CINCINNATI — Marvin Bryce Sr. was at a low point in his life when he looked up and found his future.
It was 2005. Bryce was going through a divorce. He had lost his home to foreclosure. His soon-to-be ex-wife and son were living with her family while he lived in his 1997 Oldsmobile Bravada. Bryce was sitting in the SUV one day when he noticed a CareFlight helicopter flying overhead.
"At that moment, I really found my purpose and saw that life was bigger than me," he said. "If I was continuing to be selfish, I was heading down that destructive path. God saw fit to give me a second chance."
That second chance came in many forms and led Bryce to where he is now. He remarried and had two more sons. He is the founder of Kingdom IT Solutions, his own IT services company. And he is president of Soaring Spirits Aviation, a nonprofit ministry that he founded to transport sick and dying patients to medical facilities free-of-charge.
For Bryce, it all goes back to that July day in 2005 when he saw the helicopter.
"That was the turning point for me," he said. "It just took me in a whole different direction."
But it took time, patience and faith for him to get where he is today.
'The Difference Between Life And Death'
Bryce's story started in New York City, where he grew up. By the time he graduated from high school in 1981, he was itching to leave. He loved to fly but didn't have a high enough SAT score for the U.S. Air Force Academy. He joined the Air Force instead, with dreams of becoming a fighter pilot.
Bryce's eyesight wasn't good enough, though. Vision requirements for the Air Force were much more stringent than for civilian pilots at the time, he said. So he took up electronics engineering. By the time he left the Air Force in 1985, he was well positioned to get work in the growing telecommunications industry. He worked for several large companies, including Xerox Corp.
He and his ex-wife moved from Chicago to Dayton to be closer to her family. He worked for Nexis-Lexis there until his job was cut as part of a corporate downsizing.
That's when things got so bad that Bryce lived in his car for a few months.
But after he spotted that helicopter, Bryce, who is now 52, went back to school at Sinclair Community College in Dayton to study aviation. He wanted to become a CareFlight helicopter pilot himself — transporting patients to hospitals and using his passion for aviation to save lives.
After he learned that the starting salary for those jobs was much lower than what he could earn in the information technology industry, he got his pilot's license but decided to stay in IT.
Within a few weeks, he got a job at Cincinnati Bell. He commuted from Dayton for a while before moving to Cincinnati in 2007.
Bryce remarried and had two more sons as he continued to grow professionally.
Still, the whole time he was building his career in IT, Bryce couldn't stop thinking about flying. When he decided to get training to become a minister, his ministry plan revolved around his passion for being a pilot.
He incorporated Soaring Spirits Aviation in 2009 and estimates that he spends about $10,000 to $12,000 of his own money each year to rent planes and buy gas to fly patients where they need to go. Soaring Spirits also takes donations to support its work.
It's a gift that's priceless for the families whose lives are touched, said Chaplain Deborah Edwards.
Edwards was working at a local hospice facility a few years ago when a 27-year-old patient confided that her final wish was to be with her family in Atlanta.
The young woman was too sick to fly on a commercial airline or ride a long distance in a car. Edwards knew of Bryce through church connections and reached out to him.
"I just thank God for his heart being willing because she couldn't even walk at the time," Edwards said.
Bryce and a couple other men had to carry the woman onto the plane to take her home.
"We were looking at three weeks at the most that she would survive. Once we got her to her family, she lived for several months after that," Edwards said.
Bryce, she said, "made the difference between life and death" to that young woman.
"He brought life and hope to her," Edwards said. "There are a lot of men who say that they're Christians. But there are few like him who actually carry it out."
Bryce also has used his passion for aviation to partner with the Greater Cincinnati Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen to get more young people interested in aviation as a career.
The chapter had wanted to start a youth aviation program for some time, and Bryce volunteered to launch it after becoming a member, said James Shaw, president of the local chapter.
"We want to inspire youth to become interested in aviation because it is a good field to go into," Shaw said. "He knows how to do that."
Putting Customers First
Customers of Kingdom IT Solutions said he also knows how to run an efficient, customer-centered business.
Bryce initially launched his company in early 2013. But getting the business off the ground was taking longer than he and his wife had hoped so Bryce took another corporate IT job in Dayton later that same year.
After a year and a half of commuting to Dayton from Cincinnati, Bryce said he and his wife agreed he should focus on building the business full-time.
His wife, who is a teacher, helps with the bookkeeping while Bryce focuses on customer service and the technical aspects of the business. He has three other technicians who work as contractors, and he runs the business out of his Monfort Heights home.
Kamaria Tyehimba said Kingdom IT Solutions delivers a lot of value for the price.
"He's been our only IT provider for over a year," said Tyehimba, the president and CEO of the local Urban Minority Alcoholism & Drug Abuse Outreach Program & Recovery Services.
The nonprofit organization, known as UMADAOP, was having terrible problems maintaining its Internet connection, Tyehimba said.
Bryce checked out all the organization's equipment and discovered that it had too many routers and an inefficient Internet provider. UMADAOP got rid of some routers and changed providers, decreasing its monthly bill, Tyehimba said.
Bryce also ordered new computers for the agency and installed all the necessary software, and he has been available whenever a problem arises, she said.
"You can't survive without electronic records today," she said. "He has been very responsive."
He's been responsive to the needs of New Prospect Baptist Church, too, said Darius Bobo.
Bobo was the project manager for the church's executive team when New Prospect was moving from its former location at 1829 Elm St. in Over-the-Rhine to 1580 Summit Road in Roselawn.
The church hired Bryce to design, plan, price and install all the phones and technology needed for the new location, Bobo said.
"He did it from A to Z," Bobo said. "And then he did it at an affordable price point that most company would charge you thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars."
Bryce set up a system so he can address most IT problems remotely, Bobo said, and he has even been known to troubleshoot on Sunday mornings when he's busy with his own family and worship.
"He's just been very customer-attentive," Bobo said. "It's been a Godsend."
Bryce said he learned the importance of customer service at all the corporate jobs he has held over the years.
He likes being his own boss these days and is excited to see his company grow.
"I know what I'm capable of doing," Bryce said. "I can put the limits on myself."
Now Bryce is working to grow his company so he can hire more full-time employees and help support his Soaring Spirits Aviation ministry.
It all goes back to that second chance he got back in 2005.
"It's my duty to help folks have a second chance in life — or even a first chance," he said. "Everyone who comes my way, I want to give them the opportunity."
Kingdom IT Solutions and Wright Communications will sponsor a free workshop on "Cloud Technology & Cyber Security for Small Businesses" on Feb. 27 at the Mid City Executive Center on Summit Road. The workshop will go from 10 a.m. to noon with a continental breakfast and networking session that starts at 9 a.m. For more information and to register, click here or call (513) 761-3700.
For more information about Kingdom IT Solutions, click here.
For more information about Soaring Spirits Aviation, click here.
Lucy May writes about the people, places and issues that define our region – to celebrate what makes the Tri-State great and also shine a spotlight on issues we need to address. She has been writing about women- and minority-owned businesses in Greater Cincinnati for more than 17 years. To read more stories by Lucy, go to www.wcpo.com/may. To reach her, email email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @LucyMayCincy.