S2,E6 - Durin Leckie

Posted on March 20, 2024

Talk CNY - Season 2, Episode 6 - Durin Leckie

This is Talk CNY, presented by NBT Bank, a semi-monthly podcast by CenterState, CEO, Central New York's premier leadership and economic development organization. Join us as we meet the people and explore the projects driving the regional economy forward.

This is Talk CNY, presented by NBT Bank. I'm Katie Zilcosky, director of communications at CenterState, CEO and your host for Talk CNY, Centerstate CEO's business development work includes helping new entrepreneurs start their very first business. Entrepreneurs like Durin Leckie. Durin utilized CenterState CEO's small business programming in order to help formalize and grow his business. On this episode of Talk CNY, we speak to Durin about his entrepreneurial journey. Well, Durin, thank you so much for being here today with us.

Thank you so much for having me today, Katie.

Now can you tell me a little bit about yourself? Where are you from? How'd you get into construction? Your journey?

Okay. First of all, I'm Durin Leckie, and I'm originally from Jamaica. And I moved to Syracuse in 2018 to stay at my uncle's and wife. The journey here has been a rocky road because before this I was in Maine. I was doing kitchen work, work as a chef, and in Connecticut I was doing some other stuff with my sister, but also before school, my dad is a contractor and my dad, that guy love to work. Yeah, my dad love to work. He is the guy that never stops. His construction work is very precise. It is a very good talent. And I tell you, a very great talent. So I put all of those in a nutshell here in Syracuse and I'm like, you know what? This could be my venture.

So it sounds like it was a first love for you back in Jamaica, and a windy road, back to it. But now you're here in Syracuse working. You have your own business now though. What was it that made you want to go that one step further and be an entrepreneur on top of being a carpenter, a construction worker? Well,

To tell you the truth, I think being an entrepreneur, a CEO, an owner for a construction company, I think this thing just comes natural. My mind wasn't around being an owner of anything. So in February, 2021, my mom passed. Oh, I'm so sorry. Yeah, thank you. So before that, in December, I can remember when we had a conversation and she'd be like, 'Hey my son. Listen to me. You can be the best version of yourself that you can be. I see so much greatness in your eyes. Anytime I saw you and you can be the best person out there, just don't be afraid to take on challenges.' And I remember those kind words. She always big me up because I'm her son. She loves me, and I love her too. And from her passing, I was at work and I asked my supervisor if I can leave, because mentally I was distorted and I just never had the, I just couldn't go around nobody.

I just have to be with myself a little. I couldn't be no pressure mentally because my mom, she was my everything, her prayers, everything that she done for me. Every morning, early morning, she called me in the mornings, prayed for me everything or true positive words. And then I started thinking about all of that. And it took me a while because I leave Syracuse, and I went to Long Island with my cousin just to stay for a little. And while I was there, I decided that I'm not going back to my previous company that I was working with. I decided that I'm trying to find a job differently, different construction company, just a new start. And I've never been employed. So I was nervous because I can't get no job. So I tell myself that, Hey, I'm going to create a job for myself then because nobody wants me because I'm in a terrible position of my life.

At the lowest point, my mom died, my car, while I was driving to Long Island, the engine blown in the fast lane. So it was a rough one. So before that I was contemplating, I was asking my cousin, I said, Hey, do you think I'm ready for this? Do you think I should go on my venture? I feel like I should start. And he said, yeah man, you are very good. You're very talented. You can solve a lot of problems. And I know I can solve problems too, but I just need that assurance from the people that is very close to me because I come in this fragile, fragile position. So I really need assurances. And they gave me that assurance that I need. And I start that one project and I did an amazing job there and that kind of gave me the motivation to push for the next one. And I get that next one from Ms. Ruby where I was doing some painting and some painting and did some little sheet trucks and I was like, wow, I love this.

I mean, it's quite a journey. But the reason we're here today is that you have taken part in some of CenterState CEO's programming. So how did you go from taking those one jobs to one job to one job into CenterState's programming and kind of formalizing your business?

January, 2022, I was there. I was just there in the house. I was just tormented. I'm just trying to find that outlet because ... on demand is good, but I could have gone and done different things in my life and I want to make sure whatever I settle with I'm, I can get the best out of it. So then I research and I came up with Lead Safe and I remember Lead Safe. I remember the guy, he came and do the inspection and I called him and asked him how do I set up for a class? And they gave me their date and how much I should pay. So I paid for that session out of my own pocket. It's not like I have a lot because I was just a picker. So I pick, pick, pick and I still have bills to pay and stuff like that. So I don't bless it money,

But I have a goal. So I went in, and I took the course on and I met Jessica Vinciguerra. She was at the city, she was a lead coordinator for the city. And when I sat down, I met Jessica, she asked me, 'Do you live in Syracuse?' And I said, 'Yes.' And she said, 'Okay, I'm from the city, and we always want contractors and you are doing the right thing.' So I said, what? Nice. So in my head now, she said, 'Before I leave, please give me your contact information and stuff like that and then I'll connect you.' And I did that. I make sure I give it to her immediately before we left. And my mind is on that. Alright, I'm thinking about, I'm going to be set up working with the city, which is good. And the county. Yeah. So basically I get into the construction, the lead safe program, the lead program, lead rehabilitation program with the city and the county. And I just been doing that right now. But I've done a lot of different works for private clients around in the diaspora of Syracuse and Cazenovia, Skaneateles. I've gone so many places just to work. Yeah, yeah. In my little white van. Oh my God. We go places

All around Central New York. Everywhere. Outside of Central New York?

