Start-Up Diaries: Things I’d Tell My 18-Year-Old Self


April 9, 2015

Pete Schopen

The author shares a high school graduation day photo taken with his father, Pete Sr. Photo: Pete Schopen

My brother Drake, owner of Mid Central Pest Control in East Dundee, Ill., recently asked me to help train our nephew Eric for a few days. Eric and Drake wanted to feel more comfortable when the time came for Eric to start servicing Mid Central’s clients.

Eric and I had a blast. I love my nephew, and it was great having him around. Eric is a third-generation Schopen working in the pest management industry. (How cool is that?) Whether he wants to continue in pest management past this year is up to him. (He currently has his sights set on being the next Vin Diesel.) Regardless, the Schopen pest torch officially has been handed down from my dad, Pete Sr., to me and now to Eric.

While I was training Eric and stumbling around after him in my client’s crawlspaces, it occurred to me that I’m old. Not just old, but ancient. If I were a Viking, they’d be setting aside logs for my funeral pyre. In fact, working next to Eric was depressing. Here I am, 45 years old, training an 18-year-old man-child who has his whole life ahead of him. While I’m thinking of IRAs and ice packs, he’s talking about UFC and pizza. While my prostate is making me pee for the fourth time that morning, he’s chugging his second 44-oz. Mountain Dew.

After I dropped off Eric back at the office and dug into my paperwork, I started to daydream about what it would be like if I could go back in time and give my 18-year-old-self some sage advice. We all have to fail and fall to move ahead. Failure is how a wise person learns, matures and grows. But what if I could go back and just warn my 18-year-old self to avoid some pitfalls or make better decisions? (Cut to dream sequence with music and harps.)

1. Always wear kneepads on rodent and cockroach jobs.

2. Always wear an allergen/dust mask when going into an attic.

3. Go to Purdue University and get an entomology degree.

4. While at Purdue, get Dr. Austin Frishman’s autograph.

5. While at Purdue, earn a minor in business.

6. Stay away from Taco Bell. (Who am I kidding?)

7. Exercise every day.

8. Join the state pest control association at an early age and shake some hands.

9. Bet $500 on the 2004 Red Sox to win it all (yes, the Red Sox).

10. Write a book about a boy wizard with a scar on his forehead. It will make billions!

11. There will be a movie in 2003 called “Gigli.” For the love of your mother, stay away from it.

12. Don’t text and drive. (Oops, that would be my 18-year-old-self lecturing my 45-year-old self.)

13. Put $5 in the bank every day. By the time I’m 45, that will be a cool $50,000 in the bank, before interest.

14. Talk less.

15. Listen more.

16. Don’t climb a 40-ft-ladder to treat a bald-faced hornet nest with only a bulb duster and your good looks.

17. Wear booties.

18. Don’t pump a sprayer in wet dirt and then set it down on white carpet.

Being 18 was great, but I’m happy I’m 45. I don’t get carded. I can enter casinos. The ache in my femur tells me when it’s going to rain. Now, if I could only go back in time and tell 30-year-old Pete to invent Facebook…

Schopen’s Open Book
Start-up: Schopen Pest Solutions Inc.
Headquarters: McHenry, Ill.
Founder: Peter F. Schopen Jr.
Start-Up Date: April 11, 2006
Number of employees: seven
2006 Revenue: $97,235 (one employee)
2007 Revenue: $172,495 (one employee)
2008 Revenue: $203,732 (one employee)
2009 Revenue: $243,427 (two employees)
2010 Revenue: $325,960 (three employees)
2011 Revenue: $425,847 (four employees)
2012 Revenue: $489,887 (five employees)
2013 Revenue: $572,772 (six employees)
2014 Revenue: $710,000 (six full-time and one part-time employees)
2015 year-to-date (January): $43,509.65 (25% increase over 2014)
2015 Goal: $887,000

Schopen is owner and founder of Schopen Pest Solutions, McHenry, Ill. You can email him at or reach him via Twitter: @schopenpest; Instagram: @peteschopen; or Facebook: Schopen Pest Solutions, Inc.


Leave A Comment

Comments are closed.