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Sandha Woodworks: A labour of love

Stephan Kleiser
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Photo: Woodworking
Chamkaur Sandha is living his dream.

Chamkaur Sandha, came to Canada in 2012, as an international student to study for an environmental technician degree at Mohawk College in Hamilton.
And today, 10 years later, he just spent $1.45 million - much of it with Biesse - to set up his very own company - Sandha Woodworks Services - as a custom manufacturer of quality architectural millwork and store fixtures for the commercial, institutional and retail markets.
“When I came to Canada, I didn’t know anything about the woodworking industry nor did I ever think I would be working with wood,’ Sandha says with a smile.
While he was studying at college he was looking for part time jobs to support himself. He first worked in garages and factories and at some point he also worked in a food factory, but then, after a few months, everything changed.
“In February of 2013, I started to work with a couple of guys in Brantford in a kitchen cabinet job part time and I ended doing that for about  year and a half.
“I studied in the morning and I worked at the shop at night. I was working part time and that’s where I learned about woodworking.
“Before that I didn’t know anything about the industry and I wasn’t interested in woodworking at all, but this experience changed everything for me, I fell in love with the business.
“It was something new, something I had never thought about before, but it changed everything.
It was during that time that he heard about Archmill House in Ancaster, just outside Hamilton.
And what he learned about them made him want to get a job there.
Because he was still a student and with only a student permit, he approached an employment agency to get him the required paperwork to see if he could get a job there.
“I just wanted to get in there, see the company and work for them because of their reputation for great work,” he says.
Turns out Archmill House only needed some day labourers for a couple of days here and there, but that didn’t stop Sandha. He said he just really wanted to work there and took the job in order to get his foot in the door.
This also happened to be his co-op time at college, but he couldn’t get a position in his field of study, which didn’t matter because he had already decided what he really wanted to do.
“So I went to Archmill House to prove myself, show them what I could do and they liked my skills and work ethic and wanted me to come back the next day. Then they asked me back for another week and another week and after one month I was all in,” he says.
“I love that company, the bosses and the people I worked with, so I was very happy when they kept asking me to come back for more work.”
Sandha continued to work hard to prove himself and when it came to finishing a particularly big job, one that required him to work extra hours, he even asked a roommate to join him to help out.
“I had told them that I could do that job, at first they didn’t want me to do it, but I asked them to give me a chance to prove myself and they said OK.
We completed that project and they were impressed with us and asked if we could do another one the very next day - and we did.”

After a couple of weeks it had become almost like a regular  schedule, Sandha and two of his friends became a sort of nightshift and we kept doing it and everyone was happy.
“So after a few months, they asked me if I wanted to start my own woodworking business, but I said no, I have no experience, what are you talking about?
“But they encouraged me and said I was doing great work and I should start my own business and become a subcontractor for them. So then I said OK.
Sandha says all of it happened really quickly.
“I had only been there for a couple of months when they made that suggestion, so my bosses liked me a lot and the work I was doing and they said I was like them, I was all in and committed.
“I agreed and told them I was hungry for the work and the money. I am new to this country and I have a lot of dreams and I want to work hard.”
Sandha says one of his bosses, who was kind of looking after him, told him he was doing a lot of work and deserved to have his own business because he had shown a lot of potential. So that’s really where it all started.
“They saw how much I was working and how dedicated and committed I was, so they encouraged me to start my own company, which I did once I had the proper paperwork and permission to do so.”
That was in 2015. Sandha was still working as a subcontractor for Archmill House, when he started Royal Decor, after the paperwork was complete.
“I was also back in school for my last semester, so it was a busy time, but loved what I was doing. I was studying and working after school and I have to thank my professors who were really supportive and accommodating. I told them what I was doing, I was completely open with them, and they saw that I was working very hard, both for school and for my new company, so they allowed me some flexibility for my assignments.
“They said OK, we will give you some extra time to finish your assignments.”
Sandha is grateful to Archmill House, for believing in him, giving him a chance and supporting him in his new venture. In fact, their relationship will continue because Sandha Woodworks will continue to work with and for them.

