Call him Bug Papi

Cum­ber­land man launches mos­quito con­trol busi­ness with son and daugh­ter

Pawtucket Times - - FRONT PAGE - By JONATHAN BISSONNETTE jbis­son­[email protected]­tuck­et­

Cum­ber­land res­i­dent Bob Larence and his fam­ily were tired of dous­ing them­selves in in­sect re­pel­lant when­ever they wanted to go out­side on a re­lax­ing sum­mer evening.

“We want to make it so folks can en­joy their prop­erty and their re­cre­ation time,” he said in an in­ter­view with The Times on Wed­nes­day. “Sum­mer’s short and we want peo­ple to max­i­mize their op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

To cure those woes, Larence now is the owner and op­er­a­tor of Mos­quito Joe’s Rhode Is­land fran­chises. He bought into the com­pany last au­tumn af­ter he and his 20-year-old son Brian vis­ited their Vir­ginia Beach cam­pus.

Based in Vir­ginia, Mos­quito Joe pro­vides mos­quito con­trol treat­ment to res­i­den­tial and com­mer­cial cus­tomers around the coun­try. Each Mos­quito Joe is an in­de­pen­dently-owned fran­chise that of­fers cus­tomers ser­vice backed by a na­tional net­work of tech­ni­cal ex­per­tise.

Larence and his son “met the whole team and they were very pro­fes­sional. They knew where they were go­ing, they had a plan, all the fran­chisees had done re­ally well and had a lot of sup­port from cor­po­rate.”

Larence said he had looked at sev­eral dif­fer­ent fran­chise mod­els and non-fran­chise op­por­tu­ni­ties but af­ter

meet­ing with the peo­ple at Mos­quito Joe, he felt that “this op­por­tu­nity kept com­ing up as a re­ally good op­por­tu­nity. Once we met with them, we knew we wanted to go for­ward.”

“This model kept com­ing up as a newer ser­vice that has a lot of de­mand. It’s a grow­ing ser­vice that could use some aware­ness,” Larence said. “With ticks, fleas, mos­qui­toes, there’s an op­por­tu­nity in a grow­ing sec­tor. It’s a sea­sonal busi­ness with room to ex­pand.”

Mos­quito Joe started in 2009 with four in­di­vid­u­als, all of whom with young fam­i­lies, who had the goal to get rid of mos­qui­toes in their back­yard so their chil­dren could en­joy their time out­side. Cur­rent CEO Kevin Wil­son and a group of in­vestors liked what they saw and they bought the com­pany in 2012 and turned it into a fran­chise model, re­brand­ing the com­pany with the tagline, “out­side is fun again.” Mos­quito Joe be­gan fran­chis­ing in Jan­uary 2013 with 13 lo­ca­tions by the end of the year. This year, Wil­son said, they have 230 lo­ca­tions in 30 states.

Wil­son said that what helped spur the growth of Mos­quito Joe was a com­bi­na­tion of pub­lic aware­ness re­gard­ing the dan­ger­ous dis­eases car­ried by mos­qui­toes and ticks and the sim­ple idea that mos­qui­toes are a nui­sance to out­door en­joy­ment.

“Most peo­ple call us just be­cause mos­qui­toes are non-ben­e­fi­cial and a to­tal nui­sance,” Wil­son said. “If there’s a way to get rid of them, peo­ple will do it.”

Larence had worked in fi­nan­cial ser­vices for 21 years but af­ter some tran­si­tions in­clud­ing a con­sol­i­da­tion and job elim­i­na­tion, he de­cided to move away from the cor­po­rate world. In 2009, he was part of a group of four part­ners that pur­chased the Den­nis M. Lynch Arena in Pawtucket.

“We did a nice job turn­ing it around and clean­ing it up,” he said of his time at the arena. “It needed some main­te­nance and we took care of a lot of those is­sues. We did a lot of im­prove­ments.”

They sold the arena in 2015 but dur­ing the time of own­ing the rink, Larence said it gave him small busi­ness ex­pe­ri­ence and also con­tin­ued his be­lief that he’d rather be out of the cor­po­rate arena but still in the busi­ness world.

