How This Woman Started a $50M Pest Control Company From Her Kitchen

“Consultants and educators say you have to do things a certain way because it worked for someone else. In the entrepreneurs who are the true gems, they do it their own way.” – Kari Block

Imagine you ask your girlfriend to help you fix a truck that stalled and all of a sudden a band of mice run out from the engine into the cab of the truck and into your girlfriend’s lap. Your girlfriend just got off work at the local department store (where she spends her days selling perfume behind a counter). She grabs a bottle of perfume from her purse, starts spraying the mice… and it works.

That’s what happened to Kari Block. The incident sparked an idea that inspired her to start a pest control company. That company is now worth $50 million.

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Kari and her boyfriend, whom she eventually married, were living on a farm in North Dakota bringing in $12,000 a year. One of Kari’s responsibilities on the farm was maintaining the equipment. She quickly realized the immense rodent problem. She tried poison, but that led to more work (cleaning up the dead bodies) and the chemicals used to poison the rodents were unsafe for her children. She knew there had to be a better way to get rid of the rodents. If killing them wasn’t working, maybe preventing them would. That’s when she decided to start creating her own natural no-kill pest control products.

Thinking back to the perfume incident, she started spraying pine cones with different fragrances and tossing them into the back of trucks to see if they would deter the rodents. It did. After realizing that her new products were successful she started offering them to local farmers in her area and they kept coming back to her for more. She began to gain traction and partnered with the local university to develop a no-kill product that was suitable to take to the market.

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When deciding on a scent, she originally hoped that mint would work because it’s one of the most popular scents, but her efforts were unsuccessful. She experimented with several options until she had another idea. “The best-selling fragrance is those little fir trees people hang from their car mirrors… that was the scent that was the most effective, it turns out,” Block told Forbes in a 2015 interview. In 2007 her products received their EPA registration and her brand Earthkind took off from there.

Block and her kids packaged and sold the products from their living room and in their first year, they grossed $150,000. That success grabbed the attention of larger brands and in 2009 John Deere, a leading equipment manufacturer, signed a deal with them. Now the company is available in over 15,000 retail locations, including industry giants like Ace Hardware and Tractor Supply.

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Today the company is valued at $50 million according to the company’s website. Kari’s mission is to deliver all-natural, eco-friendly, no-kill pest control products. She claims to be “the first to tell the secrets the pest control industry would prefer to keep under wraps” and she continues to educate the public about all-natural, affordable pest control.

What products are you using to keep pests out of your equipment?

Last modified: February 1, 2017

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