The inner city communities are filled with potential; future doctors, lawyers, politicians, actors, businessmen, potential ‘world changers’ as Leonard Sands would call them. Sands describes himself as an inner city kid, one of the ‘corner boys’ who grew up in Bain Town, Finlayson Street, Bola Alley to be exact.
Today, Sands, currently the President of the Bahamas Contractors Association and a University of The Bahamas lecturer still hasn’t forgotten his roots. His five-year-old business, Sandbank Construction is situated on Nassau Street opposite Bamboo Shack, and according to Sands, he is able to establish a talent pool of employees from within the surrounding neighborhoods.
“While you may have the desire to start your business and ultimately want it to succeed, you must also want to see the growth of the community that you are in, that’s important. It’s not fair to grow in a community, succeed and not try to give back in some way,” says Sands.
Sandbank Construction, is not your typical construction firm according to Sands who blends his experience as an architect and project manager into the firm which he labels a ‘hybrid’. “Sandbank is a hybrid company. It means we don’t do exclusively residential, commercial, remodels or from the ground. “As a company we are small enough to stay connected and be intimate with our customers and strong enough to deliver high quality products and services. It’s really the niche market we service, for the client who wants a project that’s special, under budget and exceeds their expectations. It should always come better than expected and we if can’t deliver that we shouldn’t take on the project,” says Sands.
“I got started in architecture which was my first passion. I began working at an architectural firm and was quite happy doing that for about twelve years until a friend of mine who was working on Emerald Bay project asked me if I wanted to come over and see if I wanted a job. I didn’t know anything about construction project management at the time but I went for an interview and got hired as a project side engineer. That experience changed my appreciation for where I thought I would see myself involved in construction. I pursued a degree in construction engineering and after graduation I worked for two years in Kansas at as a field engineer at a large construction firm. When I returned home I worked with the John Bull group of companies and developed a lot of their Starbucks restaurants.”
“Later I moved on to development projects in the islands, Schooner Bay, Winding Bay. Project management became my life. After 2008 things changed and I found myself between projects for a number of months and I said to myself that it wasn’t making any sense. I was a project manager and the best things I could do is create a company and offer those services and construction related services so I created Sandbank Construction Company Ltd”. Our clientele started very small but with every competed project our name started to get out there,” says Sands.
Of course Sands doesn’t take all the credit for his firm’s success. After all he has a silent partner, his wife Christine Sands nee Kenny. “She’s the best wife you could imagine. She’s the silent partner in my business. She has the financial background and expertise. She’s the one who helps me when I go home at night saying where you are going with this, let’s look at these numbers, let’s sit and talk about how this is going to work out. That’s one of the reasons why we have been able to come into the market and create a place in the market.”
Sands says that hopefully with increased penetration in the market he can provide more employment opportunities. “We have about five to ten steady employees but with construction being a seasonal industry it can ramp up to a much as seventy. We would like to increase the length of time we have people engaged with the company. We want to get to the point where we have seventy people engaged for twelve months every year, that’s a goal. I’m not happy providing seasonal employment. I want to provide long term and sustained deployment for as many people as possible or as long as possible,” says Sands.
Appreciating the importance of education and opportunity, Sands says that his company has adopted Albury Sayle Primary School and provides assistance to deserving students. “We have come up with a relay for education campaign. We are going to run the first leg and hand it to our relay partners and at the end the student is going to finish the race. We are going to invest in one student so they can change their community, the top student from Albury Sayle, we’re going to take them into a private junior high, the first leg of the race and then we’re going to get other business to take it on,” says Sands.
“I’m an inner city kid, I was one of the corner boys but I didn’t allow my circumstances dictate where I was going in life. I’m just an example of what focused potential can do. Young people need to see that there is hope. I’m excited about what’s possible for our young people but disappointed that the nation isn’t encouraging them, pushing them, incentivizing them to make it so they believe that their dreams are possible.”