Jeff Kelly and Danny Woodhouse may have completely different accents, but when it comes to co-owning their brand new Mosquito Hunters franchise, they speak the same language.
Originally from a small town in Illinois, in 1999 Kelly and his wife moved to Apex, North Carolina, a city just outside Raleigh, with just their “kid and a dream.” Now, he says, he wouldn’t move away from the area even if you paid him.
Woodhouse grew up on Long Island, a place where “the pizza is good, but the bills are high.” He and his wife lived in a small town for their first 10 years in North Carolina before heading to Apex in 1998—moving into the same neighborhood as Kelly, just eight homes away.
The neighbors bonded over a shared love of sports, regularly playing pickup games of basketball together. They both still reside in Apex and make it a point to meet up about once a month. They recall occasionally tossing around the idea of going into business together, but it was never quite the right time or opportunity.
One morning last December, over coffee and tea, Kelly said he had a proposition for Woodhouse. He said he was thinking about buying a Mosquito Hunters franchise, and perhaps they could split it 50/50. A mere 24 hours later, they were officially in business together. “Actually, maybe it was 48 hours,” said Kelly, “Danny had to get his wife’s blessing first.”
Both Kelly and Woodhouse were prepared to take a fast leap into franchising thanks to their previous entrepreneurial experiences. Woodhouse started his first landscaping business as a young man in New York, cutting up to 150 lawns every week. Years later in Raleigh, he started a new iteration of that successful business to earn some extra cash. He’s now had the same regular customers for a decade.
Kelly also began his own business over 10 years ago—a party rental service that provides tables, chairs and even bounce houses to community events. “Once you get a taste of entrepreneurship, it’s easier to work for yourself,” said Kelly.
Earlier this year, Kelly began to transition more responsibility for that company over to his son, who now has a family of his own. This opened up some time for Kelly to start looking for his next adventure. He started doing research online, leading him to attend the Great American Franchise Expo at the Raleigh Convention Center. There, he met a representative from Mosquito Hunters and struck up a conversation. It sounded like a great fit right then and there. “It felt like something I could really wrap my head around. I really liked the business model,” he said, adding that he knew for sure that he didn’t want a brick and mortar location, and sought to utilize his sales experience and networking skills.
The business partners have ramped up their business quickly in order to prepare for the fast-approaching mosquito season.
“We both come from a fairly blue-collar background, so we’re not intimidated by going out and doing the work,” said Kelly, adding that so far he’s been heading up the behind-the-scenes administrative side while Woodhouse is applying his landscaping expertise to the service delivery side. “I’ve learned by trial and error,” he said. “When you go to change the brakes on a car the first time, it takes four hours, but the next time, it will only take you 25 minutes.”
With just a few weeks until the season begins, Kelly and Woodhouse found the Mosquito Hunters onboarding process crucial to their franchise’s quick start. “Mosquito Hunters has a great foundation set up, including weekly calls and a checklist of what to do each step of the way. That really expedited the process,” said Kelly. “They give you all the tools you need to succeed.”
The business partners are big proponents of marketing, including attracting customers in the off-season when mosquitoes are not top of mind. Mosquito Hunters requires a minimum budget allocation toward marketing, which is not always the industry norm, but that investment is necessary to building a robust business over time, much like a healthy lawn only comes with lots of grass seed and TLC. “If you get customers to call you, make sure you treat them like gold, and they’ll come back next year,” said Kelly.
“Jeff and Danny have been friends for over 15 years and are both just genuine, down to earth, good guys that future customers are going to love working with,” said Mike Carnahan, Franchise Development Director at Mosquito Hunters. “Jeff understands the need to get down in the weeds when building a brand. Danny brings a lot of experience when it comes to building teams and processes. The combination of their skills and talents are going to serve them well as they get their business off the ground this spring.”
The franchisees said they are looking forward to helping their neighbors get maximum enjoyment from their outdoor spaces. Woodhouse noted that the surrounding towns of Apex, Holly Springs and Cary are densely populated and offer a great amount of opportunity. He added that the area is home to one of the Research Triangle Park sites, the location of IBM and other research and development companies—and their employees and families. “They come home and want to sit in the backyard,” said Woodhouse. “We can make sure they’re doing that with a lot less mosquitoes.”
When asked what advice they would give to potential franchisees starting their own businesses for the first time, Kelly emphasized the importance of laying the groundwork—and then simply going for it. “Don’t overanalyze. You can get paralysis by analysis sometimes,” he said. “Just go out and do a good job for people. Trust the good foundation you’ve set up.”
When asked what they’re most looking forward to in the coming weeks, Kelly and Woodhouse agreed: “We’re ready for the weather to turn so we can get those pesky skeeters out of here.”