Up until recently, the arsenal to battle mosquitoes — those fluttering, disease-carrying vampires of the summer breeze — was limited. Readers of a certain age will recall the fabled Shell Pest Strip, a pesticide-impregnated yellow cardboard contraption first registered in 1954 that vaguely resembled a traffic light. There was also fly paper and electronic bug zappers, but neither offered anything like surgical efficiency.
About four years ago, Gail Yongue of Daphne was working as a hospice nurse, something she’d done for eight years, and she wanted a change. Through social connections she knew the CEO of a new pest control franchise named Mosquito Joe, based in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
“I completely loved taking care of patients but there had been a lot of changes in health care and honestly, it was getting difficult to find time for sleep, ” Yongue says. She called her friend and they talked about the pluses and minuses. “For me, the learning curve was learning the pest control industry in general, but I felt I had a good basis for customer service. That’s what I brought to the table, and being able to manage a lot of demands.”
Mosquito Joe provides mosquito control treatments to residential and commercial customers nationwide. To prepare for running her own franchise, Yongue took online courses in pest control from Purdue University that helped her pass the state exam.
She and her husband set up their office behind their home in Daphne and plan to extend service this year into Mobile County. While women make up less than 5 percent of the work force in the pest control industry, Yongue has hired eight women as technicians. She’s also seen total revenue grow 50 percent over the past year, to about $500, 000.
“Last year we had a higher ratio of women to men working for us, despite the fact that the backpacks we use for spraying weigh about 65 pounds when they’re filled with water. Most people lose weight after a month of doing this work, ” Yongue says.
The company, which accomplishes its mission by spraying the chemical found in flea and tick shampoos onto bushes and other landscaping where mosquitos hide, offers marketing and startup support to new franchisees, along with a business coach.
She and her husband, Jim, get high marks from Mosquito Joe President Lou Schager. “They’ve done wonderfully, they really understand customer service and attention to detail, and they’ve gotten some of our highest marks on customer surveys, ” Schager says. “Gail’s on the cutting edge and she’s a good representation of what’s possible at Mosquito Joe.”