Ditching College For Plumbing, One Woman Finds A Competitive Advantage

"I’ve Never Hugged My Plumber Before"

By Dustin Siggins

August 14, 2019

Cape Cod is home to white, clapboard houses, stony beaches–and an offbeat father-daughter plumbing business that found success by being different.

Jennifer Lannon’s “Jen’s Plumbing & Heating” bills itself as the only “Father-Daughter Owned and Operated” company of its kind on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. It certainly seems to be. A search of the Yellow Pages for the Cape reveals no other father-daughter plumbing outfits. “I’m not sure what people are more surprised by seeing ‘Jen’ in pink on the side of a work van followed by ‘plumbing’ and ‘heating,’ ” Ms. Lannon said, “or our slogan ‘Father-Daughter, Owned & Operated.’”

The “daughter” angle is more than politically correct marketing, it conveys a genuine and durable business advantage. Most daytime plumbing calls, at least on the Cape, are made by women while the spouses and children are away at work or school.  “It brings peace of mind to our customers and their families to know that the female plumber is coming over with her father,” said Ms. Lannon. No more men with dirty overalls and muddy boots. And, she explained, women often feel more comfortable talking about an often-unfamiliar subject–like furnaces or pumps–with another woman who doesn’t expect her to know all of the lingo. “I love when my customers open the door and want to hug me and say, ‘I’ve never hugged my plumber before.’ It makes my day, every day.”

That competitive advantage allowed Jen’s Plumbing to shrink its advertising expenses over time, as word-of-mouth took its place. “Repeat customers are [now] roughly 60 percent of our business.”

Jen’s Plumbing was born when Ms. Lannon decided not to go to the University of Rhode Island with her friends and her father decided to leave as vice president of a Worcester, Massachusetts plumbing company in March 2014. Though she had earned some college credits while in Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School, in Upton, Mass., Ms. Lannon said, “I didn’t believe that college was for me, and I am still so proud of my decision to this day.”

Without college debt, Jen was able to enjoy the financial fruits of her business more quickly than her peers.

Getting her name on the truck was the easy part. To become a licensed plumber, Jen had to pass a five-year apprentice program. And the master plumber who is teaching her to this day… is her father. “Fast forward five years and I love my job. I love learning from my Dad every day. I love showing him that I am learning and getting better in this trade.”

Jen’s Plumbing won $15,000 from Rockland Trust Bank in 2019 in the “Small Business, Big Dreams” category. Her secret? Advertising that she is a woman plumber, working alongside her dad, helped set her apart from other plumbers while conveying to customers a beneficial difference that mattered to them.