Starting a business can be expensive.
That's why for most young entrepreneurs, web-based businesses are often the default. Startup expenses alone make it ideal for first timers. While a physical storefront can set you back thousands of dollars, an entire digital storefront can be had for less than $20 bucks. It's a deal that's hard to beat.
But web-based businesses can be a double-edged sword for some. Much like dribbling a basketball, virtually anyone can do it. This ease of use leads to both fierce competition and crowded markets. As a result, it takes a fair level of skill just to get the ball in the hoop, let alone land consistent points on the board.
Much like with the NBA, only the hardest working or most talented advance to the big leagues.
During the early days of the world wide web, it was much easier to sink half court shots. Before the dot-com bubble, million dollar exits were an everyday thing for the few players on the court. Nowadays, with the barrier to entry so low and everyone scrambling, the difficulty has risen.
With the online market being as crowded as it is, some enterprising millennials are doing the opposite: taking things offline and outside all while ditching the baggage that comes with running a traditional brick and mortar shop.
The most popular piece of advice entrepreneurs receive is to "scratch their own itch".
Enter Richmond, VA-based Mosquito Squad. They're in the business of preventing that itch in the first place (and no, making an X on the bite won't help). With mosquito bites continuing to piss everyone off more and more people every year (see below) - it's a perfect example of the age old adage.
But more so than the business itself, it was the Mosquito Squad business model that really got me.
You'd swear it was web-based.
As someone who bootstrapped a successful business, it follows a piece of advice I regularly share with would-be entrepreneurs looking to dive into a business of their own:
"Can you walk outside right now and find a customer?"
That, coupled with a low expense structure, high margin subscription-based offering and you have yourself a smart business. Plus, it's nimble enough to be run from a smartphone and all functions can be easily outsourced. Now you have scale.
Like Netflix or Amazon Prime, Mosquito Squad isn't big on "one and done" transactions. Instead, customers subscribe to a monthly spraying service. The beauty of this subscription model is two-fold. First, customers don't have to keep remembering to renew. Second, owners don't have to worry about where their next dollar is coming from. It's a win/win.
Scott Zide, the President and COO of Mosquito Squad's parent company Outdoor Living Brands, co-founded the subset back in 2005. A graduate from the University of Kansas, he started his first business with a partner back in 1995. He was just 23.
Armed with a business education, he opted to go the franchise route anyway because he lacked the practical experience. He felt the blueprint the franchise offered would improve his chance of success. "Textbooks are great but there's nothing like the real thing," he told me. A year and a half in, him and his partner became multi-unit owners. Five years later they sold the business.
But Scott still had the entrepreneurial itch. That same year he hit the ground running again. This time he started an Outdoor Lighting Perspectives franchise with his wife. They built it up over 4 years before selling. He did such a good job that Outdoor Living Brands, the parent company, hired him as a consultant to help other new franchisees.
In 2008, he was appointed President and COO of Outdoor Living Brands. Since then he's been charged with managing all four of the company's franchise operations - Mosquito Squad, Outdoor Lighting Perspectives, Archadeck and Renew Crew.
Young, first-time entrepreneurs are starting to take notice. For good reason too. With the deft and agility of a web-based business, 10-15 percent of Mosquito Squad franchise owners are in the 18-34-year-old range. That, coupled with the low initial investment and quick start-up period, are attracting millennials looking to disconnect a little but still have control of their financial destiny.
Another asset Scott tells me they'll really appreciate: the startup blueprint.
Optimized over the past decade, the training and support offered by Outdoor Living Brands is robust. It encompasses everything from cash flow management and budgeting to marketing, sales, hiring and new employee onboarding. It's a beautiful dynamic as evidenced by their single digit failure rate that's below industry average and their monthly recurring revenue churn rate of just 2.3 percent. It's a killer option for both entrepreneurs and bugs.
Customers won't be scratching themselves and owners won't be left scratching their heads.
Disclaimer: the author has no financial stake or professional relationship with regard to Mosquito Squad, Outdoor Living Brands or any of the other companies/products mentioned in this post.