With the goal of providing a network of support for current Black pest control owner/operators and promoting Black ownership of pest control firms, Black Ownership Matters (BOM) has been launched.
The organization was formed in summer 2020 when a group of like-minded individuals and organizations from across the country came together with the goal of supporting Black economic advancement in the field of pest management. As Black Ownership Matters President Jason Payne noted, “Significant inequality in this industry, and all industries, has created a racial wealth gap that we all are struggling to close. In order to help close this gap, our goal is to promote Black ownership of pest control companies and advancement in the industry by providing financial guidance, business resources, employee development, mentorship and community support.”
During the past eight months, BOM has been meeting virtually to build the organization from the ground up, including developing a mission statement and electing leaders. The group came up with the following three strategic goals:
- To identify current Black owners in the pest management industry and support their business growth through mentorship and access to resources.
- To promote career advancement of Black industry professionals and support upward mobility in their careers through additional education, certifications, licensing, etc. BOM views this step as the catalyst for many to begin their path to ownership.
- To engage in outreach to the Black community at large to inform them of the critical role pest management plays in the lives of all people — and why this is a great industry to be employed in — and to discuss potential business ownership opportunities available in the field.
PCT spoke with BOM leadership to learn what drew them to this organization and what they hope this group will accomplish.
President Jason Payne, CEO of Payne Pest Management. “There has never been an organization specifically geared towards African-American-owned pest control companies or specific mentorship programs addressing the hurdles African-Americans face in the pest control industry when trying to advance their careers. I hope this group can act as a resource for small, Black-owned businesses and help them take the next step in the growth of their company. I also hope we can help individuals grow into management and leadership roles in the companies they are currently with, while sharing the benefits of being in the pest control industry to high school and college students.”
First Vice President Wayne Golden, Vice President and Owner of GSquared Consulting. “I have seen the attempt to focus on diversity and inclusion through my career, but when you look around in every aspect of the industry still today, with the exception of women, people of color are not represented. I want to be able share our knowledge and assist current Black-owned pest management companies and individuals in the industry to achieve business and personal successes. With NPMA only representing a small portion of the industry, here is a chance to touch more — to build an organization that truly focuses on helping people grow.”
Second Vice President Dr. Hamilton Allen, Florida Regional Technical Director, HomeTeam Pest Defense. “BOM emphasizes inclusion, not just diversity. There wasn’t a space or platform to support the growth of minority-owned pest control companies, particularly African-Americans. BOM is looking to do just that — create an inclusive and supportive environment for Black-owned pest control companies. One overarching goal is to establish a viable networking community for African-Americans in the pest management industry. Current members of the group, like Jason Payne and Faye Golden, provide me with mentorship and we want to extend these types of relationships on a national scale.”
Treasurer Faye Golden, Director of Government Affairs, Cook’s Pest Control. “As a member of NPMA’s Board of Directors, I receive even more inquiries from business owners, especially Black owners of pest control companies, on how to grow their businesses and how to better engage with their local pest control association(s) and NPMA. In this moment of national awakening, the time has never been better to share stories of Black pest control operator/owner experience and grow Black-owned pest control companies through mentorship and community involvement. Shared experiences have the power to shape perspectives and drive conversations around critical issues.”
Secretary and Vice President Sterling Barbour, former PCO and Vice President, Veterans Advocacy Group of America. “To join any organization, the first thing you do is look at the mission. Are the mission and goals in line with your thinking and the things you want to accomplish? The second thing, which is really important, is who is on the team. Looking at our team, I am amazed to be a part of such a great group. Lastly, owning a pest control company and being in the business over 30 years, I see the misalignment of Black owners and executives in the pest management industry. We’re going to do exactly what our mission says: To invest in the economic advancements of the Black communities through the area of pest management.”
Adviser Dr. Sonja Thomas, Extension Specialist, Pesticide Safety Education, Alabama Cooperative Extension. “When I was asked to join this group and serve as a board member, I was excited to see so many individuals that look like me, willing to reach back and help those desiring to be business owners. In my line of work, I receive several calls per year from individuals of color inquiring about starting a pest control business. With the help of this group and other sponsors, we can now offer another resource for those that are underserved. I would love to see this group become an access point that leads them to other resources that are readily available — a hub of sorts that guides each company on their way to success.”
Black Ownership Matters is adding members and building industry support. The organization recently launched its website, www.Blackownershipmatters.org, which includes additional details about the group and its goals, as well as information on how to support BOM through involvement and patronage.The author is senior digital editor and managing editor of PCT.
