Kim Maalouf spent the first 25 years of her career in marketing for a variety of industries, from baby products to gourmet food to medical supplies. As she switched jobs every couple years, she realized the root of her restlessness was a desire to be her own boss. Consulting was an option, but Maalouf wanted to give back to her community in Troy, Ohio, too.
“I talked to one of my previous managers who knew me well, who said, ‘Why don’t you try franchising?’” she recalls. “My first thought was ‘But I don’t want to own a fast-food restaurant!’”
Maalouf soon realized there were opportunities beyond burgers and fries. She worked with a franchising coach who helped her focus her career goals, which specifically included work/life balance.
“A seasonal business appealed to me — my husband is from overseas, and we travel a lot in the winter,” she explains. “Also, while I wanted a product or service that basically sells itself, I wanted to be able to apply my marketing skills to really make it a success.”
Among the franchises she and the coach identified was Virginia Beach, Va.-based Mosquito Joe, a Neighborly brand. In fact, it was the top choice from the start.
That was in 2018, and today, Mosquito Joe of Miami Valley has two full-time employees, eight seasonal employee and five vans. Maalouf says she’s in her element now.
“The quality operations and technical support we had from the start was a huge advantage over my competitors,” she explains. “I knew how to market, but I had to learn the technical stuff. And now, if we get a challenging situation, they’re just a phone call or email away.”
While Mosquito Joe’s core business is mosquitoes, fleas and ticks, as a franchisee, Maalouf has been able to expand services as needed. “We want to be one-stop shopping for our customers,” she says, “so when they also call about another pest, I am able to react.”
It comes down to what is doable within the team’s licensing, and available equipment, she adds. “By year two, we were able to add another territory, as well as service for chiggers, spiders, ants, cockroaches and centipedes. Year three, we added stinging insects and year four, rodent control.”
This leads to another advantage Maalouf says she has as a franchisee over building the company from scratch: The corporate technical team is constantly exploring new and innovative products and strategies, then passing on that knowledge to franchisees. “I wouldn’t have the time or resources to pilot a program,” she points out. “When I do implement new technology, it’s done with the knowledge that it’s going to be successful from the start.”
Maalouf says when she started six seasons ago, Mosquito Joe was the only company in her market to offer guarantees with no contracts. Now that competing companies are doing the same, she finds her unique value proposition (UVP) lies in customer service.
“I take pride in continually educating all my staff. Our techs are the face of our business, and are what make us successful,” she explains. “Our No. 1 way to grow is referral right now, and I never want that to change. Customers see value in our service, and they’re telling their friends and families.”