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BY Abu Mubarik, 12:00pm November 18, 2022,

This Syracuse man went from removing junk from people’s homes to building McDonald’s restaurants

Eli Smith of SGTR. Photo: sgtrllc.com

At the age of 13, Eli Smith was baptized into the entrepreneurial world by his father who owned a janitorial carpet cleaning company. While doing other things like playing football, he also worked at night, three days a week, for his father’s company.

Fast forward to 2009, there was a global economic meltdown and he went from working 40 hours for his parents down to 20 to 25 hours. Everyone was struggling and Smith was not an exception. 

“I remember watching The Oprah Winfrey Show and (she) had honored the gentleman that owned the company, “Got Junk?”, who was in three different countries, and he just started with a pickup truck,” he told syracuse.com

Smith concluded that if the gentleman he was watching could found such a successful business, he could also start one. In 2011, he founded his first company, which was a cleaning company. The company cleans out attics and garages for residential customers all over Central New York. 

According to Smith, the profit margin was incredible, revealing that he was getting between 40 and 65% profit. He noted that people had a lot of junk in their homes and usually, what his team did was to give them to Habitat for Humanity, to different nonprofit organizations that can turn and resell them or give them away.

“That helps cut down on our overhead because we didn’t take it to the landfill, but we’re also giving back to those who are less fortunate,” he explained on how he was able to amass enough profit.

Smith, 50, did this for the first two years until he got his first commercial job, where he had to tear down a residential garage. That’s what catapulted him into the commercial end of things, he said.

Today, the father of four employs 70 workers in his original business, SGTR, and E. Smith Contracting, which builds commercial establishments like restaurants. What is more, he’s one of the developers of Salina 1st, a $10 million mixed-use development on Salina Street on the city’s South Side, according to syracuse.com.

Speaking on his challenges as a Black businessman, Smith said it’s been “tough” and a “struggle.” Nonetheless, he tries to partner with companies that see the value of inclusion and diversity because that’s what E.J. Contractors Smith and SGTR are. 

He also revealed that his companies have employees from across the globe, including China and Afghanistan, and African Americans. “We’re the melting pot, I call it, of construction,” said Smith.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: November 18, 2022


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