Professional Pest Controller Magazine Issue 96

22 August 2019

Meet the member: “Starting Lady Bug Pest Control saved my life.”

Your association | PPC96 August 2019

“I hope you don’t mind me asking, but how did you get into pest control?”

As a woman in a traditionally male-dominated industry, Vicki Sims hears this question a lot. BPCA Communications Officer, Kathryn Shaw, caught up with her recently to find out the answer.

Please note: this article talks frankly about suicide and depression.

Ladybug Pest Control

The journey to Lady Bug

Vicki is the owner of Lady Bug Pest Control, a Kent-based company she set up in 2016 following a personally difficult period in her life.

“I’ve been working in the pest industry since 2011, when I started a company with my husband at the time,” says Vicki. “That was when I learned how to run a pest control business; it wasn’t easy and I was very much self-taught.”

However, her solo journey into setting up Lady Bug began when that marriage sadly ended after 20 years.

“That was a really rough time for me,” Vicki reflected, “I felt like I’d lost everything and I completely broke down.”

Vicki went through what she describes as the darkest period in her life, one which led her to attempt to take her own life on more than one occasion.

“I used to think people were really selfish for trying to commit suicide, but when I was in that place I realised that it’s possible for absolutely anyone to be pushed to their mental limit.

“Then one day, as I was standing at a train station ready to end it, I had what I can only describe as a very important wake up call.”

She continued, “I just knew that I was on a dark path and that I needed to pick myself up, find something to give me purpose again.

“That’s when I began to build Lady Bug from the ground up and it truly saved my life.”

Starting from the bottom

When Vicki’s marriage broke down she was on her own and had no money to pay her bills or start a business.

She knew she needed to find the start up money from somewhere, so she cancelled a pre-booked holiday to get a cash injection.

“The holiday was supposed to be a sort of honeymoon for our wedding vow renewal,” says Vicki. “I think the travel agent felt quite bad for me, so they gave me everything except the deposit back!”

From there Vicki began her business and started to rebuild her life. She got herself a job as a barmaid at the Slug and Lettuce in Beckenham, to help with funds and to get her confidence back.

Meet the member lady bug pest control 4

“The manager I worked with was a very strong woman and I needed that influence. She knew what my goal was and was happy to help me get there.

“I started building up work in the pest control industry around my other job, but 2016 turned out to be a very good year for wasps and within three months I was so inundated with work that I had to quit my bar job!”

Vicki thinks her brand and big presence on social media have been a huge draw for customers, with 80% of her workload coming from domestic properties.

“I get a lot of amazing feedback about my logo and all my branding,” she says. “I’ve tried to give it some personality, which seems to have worked because people love it!”

Giving back to the community

As her story started to spread, it wasn’t long before a friend asked Vicki to give a talk at a local secondary school.

“I hadn’t really thought of my own story as inspiring,” she shrugs, “But I agreed to do the talk and it was just wonderful.”

Nobody would ask me to tell my story if I worked as an estate agent.

Vicki continued, “I spoke to the kids about what I went through and how I came out the other side. I talked about how I lost my confidence and sense of self, but that having a goal like Lady Bug gave me purpose and my identity back.

“There’s so much pressure on young people, so they really related to elements of the story and at the end of the day I had young girls hugging me, crying, saying that they felt encouraged by what I had said.”

Vicki thinks that working in pest control is the reason people are so interested in her story.

“This is a very male-centric industry, so being a female pest controller gets that conversation started. Nobody would ask me to tell my story if I worked as an estate agent.

“And if I can help prevent just one person from wanting to hurt themselves, then I’ll tell it. Pest control enables me to do that.”

In her spare time (not that there’s much of that during wasp season) Vicki has been fundraising for Bromley Mencap, a charity which provides services and activities for disabled people, their families and their carers.

She also provides free pest control services for the charity’s offices.

“I think it’s important to give back to the community, especially when that community has helped you so much.

“I’m a big believer in finding something that is close to your heart and supporting it.”

Present and future

At the moment, Vicki is the sole pest control technician at Lady Bug, supported by her part-time admin staff.

“Millie is only 17 years old but she’s as passionate about my business as I am, so I’m investing in her by putting her on training programmes.

“I think it’s important to bring in a younger generation of women. Millie was originally in college doing a beauty course, but I’ve shown her there is more out there for young girls to do and she is loving every moment of it.”

Meet the member lady bug pest control

With plans to work nationwide in the future, Vicki is focusing on building her knowledge and contacts. She believes that the best way to keep the industry dominated by professionals is to help each other out.

“Pest control companies, especially the smaller ones, should work together. We need to get rid of that idea that we’re in competition with each other,” Vicki declares.

“I’m lucky to have support from a lot of other pest controllers and I try to give them advice where I can, too.”

Vicki believes that the BPCA has an important part to play in that. She said:

“I initially joined the BPCA because I want Lady Bug to grow and they can support the small businesses, not just the larger companies.

“But it also feels like I’m part of something bigger. The BPCA audit you and make sure you fit strict criteria, so earning that members logo makes me feel like I’m part of an elite club in the pest control industry.

“People think pest management is just about rocking up with your poison and chucking it down. We know that’s not the case and we need to work together to make sure that misconception is tackled.”

Learn more about Mencap

Mencap is the leading voice of learning disability. Everything they do is about valuing and supporting people with a learning disability, and their families and carers.

Their vision is a world where people with a learning disability are valued equally, listened to and included.

Ready to be part of something bigger?

Pest management can be a lonely place. BPCA gives you opportunities to connect with your peers and offers support with your business - no matter the size.

If you’re serious about pest management, we’re serious about you.

Back to news