Robiar Smith embodies the mantra of “persist and prevail” as the driving force behind RB Pest Solutions, a woman-owned and family-operated business located in Chicago. Her journey into the pest control industry reflects a unique blend of passion, innovation, and a resolute commitment to challenging norms in a predominantly male-dominated field.
In this episode, Robiar unfolds her inspirational narrative, showcasing an extraordinary trajectory marked by resilience in the face of initial obstacles that often deter others. While her drive to succeed is undeniably inspiring, you could argue that what’s even more fascinating is her vision of empowering women and cultivating forward-thinking leaders.
This conversation provides insight into the hurdles, triumphs, and unwavering determination that propels Robiar in her mission to establish an eco-friendly pest control business. Her goal is not only to leave a lasting impact but also to open doors for women aiming to shatter barriers and excel in domains that have typically been less than inviting.
From Professor to Entrepreneur
Robiar Smith’s journey is truly inspiring. Although she’s not quite 50 like our other guests, her incredible story is worth sharing.
Despite her initial pursuit of higher education and a career in IT and academia, the world of pest management was always present in Robiar’s life. Her father, a pest control superhero in her eyes, had a profound impact on her perception of the industry from a young age. With determination, she worked hard to earn her place in the pest management industry that her family had been involved in for over four decades. After multiple attempts, Robiar finally conquered the rigorous licensing exam in 2016, marking a significant pivot from corporate life to becoming an entrepreneur in the pest control industry.
RB Pest Solutions, her company, has swiftly grown to become one of the fastest-growing woman-owned pest control firms.
A Family Affair
Initially, Robiar’s dad was a technician who trained others but never launched his own company. So when she stepped in to start the business, it was a small team comprising herself, her husband, and her dad. Fast forward seven years, and RB Pest Solutions has expanded to over 30 employees and they have even introduced products.
What is heartwarming to see is that, despite the company’s growth, Robiar’s dad still enjoys working in the field, displaying his love for the profession.
Bug Strike to the Rescue
Not only did Robiar start a pest management company, she also created a product that became so popular it made its way to the shelves of Home Depot. Her revolutionary product, Bug Strike, was developed to combat bed bugs, a common and often costly nuisance.
Robiar’s inspiration came from witnessing people facing significant expenses and distress due to bed bug infestations, often unaware until the situation escalated. To preempt this, she and her team conceptualized Bug Strike, a preventative solution for homes, travel, and between pest control visits. This innovation garnered an overwhelmingly positive response from the public.
The most surprising part? Home Depot reaching out to Robiar. Initially, Robiar questioned the authenticity of the call. Soon, she found herself on the line for an hour as Home Depot earnestly wanted to collaborate.
What’s remarkable is that neither Robiar nor her team initially aimed to make history. It was only during the final stages of negotiations that they realized Bug Strike could be the first woman-owned product of its kind in Home Depot. Christina admires the trailblazing aspect, highlighting the significance of breaking barriers as a woman and as a black woman in business.
Robiar shares how demand for her product surged, especially from places like Las Vegas, emphasizing its effectiveness and widespread appeal. Bug Strike comes in multiple variations: a portable, TSA-approved size for travel, and a larger one for home use.
More Preventative Solutions are On the Way
Establishing Bug Strike as a household pest management product is on the horizon for RB Pest Solutions and their product lineup. Robiar’s ambition is for Bug Strike to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with other well-known bug repellents. She emphasizes the eco-friendly, scent-free, and travel-friendly aspects of their products, aiming to offer convenience through various layers of services, retail, and innovative solutions.
One of those innovative solutions is RB’s mattress covers designed to protect expensive mattresses from allergens and bed bugs. Robiar also mentions their peppermint oil, an eco-friendly deterrent for pests, ideal for creating safe perimeters around homes.
Teasing about upcoming products, Robiar hints at an exciting release in spring 2024—a product infused with olive oil beneficial for both skin and hair. Robiar and her team are dedicated to finding preventive solutions—they are committed to expanding their eco-friendly product range, making pest management more accessible and user-friendly.
