Like any classic entrepreneur, Janet Friedman launched a business after recognizing an opportunity that matched her skill set. In Friedman’s case, the opportunity was the need for a service to do the laborious task of preparing a home or structure for a bed bug treatment; the skill set possessed by Friedman, a 57-year-old theatrical stage manager from New York City, is: 1) the ability to organize, and 2) manage a wide array of personalities.
Friedman’s primary occupation is a freelance theatrical stage manager (e.g., assisting in productions of Broadway shows). "It’s a job that involves supervising the technical aspects of a show and dealing with a lot of egos."
While Friedman enjoys her profession, demand has been down, so in 2008 she began supplementing her income by working as a professional organizer.
On Christmas Eve morning 2008, Friedman got a panicked call from a wealthy New York City client (an apartment dweller), who had been given (by a PCO) a checklist of tasks to be performed prior to a bed bug treatment. Friedman accepted the job and performed the prep work based on the PCO’s paper work. Word spread about Friedman’s work and she began receiving requests — she treated six apartments on Manhattan’s Upper West Side soon thereafter. Friedman enlisted the help of a young stage manager, Marci Skolnick, for these jobs.
A BUSINESS IS BORN. It was soon after these requests that the proverbial light bulb went off in Friedman’s head, and she decided to launch Bed Bug Busters (after securing investors and obtaining the necessary liability coverage). Friedman began extensive networking throughout the New York metropolitan area to find pest control operators with whom to partner. For example, a PCO might leave with a customer a prep work checklist and say: "I can give you the name and number of a company that can do this prep work if you do not want to do it."
Using her theater contacts, Friedman enlisted young, freelance stage managers and actors who work in teams of two. Friedman will provide the initial consultation for free. She charges $125 per hour for the actual prep work. What all is involved? While protocols vary from PCO-to-PCO, typical work involves:
- Using a HEPA vacuum to vacuum files, books, CDs, DVDs and records, and seal-ing them in plastic bags
- Vacuuming upholstered furniture and carpeting
- Arranging for area rugs to be steam-ed
- Treating all clothing, linens and towels in a hot dryer, folding and storing them in sealed plastic bags (or arranging for pick-up by a dry cleaner)
- Cleaning out drawers and cabinets
As PCOs are well aware, bed bug work is invasive. This is where the people skills possessed by Friedman and her staff come in to play. "We are dealing with distraught clients — sometimes they are in hysteria. We also are going through their personal property — like their underwear drawer. So, our staff is very sensitive to this and they do a great job reassuring the client."
FUTURE PLANS. Friedman says her company has grown primarily by word of mouth. New York City companies that have used Bed Bug Busters include Broadway Exterminating and UMG Pest Control. Friedman says she continues to work with these companies to learn more about bed bugs and fine-tune her services. She also is considering a variety of cleaning technologies such as steam.
Currently, Friedman is focused on growing her business throughout metropolitan New York City, but she said it has potential to be franchised.
The author is Internet editor of PCTOnline can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.