Meet Geoffrey Gillon
Job: Owner, Aames Plumbing (The Pink Plumber)
Family: Wife, Heather; two adult children
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, yet a Smyrna plumber — whose mother was diagnosed with the disease a decade ago — decided last year to wage the anti-cancer fight year-round.
So he painted his trucks pink.
Pink is a distinctive color sure to set apart Geoffrey Gillon’s business — plumbing, septic, heating and air — from the competition. But Gillon, who owns Aames Plumbing, said business hasn’t improved noticeably with the new color scheme.
And, really, Gillon insists, that’s not the point. He has already donated $20,000 this year to the National Breast Cancer Foundation and may, depending on revenue, cut another check this year for $30,000.
Gillon, 57, from Manchester, England, started Aames in 1991.
Q: Your philanthropy is commendable, but surely there are obvious marketing benefits with the color pink. How’d all this come about?
A: My mum had a breast removed, and it saved her life, and that’s a good thing. She’s now 84. One of my employees said: “You know, Geoff, when we’re out in the field, 80 percent of the time we’re talking to the ladies of the home. [Pink] would help us with advertising, and it would be a great way to help the cause.” That’s how we got started.
Q: Prior to pink, there was Aames. Was that also marketing-driven?
A: I lived in California for 11 years a long time ago, and the No. 1 plumbing company in California at the time was Aames. That was in the day of the Yellow Pages when you had to have “AA” in order to get in the front of the book. I took the name because it wasn’t being used in Atlanta. But it didn’t really help us here.
Q: With revenue of $6 million, you must be doing some things right. How’s business?
A: The economy is bad right now, so we’re just treading water. But we’re not complaining. We’re very comfortable where we are, which gives us the opportunity to donate $20,000 a year. Five percent of our net profits go to charity, and we get to write it off, too.
Q: But you’re considering shifting your donation to a local breast cancer group. Why?
A: So many times you feel like organizations take the money, and you don’t know where it goes. This time I’d love to be able to turn around and say, “This year we spent $30,000, and 50 people got mammograms that they couldn’t afford.” And maybe one of those people was found to have a problem. That’s a lovely way to know you’re helping people who can’t afford a mammogram.
Q: Anybody question whether you’re piggybacking a popular cause — breast cancer awareness — for personal profit?
A: No. But I’m treading as carefully as possible, so if anybody says anything, I can just open up my books and say, “There it all is.” There’s always a downside to anything. But if it helps us send checks on a regular basis — in this economy — how can that be a bad thing?
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