Chruch Folks and Roaches
When we started Holmes Pest Control, my kids were practically babies and a handful. Now that they are older, nothing has changed. This time of year reminds me of all the big goals I had for the company initially. I believed starting a company and being patronized by all the people I knew would be a walk in the park. Pick a person and I can do three degrees of separation. The pest control business has been very good to my family. I thank God everyday for every critter he created for HPC to kill and I am thankful for every customer that has been given to us. A customer is more than a customer, they are family and friends. However, it has not been a walk in the park but I am grateful for choosing the road less traveled.
Many moons ago, I naturally assumed the customers on the Goodlettsville - Tennessee State University route we serviced while working for another company would naturally want to become our customers once we started our own business. As the foundation was being laid to start HPC, I volunteered to set appointments for the national known company that employed my husband. Everything about the commercial pest control was at our finger tips, but we had no clue about the residential side of the industry. Calling customers nightly and talking about everything to everybody helped me to understand, firsthand, the likes and dislikes of homeowners. Several large churches were on the 400-plus monthly customer route. After a year of learning names and numbers, I began to share my dream of business ownership with others.
Each time I would express my desire to become a business owner, I was always reassured that when the time was right they would want to be our customer as well. “We would never leave you guys”, we heard over and over. Since the pastors on the route had the most influence, we met with many to discuss our plans. The ministers gave us hugs and reassurances to fight the good fight and to do well. After two years of working for someone, we struck out on our own. Holmes Pest Control was in business and we were officially a “minority-owned" pest control service ready to do business in Nashville! With the excitement of a kindergartner starting school, I went door to door selling Holmes Pest Control.
On a crisp fall day, armed with 400 names, freshly printed pamphlets in hand, and a good pair of shoes; determined and driven, I knocked on doors from morning to night. But there was a slight problem, the customers were firmly planted. My business plan was surmised around customers who were brand loyal to another company not the service that was given to them by us while working for that brand. I did not have a plan B when they did not become customer with Holmes Pest Control. A route that we had serviced for two years, predominantly minority and middle income were not feeling the love for a young start up company with three hollering kids. Out of 400 plus customers, only four came with us. A future vice-mayor, a future councilman, a pediatrician, and character I lovingly called Mr. Slick. All of them are still with us today and considered close friends. Each of them has stayed with us through the good and bad times, personally and professionally. Of our four customers, Mr. Slick’s persona was peculiar and his referrals were unique like him.