In late 2017, when 18-year-old Patrick Flanigan borrowed a speaker from his Portsmouth Abbey roommate Franco for a bus ride to a hockey game, it blew out. The Tiverton resident saw two choices: buy a new one or, with his roommate’s go ahead, tinker around and fix it. Fortunately for Patrick, Franco said give it a shot. The attempt was so successful that the design started to catch the attention of other students. Realizing he was on to something, Patrick, with some longtime friends, saw an opportunity, and Sandbar Speakers was born. The friends, most of whom are high school seniors, each play a pivotal role in the company: Patrick, Chief Executive Officer; George Brown, Chief Financial Officer; Will Cabral, Chief Marketing Officer; Ben Markert, Chief Operating Officer; Marcus Smaldone, Head of Sales; and Staff Nick Flanigan, Patrick’s younger brother.
"When I pulled apart Franco’s speaker, the brain of the speaker was good, but the circle part called the driver that makes the noise was damaged. I ended up making a kind of Frankenstein speaker out of the brain of [the speaker] and some computer speakers I had laying around. I put it in a wooden box just because it was easy to construct. It turned out looking awesome, and it worked. Another guy asked if I could make one looking like a Bob Marley jam box. I stumbled on the design by mistake. Since then, the team spent the year on [research and development], coming up with our final product.
The box, called the cabinet, is what gives the speaker its sound. You can have really nice parts inside but it’s a third of the equation. If your box is poorly constructed, it’s no good. The design of the cabinet is what gives it a bassy feel or a tinny feel or loud or soft. We specialize in a cabinet design using birch plywood that’s 11/32 inches thick and machine it with a Computer Numerical Control (CNC) into panels we use to assemble the speakers. Some of our customer’s designs have ranged from the URI sailing burgee to a bible passage.
What I enjoy the most and makes the company work so well is each one of us is doing what we like. George, Ben, and I are engineers at heart, Marcus can sell without even showing the product, and Will loves marketing. Nobody is doing something they don’t want to do.
In our school systems, we rarely get something that is long term. The longest paper at the Abbey takes a couple of months or a research paper over a term. This is something, which if the team decided to stop working, would die. Sandbar Speakers is entirely us wanting to do it, which is really cool."