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LDS billionaire, BYU graduate shares success story

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My father was awakening in me a sense of responsibility and a spirit of initiative. Without knowing it, I was learning how to sell, to negotiate, to offer a product. My dad calmly waited for the results. He didn’t go with me. He trusted me and didn’t interfere. The choices where mine. It was a lesson for a lifetime. – Carlos Wizard Martins

Carlos Wizard Martins learned to work at an early age. His father drove a truck from town to town in Brazil selling goods and young Carlos would go with him during school breaks. Far from a vacation, Carlos would go into the stores, take orders and deliver the goods while his father sat in the truck listening to the radio.

“My father was awakening in me a sense of responsibility and a spirit of initiative," Martins wrote in an email interview with the Deseret News. "Without knowing it, I was learning how to sell, to negotiate, to offer a product. My dad calmly waited for the results. He didn't go with me. He trusted me and didn't interfere. The choices where mine. It was a lesson for a lifetime."

The lessons Martins learned paid off in future business endeavors. Martins recently sold the language school franchises he founded, Grupo Multi, for $719.6 million, according to Forbes.com. This sale, along with his other investments, has propelled Martins into the rank of the world’s billionaires.

The journey to becoming a billionaire, however, is what makes Martins’ story so unique.

When Martins was 12 years old, his parents became concerned about the declining morals of society.

“My parents had an emptiness inside them," Martins wrote. "They felt people were losing track of the notion of right and wrong, with misplaced principles, values, ethics and a lack of mutual respect. Imbued with this spirit, they initiated a search for a religion that would help them raise their seven small children and keep the family united. It was at that moment that the missionaries knocked at our door.”

This experience changed Martins’ life. His family joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and he began learning English from the missionaries, who also encouraged him to apply to Brigham Young University when the time came. Given his parents’ income level, this dream seemed unlikely. But the idea stayed with him.

When he turned 19, Martins was called to serve a Mormon mission to Portugal. After returning home, he married his wife, Vania. They left for their honeymoon in a borrowed car and with the prospects of a minimum-wage job waiting for him when they returned. It was at this time that the couple made a decision that they have never regretted.

“We decided to seek prosperity with the help of God," Martins wrote. "We promised the Lord that we would be 100 percent faithful in paying a full tithing and that we would be generous in our payments of church offerings. As we returned to begin our life as newlyweds, we did not yet know what to do to climb out of the poverty in which we found ourselves. … We had no chart, no compass, no road map, no standards or hints. We only had the desire and confidence that the Lord would bless us according to our efforts."

One of the first blessings came when Martins was accepted to BYU. He was 26 years old, with a wife and twins. He earned his degree and returned home to Brazil. At 30, he became an executive in a multi-national company and planned on moving up the corporate ladder for the duration of his professional career.

Then one of his co-workers asked if Martins would teach him English.

“I agreed and I started teaching him classes in my living room at home in the evening after work," Martins wrote. "After this first student, another came and then another and another. As time went by, the number of students increased."

Soon, teaching English brought in more money than his salary at the company he worked for. Martins quit his job and invested his savings in a language teaching school he called Wizard. This school became the fastest-growing English learning school in Brazil.

From one student in his living room, Martins grew the company to 3,000 schools in 10 countries with 50,000 employees and over 1 million students per year. Martins later legally changed his middle name to Wizard as a nod to the company.

Not satisfied with his success, Martins has also worked to help others succeed.

“Carlos is one of the most gracious and down-to-earth people you will ever meet," said Mark Palmer, a donor liaisons for LDS Philanthropies. "Not only does he give in terms of philanthropy but what is remarkable about his business is how many other people prosper because they got involved with him. He’s willing to very quickly embrace people as friends. It’s not hard to see why people would want to be in business with him."

Martins helped more than 100 people in Brazil become millionaires through his business franchising. This experience led him to write a book, “Awaken the Millionaire Within,” which he calls his “personal philosophy of success.”

During the years of building a successful company, Martins served as a bishop, stake president and mission president. He also continually seeks to bring people to the gospel.

“He is a remarkable missionary in his business dealings and everything else he does," Palmer said. "He’s just completely unafraid to share the gospel with anybody at anytime. And the way he goes about it is so natural that it almost goes unnoticed. But there’s nobody that doesn’t know that Carlos Martins is a faithful member of the church.”

The principles of the gospel have guided Martins in every aspect of his life, and the lessons that Martins’ father taught him while they drove around Brazil in a truck have helped him in his professional career. He continues to share these two aspects of his success in order to help others become the best they can be.

“I believe that every successful person carries within himself a feeling that he is fulfilling a mission, since any victory loses its meaning if we do not use it for even greater purposes,” Martins wrote.

Ben Tullis is an intern at the Deseret News and a freelance writer and copy editor. He graduated from Utah Valley University in April 2014 with a bachelor's degree in English. He lives in Pleasant Grove, Utah, with his wife and 2-year-old boy.