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A fixture in the community

North Fraser Plumbing & Heating launched with a plan to treat customers like family, leading to a nearly 100% repeat and referral-based operation.

North Fraser, people standing and smiling

When was the last time you invited your plumber to a wedding?

It’s far from unusual for Jenna Sholinder, who is used to customers considering her and her husband Wade family. The couple began North Fraser Plumbing & Heating four years ago with a simple philosophy: Treat everyone like family. It’s not surprising considering one of their prompts for starting the business was to serve the areas close to their home in Mission, BC. Most of the industry operates out of larger cities like Burnaby and Vancouver, giving the couple hours-long daily commutes.

Since launching, the team has grown to add three more employees, additional services and earned a stellar reputation. So much so that they spend practically nothing on advertising but instead stay busy through referrals and repeat customers. Co-founder Jenna Sholinder shares her thoughts on their unique business model.

Rogers Business: How did North Fraser Plumbing & Heating get started?

Jenna: My husband and I were both working for another plumbing company with projects mostly on the North Shore and had almost 3-hour commutes in each direction at a time where our daughter was just around 18 months old. We also noticed a gap in the industry where there were a lot of financial-based business models rather than a real focus on the customer and their needs.

We really wanted to create a company that was inclusive and collaborated with the homeowner or the contractor to make sure they were getting the best finished product and it wasn't a sort of ‘us against them’ mentality where everyone is focused only on their bottom line.

Rogers Business: Tell us about your family-first approach to the business?

Jenna: We treat our employees like family. We like to have more of a collaborative approach because we're all working towards the same goal. We do the same thing with our customers. I actually think the relationships that we've built have been such a big part of our success. We’ve become friends with so many of our customers and suppliers, because we get to work with them over and over again. We've been invited to weddings, gotten to see their children grow and we’re really honored to be a part of their lives.

Rogers Business: As a small business, how do you get the word out there?

Jenna: I don’t think we’ve done any advertising since we started. But we haven't really had to. Relationship building has been all that we've needed. Three months into starting the business, we were fully booked!

Rogers Business: How did you manage during the pandemic?

Jenna: We prepared for the worst, but we were lucky. The construction industry was still doing well. But that wasn’t the case for everyone. So, we put a note on Facebook, saying, this is a hard time for a lot of people. If anyone needs plumbing, we can help. We asked people to tell us their story privately in messages. Then we ended up offering material at cost and free labour.

I think we ended up helping about 10 or 15 families in that time to get their toilets flushing and their faucets working, just basic things that I think we can all take for granted. It wasn't super easy for us financially, but it felt like the right thing to do.

Rogers Business: What are some of your most memorable projects?

Jenna: We’ve sort of created a name for ourselves as being the problem solvers locally, so we get some pretty interesting calls! One project we are lucky to be working on is a not-for-profit farm run by a local businessperson called the John Volken Academy. It is the most high-tech farm we’ve ever seen. We just finished their water buffalo barn which has gas heaters – the animals are extremely well cared for!

Rogers Business: What advice would you give to other couples thinking about starting a business?

Jenna: Just keep going. Deal with challenges head on as they come up and trust that you will find success, if you find a way to persevere.

Rogers Business: Where can we find your business online?