Customer Referrals Help This Solo Drain Cleaner Build His Company

Daniel Fanti plans to grow his business, but for now he’s performing successfully as a one-man operation providing drain services in Orange County

Customer Referrals Help This Solo Drain Cleaner Build His Company

 Jetters ‘N’ Drains Plumbing owner Daniel Fanti uses a RIDGID SeeSnake camera to inspect a septic clean-out at a residence in Orange County, California.

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As a 19-year-old, Daniel Fanti ventured north from Orange County to San Jose, California, and went to work for an older brother as a plumber’s helper. He labored with the older sibling for about a month before returning south to Fullerton “looking for an opportunity,” and he found one.

Fanti was hired as an apprentice plumber and subsequently honed his plumbing and drain clearing skills for the next seven years. He only switched jobs after a friend referred him to another company. There, he found a mentor, Mitch Clemmons. “Mitch is very nice guy. He saw I had the drive to start a company. He pushed me to start a company. He allowed me to continue to work for him while I pursued a license.”  

Fast-forward a couple years to January 2019 and the newly licensed Fanti became the owner and sole employee of Jetters ‘N’ Drains  Plumbing.

Diagnosing drains

Fullerton is a city of 140,000 people on a valley floor among the Coyote Hills of northern Orange County, some 25 miles south of Los Angeles. It is a suburban region with a fading citrus grove history and lots of housing tracts and commercial centers now filling the flats. Because the suburbanization began soon after World War II, much of the housing stock and the mains serving it are 50 or more years old. Cast iron and vitrified clay pipes dominate.

Given the area’s Mediterranean-like climate, the network of commercial and residential drains and pipes is not deeply buried and is easily accessed for cleaning. Fanti loves to clean them.

“For me, it starts with the fact that I love drains,” he says. “There is a great feeling that comes from clearing a plugged drain, from hearing the sound of water running freely and then putting a camera in to show a homeowner what’s going on down there. It’s sort of like a doctor showing patients what’s going on.”

His passion for the work grew quickly after he did a lot of drain clearing for the company where he previously worked. Today, he is building out his business in both commercial and residential sectors using a variety of tools, chief among them a Gorlitz GO-4000 jetter.

He calls on the jetter to perform thorough clearing of drain obstructions and restoration of a pipe’s interior. “I tell people there is a big difference between clearing a pipe and cleaning a pipe. I use a snake to clear a drain and a jetter to clean it. When people ask if I can clean out a blockage, I say, well, I can either unclog it or clean it. I can unclog it with a cable but if you want it clean, I’ll use a jetter.”

The GO-4000 is a Honda-powered portable jetter that produces 3,500 psi and pushes out 10 gpm. It has a hydro-pulse feature to break through stubborn obstacles in a pipe. Fanti’s machine also has a modified buffer tank installed by EPL Solutions.

Providing options

Jetters ‘N’ Drains  is known in the area, according to Fanti, for its “$99 drain clearing special.” He will bring his equipment to a home or business, clear any drain from the clean-out access point and warranty the work for 30 days. Lines from clean-outs normally run no farther than 100 feet.

“I always give my customers options,” he says. “If it’s in their budget to clean it with a jetter, fine. But I can get it open for $99 and run a camera to see if there is something going on with the pipe.”

To clear an obstruction, the company can call upon a trio of RIDGID Flex-Shaft machines — the K9-102 and K9-204 models for smaller diameter lines and the K9-306 for mainline blockage. Fanti acquired the three cable machines through a RIDGID Instagram giveaway contest after submitting a winning video of one of his jobs.

“They sent me the three machines and that took my business to the next level,” he says. “The machines made the jobs so much easier.” He also has a Gorlitz GO-62 for larger lines and a Milwaukee hand snake for blockages in narrower diameter pipes. 

To locate the pipe problems, or perform post-cleaning inspections, Fanti relies on a RIDGID SeeSnake standard model camera with a 220-foot reel and a CS12x monitor. It gets a workout regularly when local properties change hands. Jetters ‘N’ Drains  is on the speed dial of several local realtors for inspection work.

