As children, brothers Bill and Drew Cowley weren’t afraid of the insects and animals that lived in the woods around their home in Manalapan.
Years later, as adults, they ended up channeling that ease – combined with their entrepreneurial savvy – into launching Cowleys Pest Control Servicesa Howell-based company that has been serving residential and commercial customers since 1991.
“Growing up, we were typical boys. We loved nature and wildlife and the bugs never bothered us,” recalls Bill, 59, a resident of the Oakhurst section of Ocean Township, of life growing up with his younger brother Drew, 57, who lives in Brielle.
After earning a degree in history from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, Bill purchased and operated an athletic shoe store at Freehold Raceway Mall. Drew graduated from what is now known as Rowan University with a degree in criminal justice and landed a job selling ads for a trade magazine, but was soon downsized during the late-1990s recession. 1980.
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“While my brother was looking for a new job, an old friend of ours who was a sales manager for a local pest control company tried to recruit him,” Bill said. “Drew had no interest, but our friend persisted and in 1990 Drew joined this company as a commercial salesman selling pest control services to restaurants, hotels and other businesses. He loved the work and, while I was trying to sell my store, I also joined Drew in the business and learned the trade of pest control.
“However, a few months later Drew left to start his own pest control business and I returned to work at my store,” Bill said. “Drew started Cowleys Pest Services in 1991, working crazy hours alone and wearing all the hats. Three or four years later and after finally selling my store and looking for a new opportunity, Drew suggested that we partner in his business because he thought we would make a good team, and I agreed. I bought half the business from him in the spring of 1996 and we immediately set to work growing it from a small family business to a commercial enterprise.
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Provide peace of mind
More than 30 years later, “we offer residential and commercial customers a wide range of pest control treatments for everything from ants, cockroaches, ticks, bed bugs and wood pests like termites and beetles to flies. , silverfish, stinging insects such as hornets, wasps. and bees, mice and rats,” said Bill, who added that the company’s wildlife division (supervised by Drew) deals with raccoons, squirrels, bats, groundhogs , moles, chipmunks and more.
According to Bill, “Ticks and mosquitoes are the fastest growing segment of our pest control business and are a major public health concern as they spread diseases such as Lyme disease and West Nile virus. to people and pets.
Now supported by 45-50 staff, “we started out serving Monmouth and Ocean County, but over the past 10 years have expanded to also serve Middlesex, Mercer and Somerset counties and have opened a second office in Somerville in January 2021,” Bill said. .
Among their services, “we offer a preventative maintenance program to help homeowners anticipate pest problems,” Bill said. “These home protection plans come in three tiers (silver, gold, and platinum), involve spring, summer, and fall treatments, and cost $600 to $900 per year depending on home size and tier. of service provided. ”
However, he is quick to note that customers can also call Cowleys at any time with any pest concerns.
“When you have an emergency – a hornet’s nest, a swarm of termites, mice or rats in the house, or squirrels in the attic, for example – you want someone to attend to it immediately,” said said Bill. “We have 35 vehicles in our fleet and can be there that day to solve any problem.”
As experts on a range of parasites and corresponding treatments, training and education are paramount at Cowleys.
“New techs go through a two-week onboarding and orientation process, spend a month on calls with a supervisor, then study for their tests and typically get licensed within three months,” said Bill, whose the company organizes monthly seminars and technical training as part of the ongoing training of the team.
Although their primary business is pest control, “we also have a contracting division that offers pest-related services such as encapsulating crawl spaces, insulating attics, and installing gutter guards for prevent pest or wildlife infestations and/or the damage they leave behind,” Bill mentioned.
To help compensate for the downtime from November to March, the company additionally has a Christmas decoration franchise called Christmas Décor by Cowleys, through which they decorate the exteriors of homes and businesses for the holidays.
“While it’s not directly related to pest control, it has helped diversify our business and it’s been a thriving business for 20 years,” he said.
Among industry trends, Bill said the products his team uses are safer than they have ever been.
“The concentration of active ingredients is both lower and more effective than ever from miles away,” he said. “However, some customers today prefer more environmentally friendly products, and although 100% green products do not always last as long as conventional treatments, we do offer green products in one of our protection if customers request it.”
Bill also said the industry regularly faces new invasive pests.
“We don’t know which species will come from Asia, Europe or South America in a storage container due to international trade,” he said, noting recent pests such as bedbugs and dappled lanterns. “They’re not native here, end up in our ecosystem, and suddenly we have a new invader.”
As for the challenges, Bill said his company – like so many others in every industry – struggles to find good people.
“We’re selling a service, so the challenge is finding great people with a servant’s heart who want to solve other people’s problems and do it with a smile,” he said. “Fortunately, last winter we were able to hire 10 great new people through employee referrals and online recruitment sites.”
He attributes the development to the recognition Cowleys Pest Services received as one of NJBiz’s 2021 Top 10 Places to Work in New Jersey last June.
“People want to work at great companies where employees are happy and this award has been a powerful vehicle that has helped us attract good candidates,” he said.
Going forward, “our hope for the company is to continue to be the trusted professionals in the community who are there to help people with their pest problems,” Bill said. “Our brand is well known in the Shore area and Drew and I have been doing it for a long time. We have a great team of technicians behind us and people know that when they call our company we will rectify their situation as soon as possible.
Among his favorite parts of his job, Bill said he particularly enjoyed working with his brother. “Drew and I trust each other completely, we’ve always gotten along great and have a really strong partnership,” he said.
“We also love helping others and our customers are always so relieved and grateful,” he added. “It’s very rewarding to be able to provide peace of mind to others in the community.”
Cowleys Pest Control Services
Location: 1145 Route 33, Howell
Owners: Bill and Drew Cowley