Larence’s fran­chise has the mar­ket cor­nered in north­ern and south­ern Rhode Is­land, he said, not­ing that as a life­long res­i­dent of Cum­ber­land, he wanted to start in the mar­ket he’s lived in with an eye to­ward cov­er­ing all of Rhode Is­land. His north­ern fran­chise cov­ers all of Prov­i­dence County with the ex­cep­tion of Cranston, al­though he says “we could ser­vice pretty much any­where in Rhode Is­land.” The fran­chise is li­censed in Rhode Is­land.

Wil­son said that Mos­quito Joe re­lies heav­ily on light-heared hu­mor for its brand­ing, with mail­ers read­ing such snappy phrases as: “Are you tired of do­nat­ing blood on the way to the mailbox?”

“They’re funny and make peo­ple smile,” he said. “If you can cre­ate that mem­ory, when they have that bite or itch, they’ll re­mem­ber that smile and re­mem­ber to call us.”

The plan is to start spray­ing in late April or early May, say­ing that in their ter­ri­tory, cor­po­rate will send out mar­ket­ing fliers and try to get in­volved in the com­muntiy to build aware­ness of the new busi­ness. Larence said that he will look to work within the com­mu­nity, say­ing that one ex­am­ple could be spon­sor­ing youth ath­let­ics.

“Our big fo­cus is on cus­tomer ser­vice, we want to make sure our cus­tomers are happy, we will elim­i­nate a prob­lem for them,” he said. “The trade­mark is mak­ing it fun to go out­doors. It’s an added bonus to elim­i­nate in­sects and min­i­mize the risk of the dis­eases which are preva­lent, the ticks and lime dis­ease up here, the mos­qui­toes carry a lot.”

One of the big­gest sell­ing points for a Mos­quito Joe fran­chise, Larence said, was the op­por­tu­nity to grow a busi­ness with his fam­ily. His son Brian and 22-year-old daugh­ter Christa are Com­mu­nity Col­lege of Rhode Is­land stu­dents who’ll be work­ing with their fa­ther in his new ven­ture. Brian, a former goal­tender at Mount Saint Charles Acad­emy, is also an en­tre­pre­neur, as he started his own busi­ness sell­ing hockey sticks and uni­forms.

“It’s great to keep it in the fam­ily,” Christa said. “When he was work­ing, we didn’t see him quite as much as we do now. It’ll be spe­cial to work to­gether.” Brian, mean­while, added “it’ll be good to work to­gether again,” as he pre­vi­ously worked as a rink at­ten­dant when his fa­ther was part of the Lynch Arena group.

Larence and his wife Donna also have a third child, 25-year-old daugh­ter Erica, who is a lawyer but is not part of the Mos­quito Joe team.

Wil­son said that Mos­quito Joe loves work­ing with fam­i­lies like the Larences.

“They owned a hockey rink, they know their com­mu­nity very well,” he said. “When they an­nounce we’ve got a new busi­ness, they’re go­ing to get an enor­mous amount of sup­port and spread the word well. We think they’re go­ing to be great part­ners.”

The mis­sion for the fu­ture of Mos­quito Joe is to have 500 lo­ca­tions open over the next three to four years. Wil­son says that he wants their brand to be “the largest and best in the coun­try.”

“I humbly think we are the best right now, I think our cus­tomers tell us that, and very shortly we’ll be the largest,” he said.

Larence said that they would like to es­tab­lish a good cus­tomer base and for re­fer­rals to grow.

“This year is about get­ting estab­lished with a fo­cus on cus­tomer ser­vice and growth,” he said. “Hope­fully we’ll be able to add staff and ser­vice tech­ni­cians as we grow and we’d like to add an­other ve­hi­cle by the end of this sea­son.”

The hope is to have 500 cus­tomers by the end of this sea­son and con­tinue to grow, he added.

Photo by Ernest A. Brown

Bob Larence, cen­ter, with his daugh­ter, Christa, left, and son, Brian, have started a ‘Mos­quito Joe’ bug spray­ing ser­vice based in Cum­ber­land.

Photo by Ernest A. Brown

Bob Larence, right, with his son, Brian, and daugh­ter, Christa, are launch­ing a new bug con­trol busi­ness in Cum­ber­land.

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