In follow-up interviews, PMPs were bullish on the future of green pest management. “We definitely know the demand is increasing,” said Darren Van Steenwyk, Clark Pest Control.
Factors like increasing regulations, more effective green products, better technology for monitoring and analyzing pest pressure, and changing consumer attitudes are driving adoption.
“I see massive growth within the next 10 years in the green pest management industry as more individuals adapt to a healthier lifestyle,” said Mark Constantino, Arkadia – Eco Pest Control. He believes the sector has a lot of room to grow as more people become aware of it.
The industry is responding. According to the 2021 PCT State of the Naturals Market survey, a quarter (25 percent) of PMPs said green products would become a more important part of their product mix in the coming year, up from 20 percent who felt this way in PCT’s 2019 survey.
Early on, it took a lot to convince people that green pest management was the real deal, recalled Constantino. “Eleven years ago, people would look at you like you were crazy,” he said of peer reactions at industry meetings. Back then, he also had to give customers extended guarantees to prove the service worked.
Today, it’s a different story. “The future looks bright for the green pest management sector of our industry, and I’m happy to see that. I welcome the competition, just because I think it’s great for Mother Nature,” he said.
Millennials, or customers born between 1981 and 1996, were the most responsive to green sales and marketing messages, reported 44 percent of PMPs who took part in the 2021 PCT State of the Naturals Market survey.
But Generation Z, born between 1997 and 2012, was gaining as a key demographic. In PCT’s 2019 survey, 13 percent of PMPs said this cohort was most receptive to green pest control messaging; that number jumped to 24 percent in 2021.
Regardless of age, customers who want green pest control shared specific traits, said PMPs.
Mark Constantino of Arkadia – Eco Pest Control said his customers are health-conscious individuals who watch what they eat, exercise regularly, and buy organic foods and cleaning products. Generally, they’re married with children and pets, and have a bachelor’s degree or higher education.
“It’s a lifestyle. If you’re pro-environment and you’re pro-health, then you’re going to look out for services that follow that philosophy,” he explained.
Blair Smith, Clark Pest Control, has found green-leaning customers are highly engaged in the pest control process. They’re “interested in what we’re doing; they’re interested in what we’re using, why we’re using it and where we’re using it,” she said. In addition, they typically have a higher tolerance for pests being present, she said.
A gap between the green mindset of consumers and their wallets, however, is still apparent at times.
During pandemic stay-at-home orders, for instance, customers who needed indoor treatment wanted technicians to get in and out quickly and to solve the problem in a single treatment. “They were much more concerned about the efficacy than they were the green nature of it,” said Darren Van Steenwyck, Clark Pest Control.
And other service attributes were still more important than being green, reported PMPs in the survey. These included being trustworthy and reliable (94 percent), providing high-quality products and services (88 percent), offering a good value (88 percent), and being local (84 percent), among others. Being green came in last at 28 percent.
Pest management companies have embraced green practices in their operations, found the 2021 PCT State of the Naturals Market survey.
PMPs said that besides offering green pesticide solutions (53 percent) and making green product options available to technicians (36 percent), their companies bought routing software to reduce fuel consumption (22 percent), purchased smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles (21 percent) and took steps to reduce energy consumption (14 percent), among other activities.
Nozzle Nolen minimized its footprint by going paperless for invoicing and service tickets and implementing route optimization to reduce fuel consumption. The company also encourages employees to volunteer in the community, from beach clean-ups to feeding the food insecure.
Bug-N-A-Rug Exterminators moved away from high- volume power spraying. This reduced potential run-off and fuel consumption, said General Manager Stuart Flynn. The Wilmington, N.C.-based company also may update its 60-truck fleet with electric vehicles. “That is something that we’ll be looking at in the future as we look to phase out older vehicles,” he said.
Parker Eco Pest Control is buying carbon offsets for its service vehicles. A third-party organization is calculating Parker’s carbon footprint, and then the company will purchase offsets — in this case, tree planting — on behalf of those vehicles, said Wesley Parker.
Arkadia – Eco Pest Control supports conservation efforts by donating $1 for each customer to Save the Frogs! and also holds educational events for the nonprofit organization. The company’s superhero frog logo underscores its commitment to protecting these threatened animals.
According to this year’s PCT survey, fewer companies did nothing to go green — 26 percent — compared to the 2019 report, when nearly one third (32 percent) of pest management professionals said their locations did not undertake green initiatives.