Drain Krew Owner Took Control of His Time by Striking Out on His Own

A desire to be his own boss led Nicholas Krewson to create his own company as a sewer and drain specialist

Drain Krew Owner Took Control of His Time by Striking Out on His Own

 After 15 years working in the industry, Nicholas Krewson opened San Diego Drain Krew in 2019.

Interested in Cleaning?

Get Cleaning articles, news and videos right in your inbox! Sign up now.

Cleaning + Get Alerts

Nicholas Krewson has never been afraid of hard work.

The 40-year-old San Diego native recalls looking for ways to make a little money while he was still in elementary school. As a young man, his enterprising attitude found him busy at several occupations. At age 21, he was working two of those jobs — produce clerk in an Albertsons grocery store and a carpenter’s helper framing houses — when he met another hard worker named Kelly. It was a fortuitous meeting: They married in 2007 and now have four children.

Yet something was missing: Krewson wanted to be his own boss. “I always wanted to start my own company, but I just didn’t know what kind of company,” he remembers. Then a family friend called. “The man asked me if I wanted to do drain cleaning. I said, ‘What’s that?’”

Fifteen years later, after mastering the trade while working for other firms, Krewson finally acted on the abiding desire to work for himself. In January 2019, the entrepreneur opened the doors of San Diego Drain Krew. Three years later, it’s a fast-growing company.

Personal connections

San Diego Drain Krew provides services to commercial and residential clients. There’s no shortage of either, with an estimated 530,000 freestanding houses in San Diego and about 7,000 restaurants. Those numbers constitute a lot of drains that need to be kept flowing freely and reliably, and Krewson is servicing a growing share.

His service area is all of San Diego County — the so-called North, South, East and Coastal areas. “We like to say we work the four corners of San Diego County and everything in between.” So, Drain Krew works with clients across a 250-square-mile area containing a population of more than 3 million. Krewson says he probably receives more requests for drain work in neighborhoods bordering Highway 8, an area he terms “the bellybutton” of the county. “But I’ll go anywhere I can help a client.”

Though 75% of his jobs are residential, Krewson derives satisfaction from inspecting or unplugging any line. “Basically, I am a sewer and drain cleaning specialist. Period.” He doesn’t undertake any plumbing work. “I stick to cleaning.”

Krewson relies on personal referrals for his marketing. So, when satisfied clients across the area refer him to their neighbors, the calls keep coming in from across the area. “I honestly don’t target certain sections of town. I don’t try to reach out to certain clients. It’s all word of mouth.” Some referrals are from plumbers, who know that Krewson won’t steal their customers.

In short, the word out there in San Diego County is that Drain Krew does good work. Krewson’s ability to easily connect with people undoubtedly feeds the referrals. “It is all about communicating with customers,” he says.

“I am very upfront with my clients. I let them know what I do. I help them understand who I am by explaining that I have a family so I don’t work nights and weekends, and that I am honest. Then they decide if they want to work with me. Most do. People seem to be able to relate to me and the company is growing stronger every day.”

Tools of the trade

The condition of infrastructure in San Diego is helping company growth. Many of the drains in the county are “hitting a hundred years old. Older areas in the city still have cast iron drains. There’s a lot of cast iron in San Diego.”  

To clean the pipe and keep drains draining, Krewson calls on favorite lines of equipment. Because he learned the trade using US Jetting high-pressure jetting equipment, it remains a mainstay tool. “When I started my business, I thought about going with another jetter because it looked good, but I stayed with US Jetting. I’ve used it during my whole 18 years of cleaning and I’m comfortable with it. It’s dependable.”

Jetting lines is his favorite work. “It’s my specialty. It’s my niche,” he says, and the jetter he depends on to do it is a US Jetting model 4018, which produces 4,000 psi and can pump 18 gpm.

He also is a big fan of Milwaukee Tool, and vice versa. Because he utilizes lots of signature-red Milwaukee equipment — including the M18 Drain Snake and its pipeline inspection cameras — the manufacturer frequently brings Krewson new models to test in the field. 

