If Scott Shaw had any doubts about trading in a corporate position for running an insect-control franchise, a recent incident affirmed his career-shifting decision.
“I was at a friend’s house with my daughter,” he recalled. “We were sitting at the table and a bug ran across her face. We grabbed it and it was a tick. The homeowner was mortified — she had not used our type of service before, but she will be using it now. She didn’t realize it was such a concern.”
The service in question is Mosquito Joe, which provides residential and commercial properties with protection against mosquitoes, ticks and fleas. Shaw recently acquired the Lower Fairfield County franchise for Mosquito Joe, which is headquartered in Virginia Beach, Virginia and is now aiming to expand into the Northeast region.
“I have two territories,” Shaw noted. “One runs from Greenwich to Norwalk, and next season I will open up from Norwalk to Bridgeport.”
Shaw, who’s operating the franchise from his Larchmont, New York, home, learned about the franchise opportunity through a business broker. Bugs — at least the six-legged kind — weren’t his area of expertise in his former professional life, which consisted of working in the compensation and benefits sector of human resources, most recently with General Electric.
Shaw admitted that the path from human resources to insect extermination might seem a little odd.
“It’s not a natural fit,” he said. “But I was looking for a business that had solid margins and a strong market. Many of my friends have young children and they were talking about being outside and having to check their kids every time they came in. Every time I spoke to folks in my circle, they said this was a fantastic idea.”
It also helps Shaw’s new business that the region is seeing another year of an elevated tick population, which Shaw blamed on the erratic winter weather plus an overpopulation of deer that carry ticks. Shaw believed that it made better sense to buy into a franchise dedicated to insect eradication rather than starting one from scratch.
“There is the time and expense of developing a brand, logo and strategy,” he said, “and you may spend a lot of money making mistakes on things that may not work for you in advertising. With a franchise, there is a model that has been proven time and time again, and you are buying into that model.”
Mosquito Joe customers have the option of a chemical-based insecticide or an organic alternative to eliminate the unwanted intruders. “Most of it is rosemary- and garlic-based,” Shaw said of the latter product. “It is primarily a repellent, as opposed to killing the bugs. We can put that on vegetables and flower gardens. Bugs and mosquitoes don’t like it.”
Shaw kicked off his marketing of Mosquito Joe with a search engine optimization push along with a 30,000-piece direct mail marketing campaign. “It is kind of old school,” he said about the direct mail effort. “And in many businesses, it doesn’t seem as effective as it used to be. But it is very effective in this business.”
At the moment, the Mosquito Joe team consists of Shaw, an office manager and a technician who does the on-site work. Shaw is also out in the field, and he described the experience as being worlds removed from his old job.
“The back packs that we use are about 80 pounds, with five gallons of water-based pesticides,” he said. “You’re outside all day. However, I am in better shape than I was sitting behind a desk.”