Hardin Family Plumbing takes the “family” part of their name seriously. They strive to serve their community as they would a member of their own family.
CPN member Lauren Hardin and her husband, Matthew Hardin, decided to start their own business in Tecumseh, Oklahoma, with the goal of working for themselves and having flexibility. With support from the Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s Community Development Corporation, they are optimistic about the future.
Lauren has a background in business administration and a degree from East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma. Matthew trained with the Local 344 Plumbers & Pipefitters union in Oklahoma City and worked full-time while completing his training.
The Hardins made the move to open their own business when their children experienced a health challenge. Matthew could only take a certain amount of time off from his full-time job, while Lauren, then a stay-at-home mother, tended to the children’s needs.
“It was so stressful because he’s like, ‘I can’t take off anymore.’ And I’m trying to help the two kids and go to the hospital and try to figure out what’s going on. It was just a mess,” she said.
The stress and exhaustion were difficult. Fortunately, the children have made a full recovery, but the experience convinced the couple to push forward with their dream of opening their own plumbing business.
They credit the CPCDC’s staff with constant support during the entire process.
“We were working on Hardin’s Family Plumbing and (CPCDC) gets you ready for what it’s going to be like to take on the business loan. You have to have certain things together, like your business plan,” Lauren said.
The Hardins learned about the CPCDC when they first sought a loan at a commercial bank. Their credit score narrowly missed the bank’s requirements.
They were then contacted by Sherry Byers of the CPN Housing Authority. Byers had a new program the Hardins qualified for, and they received a loan.
After building their credit through the home loan, they eventually qualified for a loan for the land surrounding their home. After the land was purchased, the Hardins used it as collateral for a business loan.
“(The CPCDC) just made everything work easier. They worked step by step and said, ‘We’re going to do it and get you approved.’ And they were competitive with everybody else’s (interest) rates,” Matthew said.
The couple took CPCDC classes that were relevant to their business and received incentives. Those funds could be applied toward their home loan. The CPCDC also paid for two business classes through Gordon Cooper Technology Center and an online provider called Tactix.
Lauren said they have always wanted to own their own business. During her last year in college, Lauren took several business classes while Matthew was starting full-time work. He had been on the job for about a year when they began to seriously consider starting their business in 2021.
“Once he started in plumbing, he was just a natural at it. I took entrepreneurship in college, and it inspired me. I wanted to be my own boss,” she said.
While Matthew was working full-time at another business and simultaneously getting Hardin’s Family Plumbing established, he focused on his goal of being able to take time off when he needed to or go into work a little later so that he could take his children to school.
“That’s what made us really determined (to open the business) is not having me ask permission from people to do stuff and just take charge,” he said.
“Then we started writing our business plan and our model of what we wanted to do and how we wanted to do it. Because this is really something we want to do. And nine months later is when we opened,” Lauren said.
Support from the CPCDC has been helpful and multiple staff members contributed to the Hardins’ success. A CPCDC employee even suggested a local tax preparer to help the couple file their business tax returns.
“You can tell like it’s not just a business transaction, they actually care about you, and they care if your business is going to grow,” Matthew said of the CPCDC.
“You feel like they have your best interests at heart,” Lauren added.
The Hardins feel that a community has come together in support, and they hope to be able to give back whenever possible. One group of customers in particular — tribal elders — is close to their hearts.
“It’s something that sticks out so much is when we went to an elder’s housing, and she was probably 80 something years old. (The previous plumber) just took the money and left,” Lauren said.
Fortunately, a tribal official knew the Hardins from work they had previously done for another tribal department. Matthew quickly went to the elder’s home and fixed the problem.
“When Matt went in there, she said, ‘You’re the first contractor to come in and look me in my eyes and say hi to me.’ It just broke my heart that people are out there treating our elders like that,” Lauren said.
Whether their client is an elder or a single mother, helping those in the community by providing an affordable service has been one of the biggest rewards they have experienced.
“You want to be the business who’s ethical,” Lauren said. “You stick to your word and you’re not charging someone an outrageous price. They’re in a situation that they don’t want to be in.”
Matthew said they both enjoy the moments when they can save a customer a considerable sum on a job or help with preventive maintenance that will save thousands later.
“It’s been really rewarding just helping the community,” Lauren said. “People get to know you and it’s cool to form those relationships.”
For now, they are enjoying how busy they have been. Business has been on an upswing, and like many small businesses, they’re encouraged by improving economic trends.
For people thinking of starting their own business, the Hardins have simple advice.
“They say ‘Your day to day always gets in the way of your dreams,’” Lauren said. “If you’re just dreaming about it but you don’t have a timeline of when you’re going to get it done, then it gets put off. Have a plan and tell yourself you’re going to get it done.”
They also advise hopeful entrepreneurs to devote time to research, making sure they’re competitive in their market and the best way to get their name out in front of customers. They are also focused on their social media presence as part of their overall marketing strategy.
“We started just on Facebook, but having a Google page is so important these days, especially if you’re starting a service business. Everybody looks at the reviews,” Lauren said.
For Lauren and Matthew Hardin, everything customers need to know is in their name.
“We’re a family business. I said, ‘I want to put family in there because we want to put our family values into our business.’ So, when someone hears Hardin’s Family Plumbing, then you know that’s truly who we are and that’s what we try to put into our business,” Lauren said.
For more information about CPCDC services, contact them at 405-878-4697.
Contact Hardin Family Plumbing at 918-282-9055 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Customers can also connect with them on Facebook.