Leaders to Know: Kevin Wilson, Mosquito Joe
Leaders to Know: Kevin Wilson, Mosquito Joe

Bagels, pizza, airplanes and mosquitoes: What do all these things have in common? Kevin Wilson.

Bagels. Pizza. Airplanes. Private Equity Funds. Mosquitoes. What do all these things have in common? Kevin Wilson.

Wilson is the CEO of Mosquito Joe, a Virginia-based mosquito control treatment service for residential and commercial customers.

Wilson saw potential in the concept as a viable franchise soon after meeting Mosquito Joe’s original independent owners. Armed with decades of franchising and leadership experience, he made it his mission to take Mosquito Joe nationwide.

“I’m a huge supporter of franchising,” Wilson said. “I have come across a lot of talented individuals who would not have been able to fulfill their entrepreneurial dreams if it had not been for the franchise model. It’s gratifying to know that with Mosquito Joe we have allowed more people to experience business ownership.”

Since launching the brand, Mosquito Joe has become one of the fastest growing franchises in the industry.

Mosquito Joe grew by 100 percent year-on-year in Q1 of 2015 and 57 percent in Q2. The brand was recently listed in Franchise Business Review’s Top Multi-Unit Franchises of 2015, ranked in the Top 500 Franchises by Entrepreneur Magazine in both 2014 and 2015 and has received plenty more accolades.

Wilson didn’t follow a straight-and-narrow path to the corner office, though. Wilson began his career working for Bain and Company as a consultant, first in the Toronto office and then in Dallas, TX. Unable to shake the itch to open his own business, in 1995, Wilson got his first taste of franchising when he co-founded Benny’s Bagels in Dallas with his brother and a close friend. He was 27 years old at the time. As a sign of good times ahead, Wilson and his partners grew the bagel franchise to 30 locations within three years.

“I did not have any experience in franchising before we started Benny’s. I was simply young and overconfident so I went for it,” Wilson said. “I did reach out to a few people for advice though, such as Joe Croce, the Co-Founder of CiCi’s Pizza.”

Having successfully established Benny’s, Wilson branched out and partnered with his brother-in-law and became a multi-unit franchisee with his mentor’s brand, CiCi’s Pizza.

Croce’s unvarnished advice was invaluable, Wilson explained, which is why he too regularly offers mentorship to budding entrepreneurs.

Luckily for those seeking his guidance, Wilson’s wisdom is not limited to franchising—he has also had a successful run in the non-franchising world was as the CEO of South African Airways’ technical operations and the Senior Managing Director of Discovery Americas, a $50 million private equity fund based in Mexico City.

Moreover, before Mosquito Joe, Wilson had stepped down from his 8-year career as managing director of the private equity fund Envest in order to build the business into a profitable franchise. Rather than seeking financing from an institution, he drew up a solid business plan and presented it to the network of friends and acquaintances that he had created throughout his career. Through these relationships, Wilson raised almost $5 million to launch the Mosquito Joe franchise.

His advice for those hoping to launch a business? Reach out and find a mentor who can be honest with you and who is someone you respect. You don’t want someone who doesn’t want to hurt your feelings.