America at work
A Small Welding Business, Forged By Family
Takara Small | June 16, 2016

For some dads, Father’s Day is one of a handful of days every year in which they can count on a call from the kids. But for Pete Markey, that’s far from the case.

“I see a lot of families who are traveling around the country and don’t get to see each other very much,” says Pete Markey, 69, who runs a small welding business called ShieldCo in Fredericktown, Maryland. “But we’re in contact every day, throughout the day. That’s the best part about the business.”

Markey’s sons, Luke and Neil, grew up watching their father create intricate metal work—chandeliers, tables and even the front gates to the Statue of Liberty—through his very own small business, Creative Metal Design. And metal extends even further back in the bloodline than that—Luke and Neil’s great-great-great-great uncle made handcrafted iron stoves.

Like so many businesses, ShieldCo got its start with a founder who was unhappy in his day job. Unsatisfied with his career as a consultant, Luke returned home to start over again. After working with his father for a couple of weeks the duo decided to start a new venture. Neil, who had served as an Army ranger in Iraq and Afghanistan, joined the fledgling business after completing an MBA degree at Columbia University.

“I’d had my fill of the consulting world and my dad had all this wealth of knowledge,” Luke explained. “I worried if something happened to him I wouldn’t learn from him.”

Since its launch with three employees, ShieldCo brought on three additional people to help with orders.

Unlike many other enterprises, however, the business relies on inter-generational knowledge. Luke does most of the contract and creative work—which includes creating digital designs and mockups. Neil helps with marketing and generating new business while Pete occasionally helps with designs, although he confesses he’s more old school than his sons and relies on pencil and paper and still oversees his other business, Creative Metal Design. After ShieldCo creates its designs and shares them with clients, they partner with local suppliers to cut the metal and later assemble it at their offices.

“We create every one of our pieces as if it’s a piece of art,” Luke explained. “We learned a lot from our dad, which makes our approach to metal signage and artwork differently.”

Although the business is doing well, Pete says he’s most grateful for the fact that he gets to work with his sons doing something they all have a passion for.

“I’m thankful that I can work with them and provide them with advice about what to do but what not to do too, which is just as important,” he said. “ As a dad you always want to steer your children in the proper direction.”