Start-Up Diaries: Get Up, Get Out, Give Back


July 28, 2015

Photo: © Hamilton

Are you or your company involved in volunteering or charity work? What has it done for your business? Photo: © Hamilton

Have you noticed that hardly anyone volunteers anymore? It used to be that you’d have waiting lists to get into the Rotary and Lions Clubs. But now, you are more likely to have people sign up for Fight Club than the Boys and Girls Club.

Why is this happening? Where is the love for our fellow man? In my not-so-humble opinion, volunteerism is dying because of a lack of commitment and inspiration.

I’ll admit that’s quite a dramatic blanket statement to throw out at everyone, but isn’t it frustrating when you seem to be the only person in your group of friends or associates involved with volunteering? For example, someone you work with is driving to Red Rocks in Golden, Colo., to see Mötley Crüe’s final concert, but you’re helping out at the local food pantry. Your in-laws were partying on jet-skis last weekend on the Hudson while you were coaching Little League baseball. Your assistant coach will be camping in the Dells next weekend while you’ll be picking up trash along Highway 120.

Recently, I was at a board of directors meeting for my local youth baseball league when two coaches complained that the board should hire teenagers to run the concession stands during baseball games rather than force the parents to work one-hour shifts. The parents made the argument that one-hour shifts during their kids’ games took away from their enjoyment of watching their kids play. What they don’t realize is that if we hire teenagers to run our concession stands, the yearly dues to play baseball will have to increase significantly. Have we gotten so wrapped up in our lives that we can’t even volunteer for a one-hour shift at a concession stand at our kids’ games?

During the past decade, I have been part of the boards of directors for the Greater Chicago Pest Management Alliance, the Wisconsin Pest Control Association, the Illinois Pest Control Association, the McHenry Baseball Association, the McHenry Marlins Swim Club, the McHenry Chamber of Commerce and Zion Lutheran Church. I have been an unpaid baseball coach and manager for 14 baseball teams. I have been a timer and bullpen coordinator for my son’s swim team. Every Friday during swim season, my wife and I host pasta parties for the swim team. I’ve also been an ambassador for the chamber of commerce and an elder, a liturgist and an usher at my church.

You need to be committed to a cause. My brother and fellow pest management professional, Drake, takes his family to Haiti every year to volunteer at an orphanage. I’m proud of him. He doesn’t go there to get a pat on the back or to enjoy the 100°F temperatures. He goes because he’s committed to the local children. There are more than 750,000 orphans in Haiti. If it weren’t for people like my brother, where would these kids get toothbrushes, clean drinking water and mosquito nets?

Many people are uninspired. Who are the “heroes” in this millennium? Athletes, movie stars, political activists? Most are empty heroes, filling up empty places in our lives. There are some worthwhile charities started by entertainers, but for the most part it’s their money that’s helping their causes and not their actions.

The reason why I’m so involved with the youth in my town is because I was inspired by the president of the baseball league, Joe Meyer, who works tirelessly to make beautiful fields and a fun atmosphere for local kids. I was inspired to rejoin the Illinois Pest Control Association (IPCA) after the hard-working men and women of the IPCA convinced me to return to the board of directors. Inspiration is a powerful tool to combat lethargy and complacency.

As business professionals, we need to be the pillars of our communities. We need to give back to the communities from which we are reaping our rewards. Become a soccer coach, a volunteer firefighter or a library assistant. Get involved in an industry organization.

I recently received an email from former colleague Tom Aho, who said, “being active in my state association helped my business. I was able to meet folks from all over the world and gained insight into how they ran their businesses, including what worked and what didn’t.”

Another benefit of volunteering is meeting people who could potentially become clients. I have at least a dozen families that use Schopen Pest Solutions just because I am a coach. Our shared enthusiasm binds us together.

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” Anne Frank

Pete Schopen is president of McHenry, Ill.-based Schopen Pest Solutions. You can reach him at 847-529-BUGS or

What do PMP’s readers think? Are you or your company involved in volunteering or charity work? What do you do, and what does it mean to you? What has it done for your business? We want to know. Send an email to

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: nine
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 MAY REVENUE $64,469 (18% increase over May 2014)
2015 Revenue (Jan-May): $264,792 (31% increase over 2014; seven full-time and two part-time employees)
2015 GOAL: $873,000

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.


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