Incorporated company
Sandha started Sandha Woodworks in June 2016 as an incorporated company because Royal Decor was just a sole proprietorship and he wanted to do it “for real.”
Now he has his own place, he is leasing 10,000 sq. ft. with room to grow and has 22 employees.
“But I will need about 10 more and will hire as soon as I can find them.
“I also just invested 
$1.45 million in new equipment for the new shop and that is being installed right now and we plan to focus on millwork and store fixtures as well as kitchens.
“I am still new and I have to establish myself and I will take just about any job that comes along to build the company. “So I will continue as a subcontractor for Archmill House, they will be one of my clients now, along with many others.
I am open to all customers, everyone is welcome here and I will be happy to do the work they need. And I will work as a subcontractor and also do my own projects.”
Sandha says they will serve the Hamilton and Greater Toronto Area, but he is also already in the process of securing work in Calgary and Edmonton through some friends who run businesses there.
“So I hope we are going to get some work out there as well.

Almost ready for production
The shop is still in the process of being set up. A couple of machines are already operational, more are being delivered “as we speak.”
“I am already setting up the machines that are here and the software and I plan to be able to start production in a couple of weeks, with full production starting in about six weeks.
Right now they are finishing installing the dust collection system and we have started to test everything.
Asked if this is a scary time for him, spending so much money and not having an income for months, Sandha says yes, a little bit, but he is not too worried. This is exactly what he has been planning for for the past two years.
“I thought about this for a long time and I know the outcome and I know how much money I need to finish this,” he says. “It’s like when you go for a swim. You know how long you can be in the water, right. So I feel it like that. I have been in this business since 2014, and I have saved a lot of money so I could have done this three or four years ago, but I was not ready. I had the money, but I was just not ready to actually start my own business. But I am now.
“I think of it like going swimming deep in the ocean. You want to be careful and plan for how long you are going to be out there. So I know I would start this in June and if I wasn’t ready for six months, that would be OK.
“So that’s how I think of it. Right now I am paying something like $20,000 per month, but I am not producing anything and I have no income, but I knew this would happen, I planned for it, so that’s OK. Right now I am in the water, but I still have six months to get out, so that’s why I feel safe.
That’s how I do everything, I plan it carefully. That’s also how I make my customers happy too and they know they can count on me.
“After six months I will start to worry. It’s not like I will be bankrupt, but I should start to worry. That’s how I keep my business safe and my employees safe. And I owe that to them, to protect them and keep them safe as well. That is my responsibility and I tell them they don’t have to worry. And they are very excited about this as well, we are all looking forward to it.”
Sandha says he has big plans.
“I know I am still a baby, but I have big plans and people who will work with me will be proud. Now I am in the millwork business and it’s not about the money, it’s’ about how satisfied everyone will be to be a part of this company.
And it’s the same with my clients, if they are not happy I am not happy. I want them to know they are with the right person and that they don’t have to worry. I will not run away and abandon them, it’s not like that.
“I love to take care of people and deliver and that’s how I have been growing my business since the beginning.
“You can’t just think of it as a business. We are all humans, and we need someone we can put our faith in. And that’s all good, I can do that and I want to do that.”

Sandha's family, friends and employees are just as excited about the new company as he is.

Getting ready
As for the employees – he has kept them all on during this time - Sandha says everyone is getting ready. The office staff is looking after setting up their systems and production staff are in training and help with setting up the new shop.
So even though they are not producing anything yet, everyone 
is preparing and training on 
new software and how to operate 
and program the new machines.
“I will also have my own trucks to make customer deliveries so my customers don’t have to worry about anything, they won’t have to arrange their own transportation, I will deliver everything to them.”
“I also got married this year, so there is a lot going on.
“Yeah, so I am a family man and I am growing my business and all I need is good people and some work to make it all happen.
“The main thing I am worrying about now is that I am the captain of my own ship now. Nobody is controlling me now and that’s a little bit scary and also very exciting, but it is new to me, it’s a big step, but I always think that I can do it. I have been proving myself and I can do this as well. I am new and I am ready to work hard and do good work for my clients.”
Sandha says they are committed to produce a high quality product on time and at a competitive price and it is their highest priority to get the job done right the first time and to save his customers both time and money.

New BIESSE Equipment:

SEKTOR 470 3800
AKRON 1440 TM10
EKO 2.1

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