Building a life through sandcastles

Categories: Entrepreneurship

Have you ever driven past East Coast Park and saw a castle along the way? Maybe you have. Maybe you don’t know why that castle is there for, its presence oddly jarring on the sand. Well, that castle is part of Castles Can Fly – a sandcastle building business providing quality corporate training, owned by Alvin Lee. 

However, if you think it’s just all about sandcastles – Alvin’s story proves it to be otherwise. 

Why building, why sandcastles? The idea stemmed from Alvin’s character as a fundamentally hands on person. While embarking on craft projects together, he would encourage his children to ask about the materials needed – honing life skills of public speaking and confidence. Every weekend, they head down to the beach to build sandcastles. Again, building. Building relationships, family, and character. 

Having cultivated a love for experiential learning among the children in his family, he built that into his business. Thus, the meaning and purpose behind building naturally made it a metaphor which built his business and life. 

This hands-on guy who coined himself as not a “speaking person”, is actually a very successful motivational speaker. Was he a natural? Well, not so. He is a rough guy who got things done but had no content. Yet he had little choice after the Dotcom crash left him on the brink of bankruptcy at age 45. He invented a sandcastle toy, but little people knew about it and wanted to invest.
Yet this changed when the government was promoting innovation a year later. 

Hopping on the bandwagon, he started going to school principals and started telling them what he invented. His efforts paid off when one invited him to talk about innovation – and he started talking a lot more.
Later, at the NIE Greenleaf Leadership Seminar, surrounded by the company of bigshots and principals – there he was, telling his sandcastle story.

He may not be a teacher, but he surely has lessons to teach both adults and children through his work. Coining a short and simple phrase in Chinese, “(You) can do sweat, tears, just not regrets” – he advises parents to spend time together with their children, when they’re still young. To him, children below age thirteen are still caterpillars – obedient. Thus, best memories are formed while partaking in activities – such as building sandcastles together. 

Like how sandcastles will eventually crumble and are rebuild again, humans are always in the process of rebuilding themselves and their lives. With plans for a new start-up – at age 60, Alvin is the embodiment of building. 


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