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Below is the article taken out of PUMPER magazine that we were published in, inside the article explains our start up and to current day status. You can also click the read more button below and it will take you to the actual article!
Pumper Magazine Article
Tighter regulation of restaurant grease traps and a convenient land-application disposal option helps North Carolina pumper Myrtle Creech build a recession-resistant business
Little girls often grow up wanting to be teachers, doctors or ballerinas. Not Myrtle Creech. From a young age, she knew she was going to become a plumber.
It was in her blood. Her father was a plumber, and all five of his children grew up to be plumbers. Myrtle, the second youngest, was the only girl. In the profession – and as it grew and stretched – she has found great satisfaction and a true love for her industry and her business, Creech’s Septic Tank & Grease Trap Cleaning, in Lucama, N.C.
She has also, unsurprisingly, kept the business all in the family. Her husband, Donnie, and one of her two sons, Travis, are part of the company and the three of them do it all, from pumping septic tanks to grease trap cleaning to ultimately disposing of the liquid waste on a portion of a 69-acre farm, which they own and maintain. Other services include high-pressure drainline cleaning, lift station services and pumping and hauling services.
Creech launched her plumbing business in 1977, when she was 27, after starting her family and dabbling in other jobs and industries. “It’s what all the boys were doing, so I figured I’d try it, too,” she says.
In 1988, the company bought a vacuum truck and started pumping. Both sons began pitching in while still in high school, and later, as work increased on the septic side, Creech’s older son, Stacy, bought out the plumbing side of the business, Creech’s Plumbing, which he now operates separately. The two often refer customers to each other.
Creech’s company currently runs two grease trap pumping trucks in addition to offering septic services, and the restaurants that generate the grease now comprise 75 percent of total revenue. As the industry became more regulated, and restaurants were increasingly required to dispose of grease in environmentally sound ways, the grease trap cleaning side of the business took off.
“Over the years, cities have it now that it’s mandatory to pump them and to keep the grease out of the sewers,” Creech explains. “We get contracts to pump them every 30 days. Some [cities] are a lot stricter than others.”
Depending on the local regulations, restaurants are required to have their grease traps cleaned out every 30, 60 or 90 days. “The city sends the restaurant a form telling them how often they’re required to pump them out, then the city comes and checks their logs, which we’ve signed stating when we were there.”
Creech bought land in 1988 so that the company could land-apply liquid waste rather than pay for its disposal. In 1999, as work picked up, the family purchased what had formerly been Creech’s father’s farm, where Creech’s husband works full time disking, planting and harvesting crops that remove the nitrogen from the soil.
“We have three storage tanks with a total capacity of 26,000 gallons and when we pump we come out and put it in the storage tanks and then we mix it and put it back in the truck and then he goes out and sprays it on the crops.”
The mixture is diluted into thirds: grease trap waste, septic waste and water, then applied to the crops, which include rotations of wheat, oats and millet. The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources regulates the types of crops planted, how they are maintained and that odors are contained.
“This is still an expensive job as you have to grow your own crops and have to keep your borders trimmed in the summertime. There is lots of crop work and that’s where my husband comes in.”
The farm’s sandy soil is ideal, Creech says, because moisture soaks in much more quickly than in heavier clay soils, preventing mud that could make it tough for trucks to cross the fields.
The company provides grease service across eight counties. Most restaurants have 1,000-gallon tanks, but they can range up to 2,500 to 3,000 gallons for bigger restaurants, she says.
The company’s specialization in grease trap cleaning developed over time, and that gives it an advantage over others looking to get a piece of the pie. The trucks, the farm, the equipment: none of it happened overnight. “It would be a very expensive business to get in from the ground up.
“If I were not in this business I would not get into this business. It’s very expensive to start up. It’s really detailed and there is a lot of equipment and it keeps you busy 24/7. I pretty much don’t have any time off, but I like it like that.”
Hitting the road and visiting customers is one of the things Creech likes best. In return for the company’s careful attention to detail and professional, clean trucks, Creech earns the loyalty that has helped her business survive through good times and bad.
“When we go do a job, we do it just like it was our own house,” she says. “We keep our trucks really clean and we pride ourselves in doing a neat job.’’
For restaurant customers, this means getting in and cleaning out grease traps before the doors open for business each day. “We pump most before the restaurants open. If they’re open for business, we don’t pump them,” Creech explains. “Some open very early and some work we do at night.” Restaurants open 24 hours a day pose a special challenge, where Creech’s only approach can be to hit them during their slowest times.
Most grease traps are accessible from outside the establishment, but a few have grease traps inside. “We have a small hose that we keep on the truck for the inside grease traps – a really small hose and we just pull it through,’’ she says.
Through good times and bad, Creech has found business has stayed on solid footing thanks to the moderating influence of the restaurant clientele.
“My profits have stayed pretty steady for a few years. The contracts we have keep us busy, and we’re on every month with them. We’re also on the Internet and we advertise in the Yellow Pages, but driving these trucks every day is the best advertisement we’ve got.”
The company’s grease trap rigs are 2011 and 2012 International WorkStar 7400 MaxxForce DTs with 2,500-gallon steel tanks with National Vacuum Equipment Challenger Series pumps. For septic pumping, the company has a 2007 International 4400 with a 2,500-gallon steel tank and NVE pump. A 1995 GMC Topkick with an 1,800-gallon tank is used on the farm to convey wastewater. All the trucks were built out by Lely Manufacturing.
DO IT ALL
Never afraid to get her hands dirty, Creech is intimately involved with all operations, from fielding calls on the road to driving the trucks and pumping grease traps. Given the employee count of three, she can be found most days running routes, multitasking all the while.
“I’m actually secretary, taking calls, making calls, returning calls,” she says. “I’m proud of all of it. I built this from the ground up and I overcame a lot of people thinking that I didn’t know what I was doing. I’m proud of my sons and of teaching them something – and they know how to do it and do it well.
“I have never met a challenge that scared me. I like challenges. I think it makes me work harder,” she continues. “I don’t ever see anything that I say I can’t do. I’m going to do it.”
And while Creech used to sit behind a desk, or have her nose buried underneath a sink, now she’s on the road every day, and wouldn’t change a thing.
“I love being hands-on and dealing with my customers,’’ she says. “I like to work out in the field. I care nothing for the office – I don’t miss that a bit.”