From Alaska to Sioux Falls, move allows childhood friends to reunite in business ownership
- October 12, 2022
Kyle Brown and his childhood friend Matt Ristau were in an RV in Alaska when a business was born.
It was 2020, Ristau had wanted to visit his friend stationed in Alaska to go fishing, “and I said this is the year to do it,” Brown said. “No one is traveling, and you won’t catch COVID in the middle of the ocean.”
The two go back to their days at Roosevelt High School, where they graduated together in 2000, and then went to SDSU together before Ristau transferred to USD and Brown joined the Air Force.
“The first year in college, Matt and I decided someday we’d own a business together,” Brown said. “We didn’t know what that was going to be.”
Brown went on to live across the country, from California, to Texas twice, Maryland and finally Alaska, where he spent 13 years.
It was while reconnecting in Alaska that Ristau’s background in commercial cleaning led them to their business concept.
“We started talking about how we do commercial cleaning and the service industry in general the right way,” Brown said. “Taking care of employees and providing professional cleaning services.”
They knew Brown’s military career would allow him to move back in two years, so they set a 2022 launch date – and met it.
RightWay Commercial Cleaning now offers carpet and office cleaning for businesses, events and public facilities.
“I think the market forces we talked about back in 2020 have only gotten stronger, as far as the importance of having a good, dedicated, professional staff and treating them right,” Ristau said. “We’ve been busy, and we’re looking to get busier, and now that Kyle’s back in town, we’re working on building it all up.”
Brown and his wife, Bethany, moved back with their kids this year.
“My wife is from California and Colorado, so I was worried about convincing her South Dakota was the place to go for our forever home, but she loves it,” Brown said. “I was worried I was painting a super-rosy picture from what I remembered, but as soon as we bought our house and moved back this summer, we had people we didn’t even know coming over working on the house and helping mow the lawn and replace sprinklers. Only in South Dakota is that a thing for people you didn’t even know to come help.”
She’s now going back to school to earn a master’s degree, with their kids in high school, middle school and elementary school.
“Our kids are loving it here,” Brown said. “The schools are amazing. Even in a couple weeks, they’ve been happy and adjusting, and we’re not even done unpacking yet.”
After years of tight military housing, the family is loving its yard, a bonus swimming pool and new puppy.
“They just enjoy having space and everyone being able to spread out and have fun,” Brown said.
“When you live in Alaska, it’s hard to get other places unless you fly, and now we’re in the middle of the country, and we can do Yellowstone, the Black Hills and drive to Denver.”
The family represents a trifecta of reasons why people are moving to and loving Sioux Falls, said Denise Guzzetta, vice president of talent and workforce development for the Sioux Falls Development Foundation.
“Their experience checks so many boxes, from returning to your roots, to growing a business, continuing your education and supporting your family,” she said. “We’re thrilled to see them succeeding already in every way.”
Brown agreed that after a whirlwind of moves, it has been an ideal place to settle.
“Everywhere I’ve lived has something good about it,” he added. “Texas had great food, California was beautiful, Alaska has great hunting and fishing, but the one thing I compared everywhere to and that I missed was the people and sense of community. Nowhere compares to South Dakota when it comes to that.”
To learn more about RightWay Commercial Cleaning, visit rightwaysd.com.
Ready to learn more about carving your own path in Sioux Falls? Visit siouxfalls.com, or reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.