“I work with a lot of them,” he says, “helping protect a real estate client’s investment. You buy a $500,000 home, you want to make sure the pipes are clean. I give the realtors a special package, a discount rate when a property is in escrow. I walk it through with them and explain everything I found.”

The quality of the inspection work has regularly led to new business from customer recommendations. “Most of them refer me to other people. Believe it or not, 75% of my business is through referral and word of mouth. The way I look at it, as long as you take care of your client, your phone always is going to ring.”

He advertises primarily online through Yelp and Google, partly because of public nervousness associated with COVID-19. “People want to see stuff on their phones rather than touch door hangers and other kinds of advertising. Once things get back to normal, I’ll probably do newspaper advertising and billboards.”

Only in business for a year before the virus began to skew the marketplace with lockdowns, Fanti isn’t entirely certain what “normal” is. “The first month of the pandemic, things got a little difficult. Everyone was cautious about letting service techs of any kind into their homes. When I did hear from customers, I got some pretty strange calls about removing paper towels and rags from pipelines.

“Normally, people are home after 5 p.m. and running more water and finding problems. Suddenly, after the virus hit, everyone was home all day and running water, so more problems cropped up. But there was a point when people started getting comfortable and wearing masks and creating a new normal.”

Looking to build

Whenever “normal” business returns, drains will continue to be Fanti’s forte. He loves the work and is good at it. Jetters ‘N’ Drains  does offer traditional plumbing services like fixing leaks. It also offers underground line locating services using a RIDGID Scout locator and a Goldak sound detector for locating water leaks.

But drains are the company’s primary focus and that focus will become even more concentrated moving forward. “If you look in my van, there really is nothing much there but drain clearing equipment.”

Descaling pipe will remain a staple service, too, he says. Fanti frequently is called to descale pipe running under houses built on slabs. “If I can descale 50-year-old cast iron pipe and bring it back to a state where it is round and clean and then coat it, I’ve bought it another 50 years of life — reconditioned and restored it without ripping up the home.” The K9-306 and a Picote Solutions Mini Miller are his tools for that cleaning work. Quik-Coating polyurea resin from Pipe Lining Supply is applied to protect the cleaned pipe.

Looking beyond the pandemic, Fanti is confident about the long-term prospect for his business. “When we get back to something somewhat normal, I’ll be fine. I’m looking for growth.”

Growing the company will mean hiring someone to share the workload and getting more trucks on the road. In 2021, he wants to bring pipe bursting and pipe lining jobs in-house — such jobs presently are subbed out. Most important, he plans to grow his company in a way that reflects his own values.

“I want to start building my team by making sure it is a company where I would want to work, where I would be happy working,” he says. “I want employees who are happy to come to work. That’s where I am right now. It’s all going to start with the work environment. Customers come first, but your team needs to be happy to do that.” 

Jump right in
Don’t be afraid to take the plunge as a new businessperson. That’s the advice of Daniel Fanti, the owner of Jetters N Drains, a one-man southern California plumbing company working its way through the pandemic in only its second year of business.

Fanti says the decision to open his own plumbing company in 2019 was pretty simple. “I’ve always wanted to go into business for myself. I like to help people and I love drain work. So, I said, why not? Nothing to lose.”

He firmly believes that one should commit to the act of starting a business once a person has dreamed it and laid the groundwork.

“You want to try different things, different methods of running a business, because certain things won’t work for certain people. See what works best for you,” Fanti advises anyone thinking about going out on his own. “The main thing is, start now. Why wait till later? Plenty of people reach a point of wanting to start a business but hesitate for many reasons. I would say, don’t wait till later. Start now because it’s going to take time to build a business.

“It’s like those who say, I want to be all ready before I have kids. Well, you are never really going to be ready to start a business and you can learn from your experiences. Go ahead. It’s going to be fun and, long term, it’s worth it.”

The main consideration, he adds, is to start a business with customers in mind.

“If you are in a job that provides a service, you have to be in business for the right reason. You have to be there to serve. That’s my job. I’m in the plumbing business and am reliant upon people calling me. If you do the right thing, you always are going to have work. And the best form of advertising is word of mouth because I know when someone is referred to me, that person already trusts the person who did the referring.”


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