Scott Cochran has a 1-month-old baby and a 4-month-old business, either of which may roust him from bed in the middle of the night.
"We're gluttons for punishment, I guess," said Cochran, owner of Apex Plumbing and the Wichita franchise for Mr. Rooter Plumbing.
Cochran started the Mr. Rooter franchise in January. The 36-year-old Wichita native had already been working as a plumber half his life, saying he "fell into it" as a high school senior.
"I just went to work for somebody else and ended up sticking with it," he said. "I never thought I'd be a plumber for life, but I really do enjoy it."
Cochran spent the required two years as an apprentice, then another two as a journeyman before becoming a master plumber. In 1997, he started Apex Plumbing, which focuses primarily on plumbing in new-home construction.
Working primarily with Craig Sharp Homes and other upscale builders, Cochran said he enjoyed "taking things from a piece of dirt to a finished bathroom."
But as home construction declined with the economy, Cochran said he "was looking for a way to expand and tackle the service side of things."
That led him to Mr. Rooter, which has about 250 franchisees nationwide. Cochran liked the professional standards required by Mr. Rooter.
"Plumbers get a bad rap — the pants down," said the neatly dressed Cochran. Mr. Rooter plumbers wear a belt, he added.
Cochran said the support offered by a large company is also invaluable. "You can't be on the cutting edge of advertising and everything else when you're out plumbing all day," he said.
Or night, as it often turns out. Mr. Rooter calls are forwarded to Cochran at night, which leads to more than a few elbows in the side from his wife.
Cochran said 24-hour service is the essence of plumbing.
"People don't want to hear an answering machine when there's water leaking all over the floor," he said. "It's an emergency. You're there to provide service when they're in dire need."
His most recent late-night customer "was just blown away that she could get somebody late at night."
Cochran now employs two plumbers for Apex, while he and another plumber staff Mr. Rooter. Another employee answers the phone and does office work during the day. The two businesses work throughout Sedgwick and Butler counties.
Cochran said he's glad he started a second plumbing venture, even if his sleep is occasionally interrupted.
"The first time, I just really felt like I could do this on my own," he said. "I'm a pretty motivated guy. The second time, I was just looking to go the next level."