We know we're stating the obvious, but Pest Control is a male-dominated industry. One report from Data USA says that 95.6% of pest control workers are male, which isn't surprising given that pest control has a reputation for being a gritty, unglamorous job. However, insects outnumber humans, and some insects (ahem, mosquitoes) even pre-date human existence. If we're going to combat insect pests' annoyance and potential dangers, we need all hands on deck.
The United States Bureau of Labor and Statistics projects a 10% growth rate for the pest control industry between now and 2030, thanks in part to the consistent emergence of new invasive species within the U.S. However, another exciting trend to monitor and encourage will be the increasing presence of women in the industry.
In this evolving post-pandemic world, it's time to challenge the gender norms within the pest control industry. Mosquito Squad is proud to do just that by celebrating and uplifting our network of female owners. In honor of Women's History Month, we sat down with four of our female owners to discuss their journeys and what it means for each of them to be a part of The Squad.
Their collective experience spans nearly 25 years, and for many of them, the ability to solve a problem and help protect families initially piqued their interest in Mosquito Squad. As Mary Anna Lewis, Mosquito Squad of the Lowcountry owner, says,"Nobody likes mosquitoes! [Mosquito Squad's] service solves a problem for which so many people are trying to find an answer." The business model struck a personal chord for Keegan Cravo, Mosquito Squad of Hartford-Springfield owner. Cravo says, "I was a mother of two with a baby on the way, so safety for my kids was a top concern. I loved the idea of making the outdoors more comfortable and safer by eliminating mosquitoes and ticks."
As every entrepreneur knows, launching a business is no small feat. It is demanding and labor-intensive, but the rewards of owning your own business and having control over your schedule can feel immeasurable. Mosquito Squad of Northeast Florida owner, Vanesa Ellis, says that the dream of owning her own business began in her early childhood. "I immigrated from Argentina to the United States, the land of opportunity. It was a dream to one day own my own business. When the opportunity presented itself, I knew it was the right one," says Ellis.
The women all shared that research, determination, and a strong support system aided in getting their businesses off the ground. Cravo says, "of course, in the first years, getting the business up [and running] occupied most of my time. Luckily, I have a very supportive tribe that helped keep the balance between work and home." Lewis shared that broadening her network by taking on leadership roles within her community was fundamental in launching her successful business. "Getting involved and taking leadership roles in my local Chamber of Commerce and serving on Boards of some non-profits helped make it easier starting out."
Sharee Ashford, the owner of Mosquito Squad East Atlanta, gives straightforward advice: "If you're thinking about doing it, just go for it! I don't know that anyone will ever feel 100% prepared but aim for 80%." Cravo echoes this by saying, "If you are willing to put in the work, you can educate yourself on anything. Now I know more about mosquitoes, ticks, and running a business than I ever thought I would."
As if launching a business isn't challenging enough, what about launching a business in an industry where women are a minority? Ashford acknowledges that there were some concerns, sharing, "I believe a big challenge in being in male-dominated rooms is not being heard." Ellis also shared that she initially felt a little intimidated by how she might be viewed as a female owner within the industry. However, once she decided she would pursue this path, she "jumped all in and learned that it was important to go into it with a positive attitude, being open to learning from others."
Since launching her Mosquito Squad business six years ago, Ellis says that she has found the network of Mosquito Squad owners to be "very welcoming." Furthermore, she says, "becoming an owner in a male-dominated business taught me to be confident in my decision making, step out of my comfort zone and not be afraid to promote myself and our business."
Cravo shares that she found community and mentorship within the Mosquito Squad network, stating, "we have a strong group of female leaders that have embraced and supported one another, as well as many male owners who are equally supportive." Lewis echoes this saying, "thankfully, we have always had a very, very inclusive culture, so that has always been a huge benefit." And in terms of promoting the business, Ashford has found that being the gender minority helps her stand out. As she says, “it can spark interest and conversation."
No matter what challenges come with being a female business owner in the pest control industry, all the women agree that the rewards outweigh the risk. The most significant rewards for these women are the satisfaction of helping keep families protected from mosquitoes and ticks and the work-life balance they now have. Ellis shares, "as a Mosquito Squad owner, I can put my family first. The biggest reward has been to see my daughter and son look up to me as I try to take our business to the next level."