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In 1970, Russell Smith started his own pest control business, Preferred Pest Control. 50 years and three generations later, Perry and Dawn Cooperider now manage the business and have watched it grow for many years. Along with their small team of experienced exterminators, the Cooperiders keep the homes and businesses of their community clear of destructive bugs and pests.

pest control shaking hands with home ownerWhen the Cooperiders first purchased the business from Perry’s parents, Wally and Janet Cooperider, in 2012, they quickly joined their local chamber of commerce. They had positive experiences with the chamber in the past, so they knew they would find great support. What they didn’t expect to find was the Missouri Small Business Development Center (SBDC). Housed in the St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce, and hosted by Northwest Missouri State University, business counselor Rebecca Lobina hosted several Lunch and Learn events, aimed at helping small business owners with finances and management.

After attending numerous events, the Cooperiders were able to build a relationship with Lobina and get one-on-one assistance. A strategy session focused on growing and improving their competitiveness for keeping employees, among other things.

“She helped us brainstorm with outside of the box thinking to improve those relationships and maintain employees longer,” Dawn said. Lobina also got them into contact with individuals who could help them win government contracts and pursue city projects. “She was that connector. She was able to get us in touch with the right people so we could grow in the way we were hoping to.”

2020 was set to be a great year. The Cooperiders were planning big things to celebrate Preferred Pest Control’s 50th anniversary, and business was booming. But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, everything changed.

With help from the chamber, pest control services were declared an essential service, meaning Preferred Pest Control could continue operating under strict guidelines. However, staying open doesn’t mean they were without hardships.

With most management operations moving online, the Cooperiders attended hours of Zoom webinars and meetings with Lobina. They learned how to operate their team remotely, keeping face-to-face contact as limited as possible to protect employees and customers. The SBDC also helped Preferred Pest gain access to supplies like N95 masks, which were in extreme shortage but were needed to use pest control equipment and chemicals. Lobina answered questions and provided up-to-date information whenever the Cooperiders needed it.

pest control office buildingAs soon as pandemic funding was announced, the Cooperiders were quick to apply for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Lobina was there to help them through the process, providing assurance and keeping them in the loop so they didn’t miss out on any available funding.

“Because I had worked with Rebecca for so many years, and she had helped us with our financials, we already had everything ready. We just had to print out some reports,” Dawn explained. “It was a huge comfort, and we didn’t know how things were going to play out. We had to get creative with some services, but we had a good spring and summer season.”

Now that the weather is getting colder and business is getting slower, the Cooperiders are focused on keeping their team employed and serving their clients to the best of their ability. Preparing for the worst, they’ve been conservative with the loan money they received and have kept in contact with Lobina and the rest of the SBDC.

“Getting to know Rebecca and working with her has really opened my eyes to what an asset that [the Missouri SBDC] can be…” Dawn said. “She's able to really connect us and point us in the directions we need to be. She knows about our business because she gets invested in us. She knows where we’re wanting to head. She knows what our goals are… her being able to pull out her knowledge and assets to help us continue down that road, even during a scary time is very reassuring.”

Despite not being able to celebrate the company’s 50 anniversary in the way they had been planning, Preferred Pest Control has had a great year with help from the Missouri SBDC.

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Writer: McKenzie Kellem