A True Leader Empowering Future Innovators
As many business owners have experienced, finding employees amid the post-COVID work environment has been a challenge for RB Pest Solutions. Robiar shares how despite the pandemic, pest control work never halted. They adapted, working throughout while ensuring safety measures were in place. As the world reopened, they noticed an increase in demand for both residential and commercial services.
Robiar highlights their proactive approach in adjusting to the changing landscape, mentioning the current return to a more familiar job market. She fosters a team dynamic where everyone is encouraged to take on leadership roles. Titles signify structure, but the essence lies in a collaborative approach where she sees herself working for her team, not the other way around.
Her focus is on providing guidance, tools, and a vision that empowers team members to become leaders and innovators. This emphasis on personal growth and empowerment seems to be fostering a sense of belonging and commitment among the team, something Robiar values greatly. She is committed to nurturing a supportive and growth-oriented work culture, emphasizing empowerment and collaboration as key elements of success.
Women Bring the Magic Touch
Women entering traditionally male-dominated industries like pest control often experience an uphill battle. Christina shares an example of a woman running a roofing company solely with female employees and highlights the impact women-owned businesses can have on homeowners, especially in service-based industries.
Robiar acknowledges the comfort and trust that often comes when a woman provides these services, particularly in stereotypical household settings. She describes the unique touch and approach women bring to service-based businesses as a kind of magic that sets them apart. She believes this touch is pivotal—it can bring a fresh perspective and a softer, more empathetic approach to the industry. She stresses the value of this shift, stating that it’s not just about getting the job done but also about offering additional insights and solutions tailored to individual homes and needs.
Women’s voices are bringing unique perspectives and approaches to traditionally male-domindated industries. Not only are these perspectives welcome, they are also making a significant and positive impact, giving these service-based businesses a much-needed facelift.
Essential and Fascinating
As higher education costs continue to skyrocket, Christina and Robiar discuss the push to encourage young women to explore industries like pest control as viable career options. They touch upon the idea that trade professions offer lucrative opportunities without the burden of expensive degrees.
Robiar shares their initiative to introduce children to the pest control industry through a children’s book called “Cody Blackman,” authored by her husband, Amon Smith. This book indirectly familiarizes kids with the industry, making them curious about insects, their transformations, and the intricate workings of nature. Robiar emphasizes the importance of learning from the teamwork seen in creatures like ants and bees, highlighting the efficiency and harmony they bring to their tasks.
They aim to reshape the perception of this essential business. Pest control is not only important work—it’s also fascinating.
Third-Generation Pest Control
Despite exploring different avenues, pest control remained Robiar’s “first love.” She likened it to a constant presence that ultimately led her to build a successful and enduring business model from something familiar yet overlooked.
Encouraging others, Robiar advises tapping into long-standing gifts and creating systems around them, emphasizing the importance of working smarter, not harder, to secure future success.
Robiar learned many valuable lessons from the support she received from her parents growing up. It’s been a joy to have her family involved in the business. From her father, an energetic 68-year-old technician, to her children who work across various roles, this third-generation pest control family is crushing it.
Affordable and Solution-Oriented
Helping travelers and homeowners manage pest issues affordably is a passion for Robiar. RB Pest Solutions has plans that involve both services and products designed to save customers from spending hefty amounts on pest control in the future. Robiar emphasizes the mission of RB Pest Solutions—to transform pest control one property at a time, focusing on seamless affordability and effectiveness.
RB Pest Solutions have a unique and valuable service offering. Not only are they reliable and trustworthy, they also work hard to ensure customers receive genuine care and tailored solutions without being tied down by lengthy contracts. Robiar highlights their commitment to delivering effective solutions rather than enforcing unnecessary long-term commitments—their solution-oriented approach to pest control services is a breath of fresh air.
Robiar’s Vision: Transforming Pest Control and Inspiring Future Generations
What’s up next for this inspiring entrepreneur? Robiar shares her ambitious vision of becoming a household name in the pest control industry globally within a decade. Her determination to provide solutions and products to the world reflects her unwavering dedication to her company’s growth.
We have no doubt that Robiar will continue to make waves and innovate this male-dominated industry as she continues to inspire the next generation.
Watch Robiar’s full episode here:
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