Indianapolis woman charts journey from banking to running plumbing company

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Woman business owners and operators throughout the country are overcoming challenges to grow companies that provide jobs, financial security and as well as help to the communities that they call home.

This Indiana owner grew up with a strong foundation that has helped her overcome adversity and create a successful and growing business.

Cathy Stegemoller, owner of Steg Plumbing, learned her business skills at an early age.

“Well, I actually grew up in a business. My parents owned the Royal Motel in Martinsville, Indiana, and we lived in that motel. So me and my brothers and sisters grew up 24/7 in a business environment watching our parents work hard. We helped clean rooms on the weekends when the maids weren’t there and helped fill the Coke machine when we were just young kids. So I have never not been in a business environment,” Stegemoller said. 

Cathy went on to get an associate’s degree in business at Indiana Business College, which opened a door for her into the world of finance.

“I just kind of fell into banking. They gave me a job as secretary to the president of the bank and I progressed from there to become a commercial loan officer. Ended up a vice president of private banking at Key Bank in downtown Indianapolis. So I got my business background and knowledge of finance from the banking world,” Stegemoller said.

So how did she go from banking to the plumbing business?

“People laugh when they ask me that all the time because that’s kind of unusual but I married a master plumber. He always wanted to start his own business, and I was entrepreneurial from my background, so together we started the company. He and another person and me doing work after hours working out of our kitchen, our garage and our house. The business grew to a place where I quit my banking job and started helping him with the business,” Stegemoller said.

But like many young companies, she and her colleagues ran into unexpected challenges.

“We did. He had some health issues in 2006 and ended up have some pretty serious surgeries. He was working part time for a while and that was also about the same time as the recession hit, which really took its toll on the construction industry. In 2010, it was determined that he would not work in the business anymore, couldn’t work full time, and we had to make the determination of whether we closed the doors or we keep going. We had 20 employees at that point who I knew were counting on us for income, and they couldn’t get jobs anywhere else because of the recession. So I stepped up at the helm at that point, became the president and moved forward. And we grew throughout the recession and came out on the other side. You can’t do it by yourself. You have to surround yourself with really strong people. You have to be honest. You have to have empathy for your customers and empathy for your employees.”

Stegemoller said lessons like those have helped the company grow.

“We have grown from a two-person company into now 46 employees and we’re over $6 million in sales. We take care of a lot of custom builders here in the city and production builders as well as home owners. I attribute that to my strong management team, good employees, as well as I got real involved in associations here in the city. I got real involved in Builders Association of Greater Indianapolis. It’s called BAGI. I’m on the board of directors there, a lot of networking with builders, a lot of learning opportunities there. I also got involved in the Greater Indianapolis Plumbing, Heating and Cooling Association. I’m incoming president for that, for the association. That’s me wanting to pay back to the industry that has been so good to me.”

As far as what the future looks like, Stegemoller sees her family remaining active in the business.

“Well the future, we plan to keep growing. I have two sons that are active in the business now and that’s exciting for me because it’s always been a family business and we treat our employees like family. So that fits right in. I continue to learn; I continue to go to conferences and keep looking for opportunities to improve the company,” Stegemoller.

Stegemoller told News 8 a few of her secrets for success:

“You have to have thick skin, and I laugh about that a lot because people will say, ‘Oh I don’t want to hurt your feelings,” and I say you can’t hurt my feelings. I work in a plumbing business, and I’m around builders every day. So you have to have thick skin, you have to have self-confidence and you have to keep learning. Don’t stop learning.”