Sidney D. Torres, IV lives for the thrill of making the kind of deal where everyone benefits. From renovating houses to creating an innovative trash company that cleaned up the famous French Quarter in New Orleans and changed the way the trash removal industry works, from musical artist management to upmarket boutique hotel ownership and most recently the creation of a $100 million world-class resort in the Bahamas, Sidney is a serial entrepreneur. He manages 25 limited liability corporations, and employs 150 people.
Sidney likes to do the things others say are impossible, and his work is a mission to change the way people think about what's possible. Residents, businesses, and government had all resigned themselves to low standards of cleanliness on Bourbon Street until his trash company made it smell lemon-fresh every single day. In the process, Sidney proved it could be done and changed the way the trash industry works everywhere. SDT Waste raised expectations and standards for details, accountability, and service.
Others said no one could make a major resort work on an island with such a tiny airport—just the opportunity Sidney loves to grab and make the most of. Now, the $100 million international resort he created is one of the preferred luxury resorts in the Bahamas and major airlines have begun servicing the island to accommodate the increased demand.
Just shy of his 40th birthday, Sidney has been perfecting the art of the deal for 20 years. When he was just starting out, his grandmother co-signed a loan so he could renovate his first shotgun houses in New Orleans. Always hands on, he took part in every phase of redevelopment, from design to supervising construction. Eventually, he even got his contractor's license. Sidney then began transforming historic buildings into elegant, small hotels offering the quintessential New Orleans charm and easygoing style. Building up his holdings from a single guesthouse with eight rooms in 1999, he later sold a portfolio of boutique hotels with approximately 150 rooms. He was also well ahead of the curve in converting excess urban building capacity into high-end condominiums. In the last 15 years, Sidney has developed over $250 million in commercial and residential real estate. In every project, he focuses on getting results that make clients happy.
A decade ago, Hurricane Katrina put Sidney's problem-solving skills to the biggest test of his career. Even after the floodwaters receded, projects were bogged down in the mud and confusion. People were desperate for basic services. Sidney came up with a plan. From a hotel room in Florida, he got his trucks back up and running and moved quickly to get housing in good shape, knowing it would be needed by those helping the recovery efforts. By September, Sidney's properties were housing U.S. Government special agents, U.S. Marshals, and employees of local sheriffs' offices. His company then built mobile trailer parks for government officials in surrounding parishes. Because of the storm, New Orleans was strewn with debris and garbage, and the waste removal contractor left the city stranded. Sidney bought new equipment, secured the contract, and SDT Waste and Debris Services was born. He was hands on, even with the trash business, and could be seen behind the wheel of a huge garbage truck or walking the streets with his team in the early hours of the morning during Mardi Gras, cleaning up after parades. Always paying careful attention to details, he invested in energy-efficient street sweepers and had a scent-specialist design a special lemon scent for use in the streets of the French Quarter. Sidney led a team that showed what New Orleans people are made of; while TV news anchors mused aloud whether New Orleans could even be rebuilt after such a catastrophe, Sidney and his team were already hard at work on the recovery. Their work was picked up by national media outlets as the first "green shoots" of promise that New Orleans was coming back, and prompted the New Orleans City Council and the Louisiana House of Representatives to pass resolutions commending Sidney for the success in cleaning up the French Quarter, jump-starting recovery, and changing the national conversation about New Orleans.
Crime is another area of modern urban life where many others have "accommodated themselves to reality" in accepting high crime rates, and Sidney has dared to move the boundaries of expectations. In early 2015, as a fresh wave of crime was striking the heart of a whole state's tourism industry, the New Orleans French Quarter, Sidney created an app and an accountability process that are revolutionizing policing and, most importantly, reducing crime. Diving in, as he always does, with intensity and a hands-on approach, Sidney worked with the app developer, the police department, and the mayor to create a unique entrepreneurial partnership. The FQ Task Force app works by crowdsourcing information about crimes in progress and suspicious activity, and then equips rapid-response teams with the latest GPS technology. The results speak for themselves: in the first month of operations, the app has been downloaded over 7,500 times, generated 600 calls, 50 arrests, and taken five guns off the street. It has generated greater safety and confidence for tourists and residents, and reduced crime. The French Quarter Task Force has been so successful that expansion plans are underway.
Sidney's work ethic and track record of success have not gone unnoticed. He has been featured in the Wall Street Journal and CNBC's "American Dream" and Forbes Magazine. He was appointed a Fleur-de-lis Ambassador by the City of New Orleans to help promote the city around the country and the French Quarter Business Alliance made SDT grand marshal of a Mardi Gras parade. Both the Young Leadership Council and Junior Achievement named him a "Role Model." Sidney received a "Changing Faces" award from Ebonetworks, was named one of the Innovators of the Year by CityBusiness in 2007, and became an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Finalist in 2011.
Sidney tries to make communities better through business. To extend the effort, he has created IV Capital, a venture-capital firm that has already invested $28 million to help other entrepreneurs realize their potential and build on their dreams. In addition, he gives back through donations, not only of his dollars but his passion. He has a heart for helping children, donating dozens of guitars to a music lab and over 3,000 tickets so that young people could see the New Orleans Hornets play. He is a proud member of the board of governors for Junior Achievement of Greater New Orleans, which empowers over 22,000 students every year to take control of their economic future through work-readiness, financial literacy, and experiential learning. Junior Achievement's programs reach kids through over 1,000 volunteers working in afterschool programs and summer camps.