No, we never been. But in central New York, yes, we have been a lot of places. Binghamton. Cortland. I go Auburn, I go, we in this pumpkin patch. There's this house that was, it was like this, lean and nobody thought that that house could come back together. Yeah. But it did. Yeah. And Ali Fix It.

Ali Fix It. There you go.


So we're actually going to take a quick break here. We'll be right back with Durin, but we have a word from our presenting sponsor, NBT Bank.

I would recommend NBT Bank to any business. My name is Chris Palamino, and I'm the president of Atlas Fence.

Chris had decided to purchase Atlas Fence from the previous owner. He had previous connections at NBT

Bank. NBT Bank provided me with equipment financing, doubling our entire production workforce. It's important to me as a business owner that the decisions of our banking relationship are made locally.

Welcome back to Talk CNY, presented by NBT Bank. I'm Katie Zilcosky. I'm here with Durin Leckie, owner of Ali Fix It. Now Durin, you were one of the very first Growth and Equity Fund recipients. So can you tell us a little bit about that experience and your work with CenterState, this is where my whole construction journey revolutionized. This comes down through the same Jessica Vinciguerra. She introduced me to Erik Jankowski. Yeah. And Erik, he's my guy. Yeah.

And he was on the episode before you. He also gave us your name. You guys are

Yeah, he's my guy. Erik. Yes. Erik hold my hands. Yeah, he literally, that guy literally hold my hands and direct me step by step. So everything that you want me to do. He direct me to an accountant. He direct me to systems just to help me to navigate. He direct me to funds, to funding to help me buy different tools that I needed. And so I told him that, alright Erik, I started to do these city contracts, but I have to produce, I have to come up front with the capitals to purchase materials and labor. So he was like, 'Okay, Durin, alright.' So I was saying that I wanted a loan. So he was telling me about the Growth and Equity Fund and he said that I need all the different documentations and stuff like that. So we've been working on that for months. And while it was processing and stuff like that, it kind of tailor me in the direction as to what I need to do. So for getting my taxes, because that is important. Get my taxes from my accountant, make sure that I have a tax return. Show that process, I get all the information, and I send it to the underwriters. But before I go to that, before I had the meeting with the underwriter, he will be the person to give me, Ian and Andrew and those two guys.

They helped you get through to the loan process?

Yeah, because they usher me through the process. They train me first. They kind of serious and said, 'Hey, ask me the questions regarding to my business, what are the goals of a business? What's the revenue? How long does it take for me to get paid from the city whenever I do a job, oh, what is that? The time between the start and the finish date. All of those, that is what exactly those guys from the underwriters asked me. So they

gave you great preparation?

Yes, and ushering. And I was honored to get the Growth (and Equity Fund). I don't know if I'm the first.

You were one of in the first group of them. Yeah. Alright.

But I was grateful because what it does, it helps me to kind of leverage in the company now instead of scrapping. Because before I got that funding, I was working, I usually use jobs to take care of the city jobs. So I remember while they were doing, I remember doing four bathrooms all at once because I want to make sure I have enough money to pay my guys or I have enough money to buy materials. So when I start working at nine and I finish at 5:30, 6, I leave from there. I reach in my next job at seven the night and I work until about one in the morning. And I've done that long. I done that months, months after that. And since I get the Growth and Equity Fund, what CEO direct kind of gives me in that sense... It has been a life changer, a business changer.

Yeah. It gives you that capital to not have to do bathrooms until 1:00 AM Yeah,

That's true. It's crazy. But I really appreciate that one where it helped me to relax a little bit and use the money wisely because I got the money towards to hire two persons to buy a new van to purchase, to pay down on a new van. But now it's strategies using the money wisely.

Now you have a whole team with you. It's not just you. I mean, what does it mean to you to have that team and to be able to pay them good living wages and kind of be a business that employs people in this community?

Well, I would say it's nice to have people around. I would say the best thing to me as a person, as an employer is to have employees. And it's to kind of help other people because what is life without helping? If you ask a question, it is not everybody's going to be in better in good situations. And sometimes people need ushering. So me having my group around me, I take those individuals personally. They're like my brothers. They, they're the ones that if I had a problem, all of them, you see there have great communication skills. They all have great ways to fix problem. So me having those individuals around that is good and me want to employing some more people. I think that would help because I'm all here for the community, not for myself only.

Well, Durin, it has been so great talking to you about your journey and all that you've done, and we're looking forward to seeing all that you do in the future as well. So thanks for being here today.

Thank you so much. Thank you for having me.

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