Beyond Pipe & Profit

As seen in the Tried & True Winter 2024 issue

Drainage Solutions, Inc., a long-time partner of Fratco, is a remarkable drainage systems and solutions distribution company that has not only weathered the storms of time but also emerged stronger with each challenge.

Terry Noriega, the very heart and President of Drainage Solutions Inc., and his wife, Stephanie, began their journey in 1997 as a part-time endeavor. Selling accessories to other dealers might have seemed a humble beginning, but Terry’s vision was anything but modest. They originally started the company because they found themselves facing a challenge that no parent ever wishes to confront: mounting medical bills for their young son. In those moments of vulnerability and uncertainty, many would have succumbed to despair, but not the Noriegas. They looked beyond the immediate adversity and saw an opportunity, one that would not only help them aid in their financial challenges, but also lay the foundations for a venture that would stand the test of time.

In the early days of Drainage Solutions Inc., both Terry and Stephanie had their work cut out for them. Terry leveraged his extensive knowledge of pipe and drainage systems, and Stephanie managed the intricacies of the budding business. Terry recalls the slow beginnings, “Starting out of our home was both a challenge and a lesson. Every square foot was a testament to our dedication to our son and our belief in what Drainage Solutions, Inc. could become.” Their garage transformed into a makeshift warehouse and their dining room into a mini office. For five relentless years, the couple juggled their roles as parents, caregivers and entrepreneurs, proving that passion, grit and purpose could indeed turn the tide.

Terry and Stephanie on vacation with their son.

As years passed, what started as a part-time venture to cover medical expenses began to flourish. Their commitment to quality, combined with an undeniable business acumen meant that Drainage Solutions, Inc. was ready for its next chapter. In 2002, marking a significant milestone, the company made a bold leap to transition from a home-based setup to its very first brick-and-mortar location. It was more than just a change of address; it symbolized the culmination of dreams, hard work and the tenacity to rise above challenging circumstances.

Reflecting on these early years, the journey of Drainage Solutions, Inc. stands as a tribute to the resilience and determination of the human spirit. It underscores the idea that businesses are not just built on capital and strategy, but also on hope and the power of family. The story of Terry and Stephanie is not just about the inception of a successful company;

it’s about two parents who, when faced with adversity, chose perseverance over despair and hard work over surrender.

Today as Drainage Solutions, Inc. celebrates a quarter of a century in the industry boasting four branches, 30 dedicated employees and an extensive customer base, its roots remain firmly anchored in those early days of struggle and hope.

Drainage Solutions, Inc.’s Leesburg facility and fully stocked yard.

Drainage Solutions, Inc.’s expansive approach sets them apart. While many businesses laser-focus on a niche, this company has bravely ventured into diverse markets for all kinds of drainage. From septic systems to golf courses and municipal areas, their footprint is vast. They’ve grown to offer a wide array of drainage products and brands including pipe, valves and fittings, catch basins, grates, channel drains and trench drains as well as products for erosion, silt and sediment control. Their ambitious venture into online sales and their unwavering commitment to maintaining an abundant inventory underscores their forward-thinking approach.

Their intentionality of keeping many products in stock paid off during the challenges of the recent pandemic. Many businesses faced crippling inventory shortages and plummeting sales. However, Drainage Solutions, Inc. was prepared. Having maintained a robust inventory, their proactive strategy meant they could continue selling products, ensuring their availability for customers in trying times. They prioritized continuing support for their existing customers, choosing not to capitalize on the heightened prices resulting from product shortages. Such preparedness meant they suffered considerably less than many other businesses, a significant achievement amidst a global crisis.

Partnerships have played a significant role in their journey. Terry explains, “It’s not just about business; it’s about trust.” Terry’s emphasis on loyalty to vendors and customers illuminates the depth of these relationships. Northern Indiana, with its dense agricultural fabric, has particularly benefited from this unwavering bond.

Jeremiah Jacks, Vice President, and Terry even reminisce on the early days of Drainage Solutions Inc. when their Fratco Sales Representatives, Paul Liggett and Brendan Noggle went the extra mile for them. They would do things like personally deliver products for them as Terry explains, “When there were trucking shortages, Paul would take his truck and a small trailer and pick stuff up and bring it to us if we needed it right away.” He explains that while that kind of thing is talked about a lot in the industry, Fratco follows through on their loyalty and adaptability.

Terry recalls meeting former Fratco CEO, Steve Overmyer, 35 years ago at a tradeshow. At the time Terry was representing a Fratco competitor, but he remembers being greeted by Steve as if a friend. “Steve would take me around and introduce me at different trade shows. And I’m thinking, ‘Why is this guy introducing me to his customers?’” Terry came to learn that Steve and Fratco as a whole were so confident in their relationship with their customers, that he was actually taunting Terry with Fratco’s committed customers knowing they would always stay loyal to Fratco. Terry chuckled as he explained, “[Steve’s customers] would tell me stories about Steve driving a truckload to them on Thanksgiving because they wanted to keep working–and he made sure they could keep working. And I’m thinking… that’s why. Not because I was gonna steal them. He was letting me know, not to bother. I was young and cocky and he was putting me in my place.” Steve demonstrated to Terry the value of a business feeling like a family as he eventually began to adopt that mentality for Drainage Solutions, Inc.

Today at its core, Drainage Solutions, Inc. isn’t just a business enterprise—it’s a family. The camaraderie between Terry and Jeremiah evokes images of siblings rather than mere colleagues. Their playful interactions encapsulate the essence of the company’s culture—nurturing relationships, whether with vendors, customers or within the team. Jeremiah tells us, “…to us it’s personal… we’re taking care of people, not just selling products. It’s about valuing people, investing in them and growing together as a community.”

Each branch of the company actively engages and supports local initiatives, reflecting their commitment to the communities they serve. From sponsoring Little League baseball teams to supporting food banks, their involvement is diverse and heartfelt. In a recent creative endeavor in South Bend, they supplied 36-inch pipe to serve as playful barriers for a school’s Nerf war event, turning an ordinary weekend into an extraordinary adventure for the kids. Terry explains, “We strive to support each community as best we can. When someone approaches us with a legitimate public project or just needs to borrow pipe, we don’t hesitate. It’s our way of giving back and staying connected.” These acts of generosity and involvement showcase Drainage Solutions, Inc.’s dedication not just to their industry, but to nurturing the communities that have been an integral part of their journey.

Drainage Solutions, Inc. serves as a striking example of perseverance and determination, proving that with vision, dedication and a sense of community, challenges can transform into opportunities.