Learn More About Our Company Owner, Tommy Nelms
How did you transition from firefighter to business owner?
“I started the business part-time. We worked 24 hours on and 48 hours off duty. Two out of every three days, I was working side jobs. I cut grass, helped friends, and performed other odd jobs. I wanted to find something that I could incorporate my education in the fire service into a part-time job. We started this as basically a way to make some extra income for my family. To my surprise, the business grew and grew. People responded to our education-first approach and the demand grew.”
What was it like being a firefighter and a chimney sweep at the same time?
“I was working a lot. I left, and my wife and son were still asleep. I lived at the fire hall for 24 hours, and my family would come to visit me. We got so busy that when I got off duty the next morning, I went out and swept chimneys, and most days when I got home, my son was already asleep. I would wake up early and be gone again by the time he woke up. I was so busy that I rarely got to see my family.”
What finally inspired you to focus on Sweeps & Ladders full-time?
“One day, my son asked me if I was working at the fire hall the next day. I told him that I was, and I will never forget his next words. He looked at me and said, ‘Daddy, can we come visit you where you live?’ That crushed my heart. I grew up without a father, and all I ever wanted was to be a good husband and father, and my son thought I lived somewhere else. From that day forward, I knew that something had to change. It was either scale back the business and stay at the fire department or jump in with both feet and leave a career that I loved. I weighed all the options and at the end of the day, I said goodbye to my career as a firefighter. I loved it, and I miss it to this day, but I had to do what was best for my family. I also did not want to live with the thought of ‘what if’ concerning Sweeps & Ladders.”
How did your family react to your career change?
“My whole family jumped in with both feet, and we took a chance. Our company has grown year after year, and we have an even bigger family now. I have the privilege of working with some of the finest people I have ever met.”
How does being a former firefighter help you and your company best serve your customers?
“It helps because we see things from a different perspective. I have seen what happens when appliances are not installed correctly or if a dryer vent is full of lint. I have been surrounded by fire in a house that was caused by not maintaining a chimney and dryer vents. All of our techs are taught about fire prevention and they learn about my experiences as a firefighter. We promote fire prevention through education. Because of my experience, our team understands what the stakes are and why it is so important to be thorough.”