“I don’t use them just because they are having me try new stuff,” he says. “I have always liked them. Milwaukee has really good people and builds really good stuff. I have a full Milwaukee cordless cleaning and inspection camera platform.” Yet another Milwaukee tool in Krewson’s toolbox is a rotary demolition hammer with a spade attachment for when a pipe must be shallowly excavated for access.

He depends on Spartan 100 and 300 drain cleaning machines and uses a variety of attachments. “I never run a cable without a cutter, a four-cutter blade.” His jetting hoses also are fitted with a variety of nozzles. In one notable case, Krewson used a Warthog nozzle to remove a stubborn root ball in a pipe.

That call was especially satisfying because the property owner had previously called “a big local plumber” to clear the line, but it kept backing up. Krewson climbed to the roof of the two-story building to best access the line through a roof vent. He sent in a camera and found the root blockage and then lowered a jetter hose with a 1/2-inch WS Warthog nozzle to blast it apart.

“I got it open so that the property owner had a couple months to install clean-outs for easier future maintenance instead of being forced to add the clean-outs right then. He was in a bad spot and I bought him some time. There is a lot of satisfaction when I’m able to clear lines that other companies can’t and to save a homeowner from having to leave a property and rent a room in a motel or something. It’s very rewarding.”

His Milwaukee pipeline inspection camera and a RIDGID SeeSnake are used in connection with cleaning pipelines, but Krewson also is getting plenty of inspection-only calls. The company receives one or two calls a week from real estate agents to schedule home inspections for buyers.

Plus, the cameras are utilized for a service that is growing in popularity: preventive drain care. Property management companies across the city contract with Krewson for once-a-year inspections — and, if necessary, jetting — of drainlines serving their residential and commercial properties. Restaurants call more frequently than that for inspections to see if grease has built up in lines. Homeowner associations also contract for prevention work.

“Sometimes they just want me to go straight to jetting, but I always suggest they first visually inspect a line to see if jetting is even necessary,” he says. When a jetting or mechanical clearing is necessary, the system is cleared away for another six months or a year of moving water successfully.

By the end of 2022, Krewson’s goal is to have a second US Jetting unit in the company toolbox, possibly a model 4025 with more capacity for tackling larger-diameter jobs including storm drains. Also on the shopping list: a chain flail machine for wall-to-wall descaling of all those old cast iron pipes buried in San Diego soil.

Building a Krew

Krewson worked by himself for a couple of years before hiring Ryan Kiernan. He had worked with Kiernan previously and both had left their old company for the same reason: extra long hours. “I knew his work ethic. When I left to go out on my own, he left to work with a plumber for a while. When he saw how my company was growing, he jumped on board. Our relationship came full circle.”

Kiernan has his own van and performs most of the snake and inspection work so “I can focus on my hydrojetting,” says Krewson. “He’s my wingman.” There’s some irony in the “Krew” part of the company name because Krewson says he never gave much thought to actually having a crew.

“I always thought I would never hire anybody,” he says, “but then I didn’t want my last name blasted everywhere as the company name. So, I named it Drain Krew, deciding that one day I just might have my own crew.” Now, he is “definitely feeling the growth of the company. Ryan and I are talking about bringing in another guy to train.”

Any service provider opening its doors in the last couple years faced a special obstacle: the pandemic. Skyrocketing fuel prices now are another problematic development for small businesses. Krewson says COVID-19 has had little impact on his business volume because a plugged line needs unplugging whatever the health of a property owner.

As for the price of gas, he and Kiernan just work smart to conserve fuel as they travel separately across San Diego County in response to customer calls. “I schedule so we can head out to the most distant location first and then work our way back, instead of going back and forth. I’ve always done that.”

Other obstacles to business success will appear in the years ahead. They always do. But Krewson says he is ready for whatever shows up because he already has achieved what he set out to do — enjoy a better quality life.

“Honestly, I’m not in it to get rich. It’s not about the money,” he says. “We have to make a profit, but really it’s about having a good quality life. So, I plan to just kind of grow it organically. I’d like to have four or five trucks and two or three other guys working for me, but I’m not in it to get big. We’ll just build a very strong foundation and see where it takes us, see where it goes.” 


Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.