Madison graduate starts plumbing business with uncle

RILEY STEFFENSEN (left) and his uncle Tom Steffensen have opened a new business in Madison, Steffensen Plumbing. They will specialize in residential plumbing.

Riley Steffensen learned something before 10 a.m. on the first day he was in business. As the co-owner of Steffensen Plumbing, he grinned when his partner -- and uncle -- shared that bit of information.

"I'm like his dad," Tom Steffensen explained. "I'm picky."

"You have to be picky," Riley said, not at all chagrined to be learning on the job.

That's one of his assets as a young plumber, according to Tom -- his willingness to learn.

"He picks up stuff and he's knowledgeable. He understands what you're talking about and learns," he said.

Riley, a 2018 graduate of Madison High School, decided to go into plumbing after working for his uncle one summer. At the time, Tom owned Complete Plumbing in Brookings, which he opened in 1998 and sold last year.

"I do everything I can to get someone in high school to go this route if they like working with their hands," Tom said.

Studies indicate that within five years, approximately 50% of plumbers will be reaching retirement age, creating real opportunities for young plumbers like Riley. This shortage will work in their favor, not only by enabling them to find work but also financially, according to Tom.

"Because of the demand for plumbers, they can do pretty well," he said.

Tom indicated shortages are found throughout the construction industry, though.

In South Dakota, funds exist to address that need -- the Build Dakota Scholarship Fund. Scholarship recipients can attend a technical institute without incurring student debt. Tuition, fees, books and other required program expenses are covered.

Riley was one of those scholarship recipients. He said he had already decided to attend Southeast Technical Institute for plumbing, but the scholarship made it easier, giving him more options when he graduated from MHS. He completed the one-year program in 2019.

He was working for a Sioux Falls company when his uncle approached him about starting a business in Madison. Tom had sold his Brookings business both because he had an employee who was interested in taking over the company and because he felt it was time for a change. Starting a new business with Riley appealed to him.

"Not everyone gets to work with a family member they like," he said with a grin.

Steffensen Plumbing will specialize in residential plumbing -- service calls, renovations, additions and new construction. On their first day on the job, they were working on a renovation. They hadn't even picked up their van yet.

Tom and Riley plan to work regular business hours, but will make emergency service calls after hours. Tom said they won't determine what constitutes an emergency, the homeowner will. He's had homeowners who consider a dripping faucet to be an emergency. As long as they're willing to pay the after-hours rate, he goes.

"If it's not an emergency, we'll go the next day," Riley said.

Both men indicate they love what they do. Steffensen Plumbing can be reached at 605-270-0246. They have not yet opened a shop but have plans to do so.