How do you keep a business going, when your service or product is seasonal? David Lepak owns a pest control service called Mosquito Joe of Waukesha County. He shares his journey to buying a franchise and building a customer base of 600 in the first year.
About Dave and Lynn Lepak
Lynn is a registered nurse and Dave is a recovering politician. After downsizing their home, the couple wanted to get into a business where they could help people. The idea for getting into the Mosquito business came after throwing a party on their new outdoor deck. As the sun started to go down, the mosquitos came out, forcing everyone to go inside their smaller home. After that experience, the Lepak’s learned the mosquito was a dangerous predator, causing the most deaths in the world. They also discovered mosquito control was a “thing.” They originally worked with a pest control franchisor that proved to be non-responsive to their needs. Then, they discovered Mosquito Joe and became the first Mosquito Joe franchise in Wisconsin in 2018.
Mosquito Joe has just under 300 franchisees in the U.S. and they all treat only mosquitos. The company has a Barrier Spray Program that uses three products. The first product is sprayed around the property’s problem areas to deter flying pests. A second product is sprayed on foliage to kill mosquitos, followed by a third spray that inhibits reproduction. The first treatment eliminates 75 to 80 percent of all mosquitos, and more than 90 percent by the third treatment. Treatments typically last three weeks, so having a regular treatment program is best. All Mosquito Joe products are low toxicity, but there are also all-natural products available made from garlic extract or rosemary and peppermint that have no toxicity but are not as effective.
The Mosquito Joe Difference
David says the real difference in his pest control service from competitors is customer service. The company spends lots of time with its customers finding out how they use their backyard so that they can be effective. Mosquitos are the only thing Dave’s company treats, so they strive to be the best at mosquito control.
Running a Seasonal Service
Mosquito season in Wisconsin may only be 5 months max, but according to Dave, it’s a year-round business. During the off-season, David spends the time evaluating the last season and making improvements, maintaining vans and equipment, restocking products and marketing materials, and updating customer lists. While profit margins take a hit in the off-season, Dave keeps revenues coming by offering attractive deals for customers who renew and new customers who sign up for the next season in advance. Staffing is also a challenge in a seasonal business, although David typically targets college students and places a heavy emphasis on training.
Advice for Franchise Seekers
If you’re looking into purchasing a franchise business of your own, David has this advice:
- Call as many franchisees as you can and make sure you get answers to all of your questions
- Do some vetting of your own regarding the leadership team, finding out how long the organization has been in business, how much turnover there has been within the company and what kind of operations and marketing support it provides the franchisee
- Get to know the franchisor and support staff by visiting the headquarters
- Understand the franchise contract in totality because you can’t change it
- Be passionate about your business. Don’t just dial it in.