A Citizen Potawatomi Nation tribal member recently became the newest franchisee of an Oklahoma business dedicated to preserving homes.

Just a few months ago, Blake Elwell opened a branch of Preservan in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The business repairs homes using an epoxy material for a long-lasting and environmentally sustainable solution.

Oklahoma’s first Preservan franchise was founded in 2016 in Oklahoma City by CPN member and Bourassa family descendant Ty McBride and his wife, April. Ty’s sister, Jimmie Hodgkins, also helps oversee operations in Oklahoma City.

“We just saw this huge opportunity where with the epoxy we can mold, mimic and permanently and sustainably repair rather than replace,” Ty McBride told the Hownikan in 2022. “We can come in and repair it within a couple of hours, save people thousands of dollars, and it’s really convenient.”

Elwell previously worked as a Preservan technician in the Oklahoma City area. The Melot and Bergeron descendant thought about the possibility of owning his own franchise and decided to tackle the market in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Both new and older homes

Elwell focuses on getting the word out to homeowners that Preservan may be the perfect fit for home repairs. The company uses an epoxy resin, a versatile product that can be used on almost any surface.

“Most of our focus is wood rot. We dig out the rot and treat the wood to prevent it from rotting anymore. Then the epoxy putty goes on. We sand and sculpt it down to the original profile, so it looks like repair was never done. The benefit is that it doesn’t take water damage after it’s painted,” Elwell said.

Owning an older home often means devoting resources to repair, but newer homes can benefit from using epoxy as well. Faulty paint or caulking during construction can cause problems later in new homes, especially with trim, siding and door jambs.

“Most of the time, it only takes two days to complete the job,” Elwell said. “You don’t have to worry about getting things torn out and replaced. We can come in and get that rot taken care of, have it painted and back to the way it was, and with little disruption to your home life.”

Targeted repairs can also save money because the cost of total window and door replacement can quickly rise. Elwell said Preservan suits many common repairs, such as wood rot on the windowsill, siding and garage doors.

He has been visiting Tulsa’s historic and newer homes, enjoying the architecture while exploring the city and surrounding areas. One customer he met had moved back from Austin, Texas.

“His house was built in 1907 and has some amazing arched windows, and the joist and rafter were made of solid oak,” Elwell said. “Some of the oak was beginning to rot and needed repair. He just wanted to preserve it and keep it as close to the original as possible.”

Entrepreneur’s spirit

Elwell has always admired entrepreneurs. He felt a Preservan franchise would allow him to build his own small business while still receiving support as a first-time owner.

“As a franchise, you keep that small scale, but you’re still a part of a bigger company as the franchises grow. You have access to more resources,” he said. “There’s been a lot of help from Ty in starting this franchise up.”

Most of his experience is on the operations side. Elwell spent most of the winter preparing for the franchise to launch and learning about other aspects of business, including marketing.

“That was definitely one of my biggest concerns. I’ve been a technician doing the work. That’s all easy, but everything else is outside of my experience. It’s definitely been the challenging part,” he said.

Indigenous values

Elwell is committed to helping the environment as well.

“‘They don’t make it like they used to,’ that’s true with older homes. I think if you can save something you should. Sometimes there’s a point where you can’t, but with the work we do, nine times out of 10, we can save it,” he said.

At the end of the week, he is proud to see the difference he made.

“When I work a full week, I have a little trash can in my van at the end of the week. Sometimes it’s not even full. Most of the waste is just the wood rot that I tear out,” he said.

Cultural connections

Since moving to Oklahoma, Elwell has strengthened his connection with his Potawatomi heritage, something he knows makes his grandmother proud. While living in Oregon, she was instrumental in sharing Potawatomi culture with her grandchildren. She often took them anywhere they could experience Indigenous culture.

“I appreciate my grandmother’s influence on how important our heritage is to us, especially growing up in Oregon because it’s not as valued there as it is over here. When I got to move here and really see our ancestry, it was really cool,” he said.

Now, he happily takes advantage of everything Oklahoma offers.

“Since being in Oklahoma, I’ve gone down to (CPN headquarters) to try to trace my genealogy. Being where it’s so prevalent, you can get to know your history. There’s so much to learn,” Elwell said.

The Preservan family

McBride believes Elwell’s skills and business knowledge will lead to success.

“His whole entrepreneurship journey has been really exciting to be a part of. He’s such a hard-working and honest young man who took a big leap in himself but also in us as a young brand. It took a lot of courage,” McBride said.

Elwell has always received glowing reviews from Preservan customers in Oklahoma City. McBride said he is not surprised to see Elwell succeeding in a new market and believes the timing is perfect as the spring and summer is their busiest time of year.

“Our service really kind of speaks for itself because it is designed to be convenient and affordable,” he said. “Blake’s going to be able to go out and offer people a repair service that takes less than two days and costs 90% less than the typical replacement solution.”

McBride said the Preservan team will be there to support Elwell along his journey as he builds a team and takes on new clients. Elwell shares McBride’s excitement and vision for the franchise’s future.

“It will be exciting to get someone hired on and expand in that aspect,” Elwell said. “I thought it was so cool that Ty McBride is Potawatomi, and when I started that job, I didn’t know that. I’d like to see if I can hire some employees that are Native American.”

McBride said he is proud that, as a Native American, Elwell also received a special discount on his franchise fee.

“Whether people are in Oklahoma or outside of Oklahoma, any member of a federally recognized tribe can get a discount on a Preservan franchise fee,” McBride said. “We look forward to supporting other Native American entrepreneurs in the future.”

Elwell will be serving homeowners in the Tulsa, area, plus Jenks, Broken Arrow, Sand Springs and Okmulgee. For more information or to schedule service, contact Elwell in Tulsa at 918-732-9088.

Oklahoma City-area residents may contact McBride at 405-546-9627 or visit preservan.com.