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MAKING CONCRETE CHANGE

In the second part of our six part series on Young Entrepreneurs, Akeem Lennard explains how customized concrete is transforming our construction industry.

There is no shortage of elegant properties that embrace a combination of advanced architecture and sophisticated design in the Virgin Islands. Owner and Lead Artisan of Greencrete BVI, Hubert Akeem Lennard Jr. (Akeem), is proud to have played a central role in the construction of many of these properties.

Located in North Sound, Virgin Gorda, Greencrete BVI is a company that manufactures custom concrete and epoxy products, creating a wide variety of items for the home, from countertops to cabinets to floors to light fixtures. The company has been operating for 9 years and this year, Akeem is preparing to take yet another great stride in the construction industry with the launch of his second business, Block Works VI. To celebrate this achievement, we sat down with Akeem to highlight Greencrete BVI’s rich history and give insight into Block Work’s upcoming launch.

ABOUT GREENCRETE BVI

“I grew up in an entrepreneurial family and my Dad is a contractor,” Akeem said, as he reflected on his earliest inspirations. “As an only child and being inquisitive as I am, I easily got into the entrepreneurial life. I love architecture and wanted to pursue that field,” he told us. In early adulthood, friends gifted him a book called “Building Green from the Ground Up” where he saw concrete as a finished product and the way cement is a material used that can leave an immense carbon footprint. However, invigorated by his entrepreneurial spirit, Akeem saw this construction problem as an opportunity in disguise. He recognized that concrete requires innovation to bring it into a sustainable era. He went on to develop a business plan and obtain several certifications in decorative concrete applications such as a Certificate in Concrete Masonry Technology at a community college in Michigan. On 29 January 2013 he launched Greencrete BVI. This company achieves a balance between decor and design all while producing a sustainable form of concrete. “We believe in environmentally sound contracting, leaving the smallest carbon footprint we can on your home project” Akeem shared.

The concrete mix reduces the amount of cement used by replacing it with conch and whelk shell material as well as glass aggregate or fine glass sand obtained from the glass recycled from households across the Virgin Islands. “I collect glass and I also receive glass from Green VI. What we do is we take the labels off the glass and crush the glass on hand by putting them in a bin that I constructed and use a sledge hammer to crush the glass. It’s kind of a stress reliever moment,” Akeem explained. “We clean and sort the glass depending on what colors we want to use, add it to the mix and go from there”. The result? An authentic work of art that tells a story and truly captures the beauty of our islands. Like waves washing against the shore and leaving behind little pieces of shell, replace your countertops and cabinets with soft blue colouring that brings the beachside view indoors! Whether you are searching for a new countertop or would like repairs done to your floor, Greencrete BVI gives an element of style to your project that’s both durable and sustainable.

In their 9 years of operation, Greencrete BVI has worked on numerous projects locally, regionally and internationally. “My first job when I started was at Cooper Island. I had done an outdoor bath for them, which I did with recycling glass and conch shells,” Akeem told us. Other projects include the Cane Garden Bay Baptist Church’s entire floor and most recently, the creation of the island destination signs on Tortola, Virgin Gorda and Anegada. “For the BVI sign at the Tortola Pier Park, we did that one with recycled glass embedded into it and also stained the concrete so it goes all the way through,” Akeem explained.

Greencrete BVI has also received a number of awards. In May 2015, Greencrete BVI was the winner of the Department of Trade and Consumer Affairs’ May Business of the Month and was rewarded for his outstanding customer service, provision of unique products and diligent community involvement. In September 2018, Akeem was given the exciting opportunity of representing the BVI as a guest speaker at the TEDx Wilmington conference in Wilmington, Delaware. He spoke on the topic, ‘Surviving your personal hurricane with your company in tow’ where he described his experience with Hurricanes Irma and Maria and the impact they had on his business. His presentation received praise for being an inspiring example of the resilience of the human spirit.

ABOUT BLOCK WORKS VI

An entrepreneur is always on the look out for new and innovative ways to do things and it is this mindset that allowed Akeem to discover yet another opportunity for positive change.

“In 2017 after Hurricanes Irma and Maria and watching the struggles for building materials in the territory, my entrepreneurial juices began to flow again” Akeem explained as he took us through the process that led him to his next business venture.

Like many of us, the hurricanes of 2017 emphasized how meaningful a place to call home is for all of us and just how important its joy, strength and comfort is.

“I’d heard my grandmother saying that her house, whose walls were still standing after Irma and were 56 years old, were built with blocks that were made in North Sound, Virgin Gorda,” he told us.

These words from his grandmother were the seeds that planted an important question in his mind. He asked himself, “if blocks could have been made 56 years ago here and with lack of technology, why not now?” This question started the process of growing his idea into another blossoming business; Block Works VI. “Block Works VI, which is scheduled to launch in the third quarter of 2022, will be the first sustainable concrete block manufacturers on Virgin Gorda,” Akeem announced. Traditionally, this product was 100% produced overseas and imported. The fact that it can now be sourced from BVI, and manufactured sustainably is very exciting for the industry and the community as a whole.

This quality is consistent with Greencrete BVI and further cements his brand as one that’s committed to building a sustainable future for the Virgin Islands. He then explained that each of his blocks will utilize an average of five recycled glass bottles that will be crushed into sand and incorporated into each block. Weekly, he plans to use an average of 4,500 glass bottles that would have otherwise ended up in the waste. “This is something to be excited about,” he added.

He further explained that while Block Works VI deals with the structure of the house, it can be both industrial and decorative. “With Block Works VI, we will give people the opportunity to have blocks with the recycled glass shards in them that we polish at home. You get a finished product without having to paint or plaster,” Akeem told us. As he prepares to launch, Akeem is currently in his final semester of completing a certification of achievement in Business Administration at the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College. He is also a student at the Branson Centre.

THE BOTTOM LINE

At the end of our interview, Akeem left a word of advice for other aspiring entrepreneurs. He said: “My advice to up and coming entrepreneurs is to just start. Don’t wait for the perfect time because there will never be a perfect time. Don’t give up. You might not get the support that you want right away but you have to keep going. You never know who’s watching.”

Follow @Greencrete BVI on Facebook. email: green_crete@yahoo.com. Telephone 284-342-4855. Follow Block Works VI on Facebook @Block Works VI email: blockworksvi@gmail.com. Telephone 284-442-5625.

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