side of the law growing up, and I realized I needed to do something better with my life after my son was born,” he says.

On the straight and narrow

Laboy decided to take charge of his future and pursue a career in law enforcement.

“If you can’t beat them, join them,” he says.

He served on the police force in New York City before moving to the Marylanad area and accepting a job in federal law enforcement. After 9/11, he joined the Department of Homeland Security as a federal agent and continued to advance in his career.

Although Laboy had started college after high school, he says he lacked the maturity at the time to see it through. Two decades into his career, though, the time was right.

“I felt like I needed to complete my degree,” he says. 

He was drawn to UMGC because it allowed him to study criminal justice while working full time. He was surprised and thrilled to learn that his many years of real-world experiences counted for something in his degree program. 

“I owe a lot of gratitude to UMGC for having a course where people can turn their life experience into credits,” he says. “That course changed my life, period, hands down.”

Knowing that his professional and personal experiences were valued made earning his degree all the more fulfilling.

“UMGC was the place—it was perfect for me, and I am very grateful for the opportunities I had there,” he adds. 

Expanding interests

Law enforcement and education weren’t the only things on Laboy’s mind, though. Growing up during the birth of hip-hop music in New York City strongly influenced him. In fact, Laboy and his friends were successfully managing artists at a young age. 

As the years passed, his interest in the music industry expanded, and so did his entrepreneurial mindset. He and a like-minded friend began talking about how the industry stifles musicians and had an idea for an innovative two-sided talent service e-commerce marketplace.

“PenUin was born,” he says. 

PenUin provides a place for recording artists and other entertainers to promote and market their talents across a variety of e-commerce platforms, giving them more visibility, greater reach and new revenue streams. 

PenUin completed the Conscious Venture Lab (CVL) Accelerator program and was selected as one of nine companies by the Maryland State Department of Commerce to represent Maryland at last year's Startup Grind Global Conference in California. 

“This experience opened doors, and as a result, I partnered with fellow CVL alumni to create the Positive Impact Conference (PIC), scheduled for Sept. 20-22 in Baltimore,” says Laboy.

The PIC strives to leverage diversity and inclusion practices to empower underrepresented individuals and communities to thrive economically. 

“We’re very excited and very happy to be where we are,” says Laboy, “and I’m looking forward to the event.”

His greatest lesson in entrepreneurship

Laboy has been able to transform his life because he’s not afraid of a challenge.

“I have never met anyone in life who succeeded without failing. Failure is just a steppingstone to success,” he insists. “I always say give yourself a chance to fail—fail until you succeed.”

When he and his business partner had the idea for PenUin, neither one of them had expertise in search engine optimization (SEO) or writing code. When they took their idea to the experts, they were told it couldn’t be done.

Undeterred, Laboy’s business partner decided to find a way to do it himself.

“Here we are building this platform, and he went on YouTube to teach himself to write the code,” explains Laboy.

When they met with the professionals again, they were astonished to see that Laboy and his partner had managed to develop the platform they said wasn’t possible.

“They were blown away,” notes Laboy. “They said it can really be done.” 

He has carried this lesson with him to stay motivated.

“Don’t let anyone tell you what you can and cannot do or that something is impossible like the so-called professionals told us,” he insists.

Onward and upward

Laboy is excited for the wide-open future ahead of him.

“I came from humble beginnings, and I realize I had a lot of missed opportunities because they weren’t given to me,” says Laboy. “I was angry at a young age, acted out and was heading down a wrong path.”

Years later, though, he’s coming out on top thanks to his determination, creativity and compassion.

“A driving force that resonates within me is that I’m not going to let you continue to dismiss me and move past me,” he insists. “I’m going to create my own opportunities and keep moving.” 

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