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Meet ‘FigueRonny,’ the Doorman Who Fled the Congo and Is Building a Security Mini-Empire in NELA

5:15 PM PST on February 12, 2020

    [dropcap size=big]R[/dropcap]onny Makadi Ngoie’s reputation is already known around Highland Park’s bar scene. 

    Locals in the industry say he’s making moves on the street with security contracts everywhere from Gold Line bar to Hippo. His employees selflessly back him up. And when he’s on shift, he is the first on the scene anywhere on Figueroa Street to break up any scuffle, small or large. 

    He is the kind of man who is recognizable blocks away: A tall, built well-dressed dude rocking an “Africa” chain with the unmistakable stroll of a bouncer.

    As I interview him on the sidewalk, Ngoie shakes over six people’s hands in ten minutes with a sincere smile showing why he’s earned the local nickname ‘FigueRonny’ for his genuine personality and solid presence in the community. He’s earning his respect in the field as a young black entrepreneur immigrant with a diplomatic approach to a dangerous job and a determined work ethic which took him from homelessness to his growing success.  

    Born in the African country of Congo, Ngoie still remembers the violence him and his family went through in his childhood. The political conflict and lack of opportunities led his father to move his family to Paris, France at age five, then later to Belgium when he was 13 years old. He says the renowned beauty of Europe masks the tough reality immigrants like his father had to face. 

    Darryn ‘Slim’ Looper, Ronny Makadi Ngoie, and Brandon Jones. Photo by Frank John Tristan.

    In the 1020 neighborhood of Brussels, the streets would define him in a rough city with fistfights becoming his reality until he had a wake-up call. More and more of his friends were landing in jail and then one got killed. Meanwhile, his father’s hard work in sales started to pay off when Ngoie was 17. His dad could finally afford a house for his kids and by 23 his father offered Ngoie a chance to move with the family to the United States which he took as a way out of his realities in Brussels. Ngoie says, “I feel like in life when you have your back against the wall and you don’t have a choice, you got to swing.”

    His family settled in Torrance, where his father eventually bought a house and started to succeed in the States. Inspired by his father’s rise from struggle, Ngoie became determined to find his own success and at age 24, a beginning in Mixed-Martial Arts at a Carson gym led him to be offered work in the security field for private events. 

    After a fight broke out one night, Ngoie set himself apart when he used his martial arts training to judo hip toss an unruly patron attempting to sucker punch someone. This reputation to remain calm but still get the job done led him to become head of security within four months.

    He suddenly found a profession he fell in love with but this new pursuit broke his father’s heart who felt he’d sacrificed so much just for his son to become a security guard. It led to a falling out between the two, with Ngoie making the choice to move out of his fathers to sleep in his car with the determination to succeed on his own and with everything to prove. He says, “I looked him in the eyes and said ‘I will create the biggest security company in the world, you’ll see and I will prove you wrong.’”

    He began working seven days straight with no money to his name, still learning English, doing any security gig he could get while saving up until landing his first apartment where he remembers crying his eyes out from all he went through. But there was a silver lining: He now had a mindset to never give up. With his eye on the ball, he worked his way up from gigs in loss prevention nightmares like working Black Friday to Carson nightclubs where he dealt with gangs and fistfights every night. 

    Then his big break came when he met his friend Zach Kahn who gave him work in private events for high-end clients then a job at the Bungalow in Santa Monica where he’d learn the essentials of the security game from Kahn and his coworker Joey Q. After a fight broke out one night, Ngoie set himself apart when he used his martial arts training to judo hip toss an unruly patron attempting to sucker punch someone. This reputation to remain calm but still get the job done led him to become head of security within four months. Kahn says “I saw greatness in Ronny from the start, his dedication to the craft and his loyalty to others propelled him in the business.”

    In 2016, Ngoie finally started his LLC with a goal of separating himself from other companies by only hiring the best diplomacy-first guards who actually care about the profession and to take care of his employees by putting them first in every way possible. His first gig came with a 24-hour surveillance post in Malibu then his company’s reputation started to spread, leading to private events in the Hollywood Hills and a gig at the Highland Park Bowl where he started as his foothold on the street. His reputation for running a solid security team with a friendly presence on the block earned him a business mentorship from security professional Brian Holmes, a contract at Gold Line, then Blind Barber, followed by Hippo and now even Good Housekeeping. Even beyond HLP, he’s now got security spots in Downtown L.A., Santa Monica and more yet to be announced. 

    He’s proud to help other guards out and provide an opportunity at a living wage since he knows what it’s like to struggle himself, swearing before he ever started his company, he’d always put his guards first.

    While he’s backed off the dream of making the biggest security company in the world, Ngoie has his eyes on the short term in expanding and pushing the boundaries to see what he can get. Things are looking up for him, with his team being the heart of his operation, you can even still catch him walking to each spot-checking on his guards at every bar and working alongside them to show he’s really there for them. He has a future main goal of being able to create a program to hire ex-convicts who he feels aren’t given enough opportunity when they’re released. He’s proud to help other guards out and provide an opportunity at a living wage since he knows what it’s like to struggle himself, swearing before he ever started his company, he’d always put his guards first. Employee Brandon Jones says “When you have a great boss like Ronnie, it makes it very easy to want to work for him and so you’re going to give it your best.”

    Slim and Ronny on Figueroa Street. Photo by Javier Cabral.

    “He’s not a boss, he’s more so a worker just like you,” said Darryn ‘Slim’ Looper, “With Ronnie you know you’re going to get work and you’re going to work somewhere where you’re comfortable. He’s going to put you in a position where you’re going to succeed.”

    Despite all his years of struggle, that era of his life is at the heart of the compassion and respect he shows to others, including his workers.

    Despite all his years of struggle, that era of his life is at the heart of the compassion and respect he shows to others, including his workers. He relates to people on an individual level, treating bar owners with the same respect for both the old school and new school residents, along with the homeless on the street. He truly remains humble, never thinking he’d be where he is now, forever grateful to those who got him where he is now. 

    His mentors who first believed in him, his team, his girlfriend, and above all the grace of God. He credits his father as his hero who went from struggling as a migrant in Europe to a successful man finally able to provide for his family all thanks to hard work and dedication. His father Didier Makadi Ngoie says after all these years “…I was forced to admit to him that I was wrong, what a great feeling I had when I finally admitted that to him after seeing what [he] is doing. I am very proud of my son Ronny."

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