This month, I am excited to introduce you to Matt Blackmon and Billy Stickney of Patriot Chimney Service, LLC out of Blue Ridge, VA. They discuss how they got started with their business and how they are helping fellow veterans and service members transition into our industry.
How did you get started in the industry?
Matt: I was in college and needed a part time job and came across the opportunity to join the chimney industry. I met my mentor and friend John B. and found the first "job" since being medically retired from the Marine Corps that I truly enjoyed. I quit school, went full time and the rest is history.
Billy: As for me, I knew Matt from the Corps and I was a sheriff when I decided to part ways with it and try my luck in this field. Matt convinced me to come aboard, that it was good work and very rewarding. I was utterly surprised at how much I grew to love it. We wanted to contribute to the industry, knew we could do it better, raise awareness, give back to the community and ultimately give back to our veterans; so we ventured off on our own.
What do you like to do outside of work?
Both: We do a lot of hunting and fishing. We also have been trying to work with the DOD and Department of VA to set up a transition program for service members and veterans interested in this line of work... "Combat Boots 2 Top Hats"
Can you tell us a little bit more about that?
Matt: I was wounded in Afghanistan where I received the Purple Heart and was also awarded for valor. Billy was shot overseas and received many awards for his service. When I was medically retired from the Marines I fell on hard times and struggled like many combat veterans do. We were always searching for that "thing" that gave us pride and something we enjoyed with a sense of purpose. So along came the chimney industry and the independence of ownership of a company. It's good, hard, rewarding work that keeps you busy and for people like us it's what we need.
We always heard the statistic of 22 veterans taking their lives a day. Rarely is it from the actual trauma experienced, but instead the sense of worthlessness and not having an actual purpose. The military helps you when getting out with what path to take but doesn't really help you get there; when you separate it's up to you to figure it out. So with all that said, we wanted to do our part and try to combat the statistics and help veterans either start their own company or have it lead to a valuable career within the industry. Along came Combat Boots 2 Top Hats. The objective behind it is to have either transitioning service members or already separated vets attend the CSIA training school and when completed have hands on training with a certified sweep in their home town or near by to learn even more. This will keep them busy so they don't dwell on the "loss" of that brotherhood they had for years and will lead to them being employable or having the tools to carve their own path in this line of work.
What advice do you wish you had received when you were getting started?
Both: Learn as much as you possibly can and that building an empire will take a lot of your time.
What is the biggest challenge you face on the job? What are your best strategies for overcoming it?
Both: It would have to be removing dead animals. There isn't much of a strategy behind it besides just sucking it up and doing it.
Who was your most famous customer?
Both: We had a customer with a lake house nearby that played in the NBA.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
Both: Being the most certified company in our region and being voted top chimney service company in our region as well.
What is, in your opinion, the most valuable part of being a member of the National Chimney Sweep Guild?
Both: The technical help available. Running across situations that you're either confused about or never experienced and having an expertise help you a bunch has been the most valuable part to me.
Thank you for sharing! Know of someone who should be the next Meet a Member? Nominate them (or yourself) to Annemarie Stockton at firstname.lastname@example.org or (317) 837-1500!
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