NEA Women in Business: Sandra Collins

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Class of 2019 Women in Business Sandra Collins Property Owner Integral Enterprises LLC, Osceola

Residence: Osceola
Education: Studied business management at Mississippi County Community College (now Arkansas Northeast College)
Professional background: Collins has worked in housing property management.

What was your dream job as kid and why? When I moved to Cleveland Apartments in Hayti, Mo., at 14 years old, I dreamed of managing the apartment complex. I don’t know where that idea derived. I experienced living in substandard housing while growing up in Hayti Heights, a community riddled with poverty. I simply believed people had the right to good housing.

What inspired you to pursue the career you are in? As a teenager, I lived in a housing complex where we were all on some form of public assistance. However, we were determined to create an environment where hopes and dreams became reality. A senior-aged woman who sold candy at her home inspired me. She was a businesswoman who provided a service to not only supplement her income but to also help others. I was also inspired by siblings who attended college with the plan of breaking the cycle of poverty.

What has been the most fulfilling moment of your career so far? In 2011, my dream of owning a housing complex in the small community of Osceola came true. We totally transformed Seminole Village, a 58-unit multifamily property, into a quality community for children and families.

What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry? You must have compassion for people. A housing manager has to meet the holistic needs of the residents — exercise good conflict resolution skills, provide financial advice, and empower people to exercise self-autonomy. It requires mental and physical stamina. You must also trust your instincts in business matters.

Do you feel like we’re getting closer to gender equality in the workplace? I think we are making progress, but much work has to be done. I know from personal experience, pay equity remains an issue for women. In the housing industry, women occupy major leadership roles and we are still making strides to diversify this industry. I often provide mentorship to young women interested in this industry.

How do you spend your time away from work — if there is such a thing? Always make time for leisure! I enjoy quiet time everyday. Gardening and reading give me pleasure. I always make time for travel. I love weekend getaways. Painting gives me joy.

What’s the next big personal or career challenge you plan to take on? I started a nonprofit focused to expand property ownership. We plan to purchase more properties that provide broader options for citizens in Northeast Arkansas.

Of all the mentors in your professional career, who has been the most influential and why? Carl Schultz, the President/CEO of Intrepid Management, encouraged me to be a property owner in 2010. He not only provided business advice but also invested on many levels. He transferred the first three properties, which was the start-up of Integral Enterprises. Presently, we own one property and serve as the certified management agent for seven properties of Housing and Urban Development.

What is something unique people would be surprised to know about you? It surprises some people to know I am also clergy. I am among the first women licensed and ordained at my church — St. John Full Gospel Baptist Church in Osceola.