Adrienne Winterhelt is an Elite+ Mompreneur member based out of Toronto, Ontario, and she is the Founder of Bed Bugs Dead Bugs. We’re excited to share Adrienne’s Success Story!
What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?
I’ve always been an entrepreneur, I just didn’t know it. As a young girl, my parents’ dream for me was to marry and that would set me on the path to happiness and a secure future. When I did meet the love of my life, his entire family were entrepreneurs and they encouraged me to take my ideas and run with them. When I failed, my husband would say, “Don’t worry Adrienne, Col. Saunders didn’t make it until he was 60 years old. You’ve got time.” If only he had more time. I wish he were here today to see me on the road to success. Every bump in the road is smoothed out by his belief in me. You could probably play a bingo game of different enterprises I have tried, from lamp making, jewellery making, seamstress, word processing tutor and cat minding to name just a few. Nothing was quite the right fit.
As the only parent of three kids, I went back to office work the very same week I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It became impossible to work, manage three kids and recover from surgery and undergo chemo and radiation. That’s when I took the last of my savings and bought an income property figuring that there would not be too much to managing another house. The very first month, the tenants called in a panic saying, “We’ve got bed bugs.” What did I know about bed bugs? Nothing. So I started doing research and discovered that they die at 45 degrees C, and that there were specially-designed heaters to do exactly that. I searched the internet for someone who rented the equipment. No one rented this equipment. September 22nd, that’s when the light bulb went off, and I thought to myself, “Why don’t I rent them?” That’s when I bought my first set and killed the bed bugs in my tenant’s place; I was now on the road to creating Bed Bugs Dead Bugs and renting heaters to people from all walks of life. My road to success has been filled with a lot of giant potholes but there is something inside me that sees potholes as things to jump over, splash through or work around. It doesn’t matter how crazy my girlfriends think I am; I know, somewhere inside me, that this is the right path for me.
What’s the best part about owning your own business?
As an only parent for some 15 years with three teens, the best part of owning my own business is setting my hours. I can easily turn on and off my OPEN sign to suit my kids’ schedules. It’s almost like you can do it all. Now that business is booming, the worst part is that my busiest time is weekends.
Can you describe a typical day?
I’m not one who keeps to a schedule, but the first thing I do is to make sure I’m ready to answer the phone starting at 9:00am. It doesn’t matter if I’m in my jammies because I work from home. As the chief, cook and bottlewasher, I fill my days with updating Kijiji ads, and managing Google Adwords and Facebook promotions. On the docket each day is bookkeeping, entering sales and balancing bank statements. The phone rings and I picture each customer and where they live, the wiring in their house and the best equipment solution for them. Equipment has a habit of needing repair and I set aside time to attack broken machines. As the R&D Department, I am often sewing new products for use by my customers including the Bed Bug Blaster Bag, specialized tarps, and packing to create a great brand. My least favourite part of the job is when the equipment comes back and it all needs repairs or a good wipe down before it goes out again. Cleaning extension cords is definitely considered a chore in my mind.
As a self-starter, I have a few irons in the fire. I don’t just do bed bugs. I have three properties with permanent tenants. There are always repairs and renovations to be done, and I do them myself including drywalling, plumbing, laminate flooring, etc. My kids will all tell you they know how to install a toilet, thanks to mom. Recently, I discovered the joy of Air BnB and I host three rooms. That means there is cleaning to do before the next guest arrives. I never loved housework until it meant I was getting paid for it! I also appear regularly on Empire Radio’s The Professional’s Roundtable and am the author of the book Do Nothing and Grow Rich, How to Invest like the Rich and Famous. There’s no sitting around waiting for the next customer to show up, I’m running in six directions at once.
Who do you count on for help?
My son is my number one go to guy when I am overwhelmed with work and customers need me to be in two places at once. He is in training to take over the deliveries and set ups on the weekends and to join the business when he completes college. My teenage daughters often help me to leave cleaning the extension cords to them so they can lighten my load.
Have you ever had to sacrifice something at home for work? Or vice versa?
If bed bugs are biting, I am open for business, which means mostly weekends. I’ve really had to crack down on leaving my phone on all the time and now don’t take calls during meals, but still, customers will show up on Thanksgiving or Labour Day and I’m there to help them. None of these things really feel like a sacrifice to me because I’m doing something pretty cool and putting food on the table. To me, I think it’s a bigger sacrifice to have to leave home for eight to ten hours a day to work in an office where your hours and vacations are dictated by someone else.
What do you do on a day off? Do you even know what a day off is?
Usually, I can flex my time but if I need an entire day off, it has to be scheduled ahead of time and the phone must be turned off, or I organize my teenage son to man the phones. But even still, I will squeeze another rental in, even if it means leaving for our vacation half an hour late. Even though my kids are now teens, they are pretty close to mom and we are always doing things as a family. My kids and I love to discover Ontario and pick new places to visit. We love taking ROM walks in the summer months and learning about the history and art in Toronto.
What does the future look like for you and your business?
I’m so excited for the future. My big plan is to license the business and have other entrepreneurs jumpstart their business by learning everything it took me three years to learn. I’m looking forward to my son becoming a partner and expanding to the west end of Toronto.
Any tips for women thinking of starting a business?
I don’t think anyone ever graduates from school and says, “I’m going to kill bed bugs for a living.” Not all of us have a passion and sometimes, you just find passion in what you do. For me, being an entrepreneur is about growing a business and making it a success. I never think twice about being a woman in a male-dominated business.
What is your “WHY” behind your business/being an entrepreneur?
My passion is helping people and I get to do that in a unique way by solving their bed bug nightmare. I’m saving people money, saving their sofa and saving their sanity. My customers sometimes give me hugs when they return the equipment. I didn’t follow a passion but passion found me.