From the Field to the Drawing Board

Features - Annual Rodent Control Issue

After years of listening to customers ask for a better way to control rodents, PCO Fred Markowich began experimenting to create a product that would answer his customers’ needs.

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August 5, 2020

“Isn’t there something you can spray around the outside to keep mice out?” This question, asked by customers repeatedly during years of working in the field, drove PCO Fred Markowich to find a solution.

Markowich has always enjoyed the pest control business and spent more than 30 years in the industry, starting as a manager at Terminix. However, Markowich discovered that the corporate business environment wasn’t for him. So, in 1997, he left Terminix after seven years to open Guardian Pest Control in Plainville, Conn.

“I like being in the actual business and being out there talking to people and helping them out,” Markowich said. “It was nice to open my own business and be all about the customers.”

Guardian Pest Control started out with a B&G sprayer, a truck and a Yellow Pages ad. Now, Markowich’s company has more than $2 million in annual revenue.

About 10 years ago, with his customers in mind, Markowich approached the demand for an outdoor mice repellent spray like a scientist. In a large fish tank, Markowich built a brick wall, separating two halves of the tank, and put some talcum powder along one side of the brick wall with some deer mice. Then the experimenting began.

CREATING PRO-PELL. Every night for almost two years, Markowich would come home at the end of the workday and spray one side of the brick wall with whatever essential oil he was testing at the time. Then he would close up the tank and come back the next day.

PCO turned inventor, Fred Markowich, says his product Pro-Pell can help other companies maintain year-round revenue.

 

“Mice like to explore, especially at nighttime. So I would see how much activity was on the other side of the wall, and you could see that by how much disturbance to the talcum powder there was the next day,” Markowich said.

While conducting this experiment, Markowich also went online searching for anything he could find on methods for repelling rodents.

“Whether it was a university in China or some guys’ method in Utah that his mother said worked, I just searched everything and documented everything and started testing things out,” Markowich said. “So, by trial and error — and giving up and doing it again and giving up — I finally found something where they just stopped jumping over the wall.”

Markowich’s next steps were to acquire the necessary EPA-exempt active ingredients and make an emulsifier that would hold up for several months. Then, two-and-a-half years after he started, he was ready to launch Pro-Pell All Natural Rodent Repellent. The product is sprayed along exterior walls and prevents mice from getting inside.

BENEFITS FOR ALL. “We started using it (in our pest control company’s accounts) and they loved it,” Markowich said. He said customers were thrilled that bait stations and rodenticides could be removed from their homes. “We didn’t have one customer at all say, ‘No, I want the bait stations.’ They were all in,” Markowich said. “We converted every one of our customers to Pro-Pell exterior spray to keep the mice out.”

Pro-Pell is made up of essential oils that contain smells and tastes that rodents dislike. The oils bind to the foundation and are not easily washed off, the manufacturer says.

Markowich said Pro-Pell is a great add-on product, for PMPs to sell to schools especially, as some school districts and states are looking to decrease the rodenticide and other rodent control products they use.

Markowich says Pro-Pell is advantageous to pest control companies using the product as part of their rodent control service toolbox. For many pest control companies, especially those like Guardian Pest Control located in the northern United States, it can be a struggle to maintain revenue and employment during the winter months, he said.

“For years and years, it was just lock the bank and try to survive the winter,” Markowich said. “But now, we’re actually making money in the winter.”

Markowich explained that since some pest control customers go on a service delay during the winter, businesses can lose a large chunk of their customer base and revenue. So his solution was to convert all his customers to using the Pro-Pell exterior mouse repellent, and then during the winter months, technicians would simply come and spray either monthly or quarterly.

“So now we don’t have to spend all day calling customers and trying to make appointments to get inside. The technicians go out with 12 stops every day, and they come back with all 12 done,” Markowich said. “And every fall, customers all say the same thing: ‘You’re going to start that mouse thing now, right?’ So it changed the way we do business in the winter time. We’re actually productive and not laying everyone off in the winter.”

Pro-Pell worked so well when Markowich first created it that friends at other pest control companies began buying it from him. Now, Pro-Pell is sold throughout the U.S., with hundreds of pest control companies using it today, he said.

For Markowich, the inventing hasn’t stopped. He recently created Pro-Pell Cups for rodent control in enclosed spaces like sheds, campers and pool heaters, and is currently working on a spray bottle application of Pro-Pell that can be used to protect the wiring in vehicle engines.

“The fact that I was able to figure it out at the end makes it worth it to me,” Markowich said. The stories he hears from customers inspire him. “A guy in Miami just used it for roof rats on a $5 million home on the beach. He fogged the attic with it, and he and the owner just watched 14 roof rats come running out of holes in the attic. They couldn’t believe it. So there are a lot of stories like that, and every time I hear them, I’m still amazed at this magic wand, that it works so well.”