Confidence to Lead: How Angela Zerda Paules took Mosquito Joe from Mom-and-Pop to Flourishing Franchise

AZP_logo_quoteWhen Angela Zerda Paules joined Buzz Franchise Brands in 2012, the company only had five employees, making her the sole member of the marketing team. Now, six years later, the company has grown to over fifty employees, three brands and nearly 200 franchises.

Mosquito Joe is a perfect example of how rapid growth requires a solid strategy and a steady hand at the helm. We recently spoke with Angela Zerda Paules, CMO at Buzz Franchise Brands to learn how she helped Mosquito Joe grow from one location to over 285 franchise locations nationwide.

CMOO: Congratulations on you on your recent promotion to Chief Marketing Officer! What’s it like managing a multi-brand franchisor as opposed to being the Director of Marketing for one particular brand?

AZP: I think for me, it’s definitely a different role because I’m not the one in the trenches thinking about just one brand and one particular franchise’s problems. I’m able to step back and take the lessons that we’re learning at Mosquito Joe and see how they they might translate over to Pool Scouts or Home Clean Heroes. While we do have dedicated marketing support teams for each brand, I need to make sure that we have good collaboration and ways to leverage the fact that we are a larger overarching team at Buzz Franchise Brands. One of the things I look to do in this position is have a more forward thinking approach, to make sure our brands are on the forefront of this industry and adapt to new advances in technology and inevitable changes that happen in marketing each year.

CMOO: Under your tutelage, Mosquito Joe transformed from a local pest control company to a rapidly growing franchise, all in less than 5 years. How did Buzz Franchise Brands get Mosquito Joe on the road to expansion?

AZP: The founders of the company had been running it for a few years and were trying to figure out the best path for expansion. The company was doing well but they weren’t sure what to do next with it. So, they got connected with Kevin (Wilson, President and CEO of Buzz Franchise Brands) through mutual acquaintances in the area. Kevin’s company at the time had done investments into franchising so he was familiar with the space and agreed to have a conversation about franchising to see if they felt that was a good path for their company. Ultimately, he was really impressed as he learned about the business model and felt like it was a great concept for franchising. He worked with them to get involved and lead the expansion of the company. Today, the founders are no longer hands on in the business but are involved as investors or on our board. Kevin took over at that point, six years ago, and hired a corporate team to start the franchising process.

CMOO: That’s incredible, how many franchisees are you at currently?

AZP: We’re right at 150 Mosquito Joe franchisees, and reached that number in five years.

CMOO: Did you lead a rebranding? Was it always called Mosquito Joe or is that a new name?

AZP: It’s funny, it was always called Mosquito Joe. When I came on board one of my first projects was to rebrand the company. We had all agreed that we liked the name Mosquito Joe, but we also didn’t feel like we had to stay committed to it. I felt it was important to do the research to figure out if keeping the name made sense, or if we wanted to throw out other ideas. So part of the process in our branding was to go out and do consumer research, asking people across the U.S. if they used a service like this. We threw out different names of existing companies, including Mosquito Joe, even though we were only running a small local operation at the time. People kept coming back and saying they were either currently using Mosquito Joe or that they would be likely to use it in the future, which was fascinating because they clearly weren’t actually using Mosquito Joe! It just sort of sent the message that this name really resonates with people and is appealing, so we decided not to fix what was not broken.

CMOO: Mosquito Joe isn’t your typical pest control franchise, it really stands out in a crowded market. How do you keep Mosquito Joe so unique in the marketplace?

AZP: We made a really conscious decision in the rebrand to take a different approach than our competitors. We wanted to position ourselves more like a lifestyle brand – using more bright colors and a clean and simple logo, without mosquitos all over it. Basically, we wanted to focus on the positive emotions around the service we provide and enjoying a mosquito free lifestyle. We also decided to incorporate a lot of humor into what we do, through the taglines that we use, which makes it fun for us as a marketing team to get creative. It also helps give us a brand where people smile when they read a tagline, versus having that natural reaction to traditional pest control.

CMOO: This feels like a service that sort of sells itself, through the positioning around enjoying a mosquito free lifestyle. So, what do you feel are the biggest marketing challenges facing field service franchises?

AZP: I would say the biggest challenge is that many of them don’t have physical locations to facilitate drive by traffic, so their website is really their storefront. Digital marketing is constantly changing and there are so many components, from having a strong organic showing to paid advertising, to social media and online reviews. With all those areas it’s hard for business owners to dedicate time to keep up with it all. A lot of them don’t understand digital marketing, and even if they do, they’re so involved in their business that they’re going to have a tough time keeping up with it. One of the things we’ve done is build a strong digital team within Buzz Franchise Brands that helps support our franchisees, so they can have that strong presence but don’t need to feel like it’s all on their shoulders. In the digital space, it can take a village to stay on top of everything and to adjust to changes as they come up.

CMOO: Buzz Franchise Brands has grown rapidly since you came on board in 2012, with 150 Mosquito Joe franchisees. Where are you with Pool Scouts?

AZP: We started franchising Pool Scouts around two years ago in 2016 and we took a slightly slower approach to franchise growth while we got our corporate location off the ground. We are at about 15 franchises operating in about nine different states at this point and are excited to keep adding to that list in 2018.

CMOO: Nearly 200 franchisees in the span of six years is fairly rapid growth. What kind of growing pains did the company experience and how did you address them?

AZP: I think the biggest thing that comes to mind, especially early on, was staffing for fast growth. Our growth snuck up on us a bit around 2014.  We saw the biggest jump in 2015, when we grew from 40 open locations for Mosquito Joe to 113. By the time we realized we needed to bring on more people, we really couldn’t afford to take our focus off supporting our franchisees. We take our hiring process really seriously, and we really care about hiring the right people. After that, we learned the lesson to be staffed for tomorrow, versus what you need today. That’s certainly a lesson we’ve taken into Pool Scouts and Home Clean Heroes.

CMOO: Home Clean Heroes is the newest brand in the Buzz portfolio and is set to launch franchise expansion later this year. Was this an acquisition or was this grown in-house at Buzz Franchise Brands?

AZP: We incubated that ourselves and decided to run it locally for 6 months to a year prior to franchising to afford the similar operational experience we had with Mosquito Joe, which had been a local business that had been running for a few years before we got involved and franchised it. With Home Clean Heroes we’ve really built completely from the ground up, so we’re very excited about it. I think it’s been a really long time since there has been a good, fresh entry into that residential cleaning service industry. It’s obviously a very competitive space, which makes it seem intimidating at first, but it’s amazing that there’s still a need in that industry for more professional services. I think the branding has become stale with a lot of companies in that space so we’re excited to get out there with something fresh and different.

CMOO: What’s next for you and Buzz Franchise Brands?

AZP: Our mission for Buzz Franchise Brands is to enable people to realize their dreams, and for us, that can be through business ownership, through financial freedom or just enjoying what you do every day. We plan to continue adding more brands over time and continue to hire great people to support our family of franchisees. We’ve been really fortunate the last couple years to receive a handful of different “Best Workplace” awards which I think is particularly special for us because we have a pretty great culture and environment at our corporate office, which feeds out to our franchisees as well.

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