THE HOUSE THAT ORVILLE BUILT

Man walks away from of­fice job to start suc­cess­ful con­struc­tion com­pany

Jamaica Gleaner - - FRONT PAGE - Sashakay Fair­clough • Gleaner Writer

GROW­ING UP in the poor, ru­ral com­mu­nity of Three Hills, St Mary, Orville Sewell could not have fath­omed that as a young adult, he would own a suc­cess­ful con­struc­tion com­pany.

His fa­ther, Ter­rence Sewell, worked as a ‘house man’ at a small ho­tel in Ocho Rios and was the main bread­win­ner for his four chil­dren, while his mother, Mer­va­lyn Brown-Sewell, op­er­ated a tiny shop from the fam­ily home.

De­scrib­ing his up­bring­ing as ‘rough’, Sewell, 33, re­fused to use it as an ex­cuse for fail­ure. In­stead, he chan­nelled the work ethic he ac­quired from his strict fa­ther and cre­ated one of the most suc­cess­ful new con­struc­tion com­pa­nies in Ja­maica called NECCA (North East­ern Con­struc­tion Con­sul­tants & As­so­ci­ates). The holder of a mas­ter’s de­gree in civil en­gi­neer­ing and con­struc­tion man­age­ment, he started the com­pany in 2009 with a JN Small Busi­ness loan while em­ployed full-time at the Na­tional Works Agency as a se­nior project of­fi­cer.

“Ja­maica Na­tional was able to fa­cil­i­tate me be­cause I had a ve­hi­cle and could get a loan on it. Young peo­ple just need the op­por­tu­nity. It would be good if they could get small busi­ness loans with­out col­lat­eral just to get a start. If it was not for the JN Small Busi­ness loan, I do not think I could have started at that time be­cause I had a stu­dent loan, too, and a small salary.”

He opened his first of­fice in Port Maria, St Mary, and af­ter some suc­cess, he opened a sec­ond one in Port An­to­nio in 2011. Al­though his con­struc­tion busi­ness was thriv­ing, he wor­ried about pos­si­ble mis­man­age­ment be­cause his full­time job took most of his time.

“My girl­friend Keray Ray­mond, 29, who helps me to run the busi­ness, was wor­ried about mis­man­age­ment and gave me an ul­ti­ma­tum. She said I should ei­ther close the busi­nesses down and re­main in Kingston or leave my full-time job and ded­i­cate my time to the com­pany. I then made the very dif­fi­cult and scary de­ci­sion to leave the safety net of my full­time job.”

BEST DE­CI­SION

Asked if he re­gret­ted it, Sewell shook his head en­thu­si­as­ti­cally. “Never. It was the best de­ci­sion I ever made. Some­times you have to let go of your safety net in or­der to truly suc­ceed.”

Af­ter clos­ing down the Port An­to­nio of­fice in 2014, be­cause of the lack of de­vel­op­ment in the area, he opened his flag­ship of­fice in St Ann’s Bay. The busi­ness con­tin­ues to flour­ish with an av­er­age of three ma­jor res­i­den­tial build­ing projects per year, with ren­o­va­tions and mi­nor con­struc­tion projects in-be­tween. He em­ploys three per­sons full-time and be­tween 20 and 30 part-time, de­pend­ing on the level of work to be com­pleted.

“Cur­rently, in Plan­ta­tion Heights, St Ann, there are about eight work­ers. There is also a site in Run­away Bay with 10 work­ers and an­other 10 in Bosco­bel, St Mary. As a busi­ness­man, I like to

en­sure that my work­ers are prop­erly com­pen­sated for the work they do. Some­times I even pay them more than I pay my­self be­cause of how hard they work.”

Nev­er­the­less, like many Ja­maican en­trepreneurs, the high crime rate se­verely im­pedes his com­pany’s suc­cess.

“The rep­u­ta­tion of Ja­maica over­seas has led to many in­stances of me los­ing work. Peo­ple would pre­fer to pur­chase a house in an­other Caribbean is­land or in warmer states such as Florida. An­other thing is, most clients, even those re­sid­ing in Ja­maica, are afraid be­cause of scam­ming and fraud in the con­struc­tion in­dus­try. Some con­trac­tors take their money and dis­ap­pear, so we are all stereo­typed. The few bad ap­ples af­fect con­trac­tors like my­self who try to be as fair and rea­son­able as pos­si­ble.”

Nev­er­the­less, Sewell re­fuses to give up and he strongly be­lieves that more young Ja­maicans need to ven­ture into the tech­ni­cal field be­cause many uni­ver­sity grad­u­ates strug­gle if they do not have a skill to fall back on.

“The tech­ni­cal field is the best right now. Many of these peo­ple, in Ja­maica and over­seas, make far more than de­greed young pro­fes­sion­als such as doc­tors and lawyers. I was in shock when I re­alised how much they make be­cause, when I worked for the Gov­ern­ment, I did not make even half of that. The earn­ing power is end­less.”

Sewell is an ad­vo­cate for small busi­nesses and he be­lieves that many are strug­gling sim­ply be­cause they are over­taxed.

“Small busi­nesses need a tax break, so, for ex­am­ple, if they pay taxes for two years, give them a break for a year so they can de­velop the busi­ness prop­erly, or just re­duce taxes right across the board.”

PHO­TOS BY IAN ALLEN/FREE­LANCE PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

Hous­ing de­vel­op­ment de­signed by Orville Sewell. Right: Orville Sewell, cre­ator of the suc­cess­ful con­struc­tion com­pany NECCA, when we in­ter­viewed him re­cently.

Orville Sewell over­sees this con­struc­tion work tak­ing place in St Ann’s Bay.

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