Sewage backups. Fires. Floods.
Terrible things can strike your home or business. When they do, Blue Sky Services and Restoration comes in and puts everything back to normal. Disasters for you are solvable problems for Blue Sky. The crew there has seen it all.
“There’s been some crazy stuff that’s gone down over the years,” said Mark Uptain, who’s owned the business since 2005.
Uptain operates Blue Sky at 1405 Gregory Lane and a new office in Star Valley (307-883-7678). Its specialities are fire and water restoration; mold testing and remediation; carpet and upholstery cleaning; and construction and remodeling. The team is master certified through the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification, and Uptain has a contractor license.
Uptain caught the entrepreneurship bug from his dad, who ran the same kind of business. No matter what line of work you’re in, Uptain said, being the boss requires an ability to deal with “seat-of-the-pants stuff” and a commitment to “constantly learning and growing.”
“There’s a lot of stuff you never learn in school that you have to digest to run a small business,” he said.
Uptown, who grew up in Casper, is 37. He and his wife, Sarah, have five children: Isabelle, 17, Bri, 15, Kirsten, 13, Benjamin, 11, and Morgan, 9. When he’s not working, he said, “I enjoy spending time with Sarah and the kids, serving on the board of elders at First Baptist Church, riding horses, hunting and fishing, guiding hunting clients, biking, playing chess and staying fit.”
Uptain provided written answers to the News&Guide’s questions.
Q: You bought Blue Sky Services in 2005. How did you get into this line of work?
A: I grew up doing similar work. My dad owned a large regional cleaning and maintenance/repair business that had contracts throughout the mountain states region.
I started working with him just to help and hang out as early as 8 years old, then worked off and on through school and eventually moved to Jackson to manage contracts he had here in late fall 1999.
He sold his company about six months after I moved here, and I wanted to stay on in this area. He generously gifted me with a couple of his contracts that he withheld from the sale, and the company grew from there.
I was working for Blue Sky Services as a subcontractor in the early 2000s, and in 2005 the owner, Wayne DuPied, was wanting to sell and move on to other business interests. He offered me the chance to purchase Blue Sky, and after careful deliberation, my wife, Sarah, and I decided to make an offer, and we took ownership in May 2005.
I quickly realized that mitigation and restoring damaged homes and businesses was a good challenge and had an altruistic component of helping people in oftentimes difficult and unplanned situations with living and work space, as well as a means for providing for our family. I wanted to give Teton County and the surrounding areas a local, great option for specialized cleaning and restoration services, and we have continually tried to improve on and bring a best-practices, technically skilled, professional approach to this industry in our area.
Q: How many employees do you have?
Q: Your newsletter says you encourage them to have well-rounded lives. Can you elaborate?
A: I have learned, at times through trial and error, that life has many ups and downs.
For instance, we purchased a home in Teton County in July 2007, just before the recession, and paid going rates at the time. Within nine months we had lost over half the value, and we were feeling pretty discouraged and stressed about it.
We stuck it out and are still in the home, and one thing I learned moving through the situation was that it felt better and better decisions were made as we had a balanced life — emotionally, time margin, physical health, diet, relationships, spiritually, recreationally, etc.
This journey continues and is a continual goal and learning process personally. I know from personal experience that I am a better worker when I am in balance, and there is ad infinitum written material and speakers that speak to this. I want Blue Sky employees to have a great life and work to live, not live to work.
Q: What’s the biggest part of your business?
A: Water, fire, mold mitigation and remodel of these properties after the mitigation is the bulk of our work. We offer highly effective and professional carpet cleaning on a more limited basis. We also do remodeling that is not from damage or mitigation.
Q: Are you mostly working with homeowners or businesses?
A: Both pretty evenly. We offer residential and commercial services.
Q: Can you describe one or two of the worst messes you’ve had to clean up?
A: Fires can be devastating. We were called to a home in Indian Springs back in 2010, around Dec. 10. A cleaning person had cleaned the fireplace and unwittingly put hot coals in a trash can in the garage. It had lit on fire, and about 30 percent of the structure was a total loss. The family had plans of several guests and family members arriving for Christmas in a few short weeks.
Another that comes to mind is a condo in Teton Village that had raw sewage backed up a couple inches deep for a month before someone found it. Mold coated everything in the condo and had grown a couple inches thick in several areas. It required a complete interior gut and mitigation and remodel.
Q: You do construction and remodeling. Is that part of the cleanup services, or is it a separate part of the business?
A: They are separate scopes of work, and there is some overlap. We did a remodel at an assisted living facility that had no mitigation attached to it to begin with. Part of the way in we opened up some areas and found significant mold growth from prior leaking, so mitigation became part of the remodel.
Q: How often do you recommend that people clean their carpets, and why?
A: Once a year or more depending on traffic. Carpets act like large air filters and over time become loaded with dust and other particulates. Air quality is kept up by cleaning this large “air filter” regularly. Additionally, dirt and other debris in a carpet will break down the light-reflecting capability of carpet fibers, and they will look worn-out sooner with less-regular cleaning.
Q: Your newsletter touts “holistic cleaning programs.” What’s a holistic cleaning program?
A: Simply put, the less chemicals in the cleaning program the better. During the carpet cleaning process the cleaning agent is applied as a pre-spray before hot water extraction begins. The pre-spray process aerosolizes some of the cleaner, and is inhaled by the cleaning technician and occupants.
During hot water extraction and drying, steam and evaporation is occurring and the cleaner is aerosolized here as well. We use a green-certified, mineral-based cleaner with a citrus booster to do a great job without the chemical inhalation and VOCs of other cleaners. We limit the use of chemicals elsewhere. While some are necessary for mold and fire mitigation, we minimize their use and use proper respirators and PPE to protect the technicians during application.
Q: What’s your busy season?
A: All year these days. There can be seasonal spikes, usually due to extreme or severe weather patterns that cause damage. We haven’t had a slow season for a couple of years.
Q: What do you enjoy about your work?
A: There is a problem-solving component of applying mitigation principles to many different scenarios that keeps me interested. I grew up in an entrepreneurial environment where my dad, mom and older brother all had started their own companies by the time I was old enough to work. I enjoy the business development and sales challenge and flexibility of the small-business environment.
I love that Blue Sky offers great employment opportunities. I also appreciate the opportunity to help solve issues of air quality and home and business structures in crisis and better our customers’ quality of life.