Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background. Who is Jennifer Savastino?
I was born and raised in Syracuse NY, and I am a graduate of West Genesee High in 1990 and received my Bachelor of Science and my MBA from Lemoyne College. I’m a mom of three boys, one biological and two bonus and are all grown men now. Colin is one of our lead technicians at Gannon Pest Control, Daniel is Autistic and living his best life at home with me, and Joshua (my baby), is enjoying life in the US Navy out in California. I enjoy spending time with my family, my longtime partner Greg, and the many amazing people I am blessed to call friends. I am a Director with Syracuse Challenger Baseball, the largest Special Needs Baseball league in the country, on the Board of 100 Women Who Care of CNY and provide help and assistance with many other amazing not for profits in the Syracuse area.

How did you become the owner of Gannon Pest Control?
In 1997 my stepfather was the city fireman in Syracuse and he also worked as the pest control technician with another firefighter named Eddie Gannon who owned Gannon Pest Control. At the time Gannon Pest Control was a small company with just a couple of technicians that was run out of the back of Eddie’s house. When Eddie was retiring he asked my stepfather if he wanted to buy it and Billy asked me if I wanted to do it with him, so we bought Gannon pest control and moved into the back of my parents’ house in Solvay in December of 1997

What does the word “hustle” mean to you?
Hustle has taken many different definitions for me over the years. When I was younger hustle was all about being everything to everyone and doing everything for everyone. If I didn’t do everything, or I said no, I felt like a failure. Over the years as I have learned that a you can’t be everything to everyone or you will crash and burn hard and that not everyone is worth being everything for; hustle has become doing the best I can for the things that bring me passion and those that I love so let’s take it has taken of.

Tell us a little bit about your vision for your business, and what it means to you to be a female entrepreneur.
I think my vision is exactly what we’re doing; we provide an excellent service to our community both residential homes and commercial businesses; we have an awesome staff that has become like family that we provide a good wage to and a comfortable place to work. I’m not looking to expand or be the best pest control company in the world or the biggest or anything like that, I think we have a great little business surrounded by amazing people in our little corner of the world.

Who are some of the strong women that you feel have inspired you throughout your career?
Hmmmm, I have met many amazing business women throughout my career, but my inspiration comes from the strongest women I know, my grandmother and her sisters, my mom and my Aunt Sally. These women were not business women, but they taught me how to handle most situations with grace & dignity, how to make sure everyone you love know they are loved, and to always stand by your family. I am who I am today because of these extraordinary women. I no longer have my Grandmother, Great Aunts or Mom in my life but the lessons they taught me will never leave me.

What do you feel is the real key to women empowering other women?
I think the biggest key to empowering women is just being there. Too often when someone comes to us with their struggle or a problem, we try to fix it. We try to offer advice on what they should do; but I don’t think that’s what most of us need. Most of us need someone who is there to allow us to vent and work through ideas and find a solution on our own. So empowering women comes from being there, supporting them and giving them the space to be their own person and to make their own choices good or bad.

When and how did the entrepreneur bug bite you?
I really do not know, the opportunity to purchase Gannon Pest Control just fell into my lap and, in the beginning, I really did not have any intention of it becoming the size it is today. I just saw it as a side hustle while I worked my corporate job. But once I saw it growing and the impact we could have, I was hooked.

How do you juggle the hectic schedule and balancing your professional life with your family life?
The one thing I’ve learned about work and family over the years is there is no balance. Either you are focused on the kids, the business or losing sleep! Which the latter is what mostly suffered when my kids were growing up. I was fortunate that we have always had an excellent staff so that I could be home to get my kids off the bus or not be concerned about snow days or sick days and I could bring them into work with me if I needed to. I would catch up with work at night after they went to bed. But that’s how the balance happens if you want to be there for your kids and be that mom; either your work is going to suffer or you’re going to find different hours in the day to get your work done. I will never complain or feel bad about any of the choices I made as my kids were growing up and I was growing my business because I was very fortunate that I had that flexibility with the business so that I could be the mom I wanted to be. And I will fully admit that I miss those days of the craziness!

What are some of the pros and cons of being a female entrepreneur, especially in a male dominated field?
The cons have definitely decreased in 25 years! As a 25 year old woman entering the pest control field, not many took me seriously. There were even times when someone asked if I had to check with “my husband” for permission! But, I think the biggest “pro” is the element of surprise. For those that make assumptions about my lack of knowledge or ability because of my gender, it is always fun to prove them wrong.
What do you feel sets you apart from others in your business and makes you so successful?
I definitely think it is our people. From the person that answers the phone, to the technician that does the service, our team cares about our customers. They are dedicated to the mission of Gannon Pest Control and always take the extra step to ensure that everyone is getting excellent service.

What is one piece of advice you have been given that you have never forgotten?
Surround yourself with talented people.

If you had to pick one service that you offer that you would consider your “specialty” what would it be and why?
Our Spring exterior services for homes. This product is definitely our most popular as it gives homeowners the piece of mind that if they get a stinging insect nest, ants or spiders, we come back and take care of it at no additional cost. Most of our products are designed as “prevention” instead of “reaction”. This allows families to know what their pest control costs are for the year (in most cases) rather than being hit with an unexpected large bill.

What’s the most important risk you ever taken? How did it play out for you?
Besides buying a pest control company at 25 years old with no experience in the business??? Seriously, I think that is the most important and the best risk I have ever taken. When we bought the company in 1997 it had $75,000 in sales on the books and 2 employees. Today we have over 20 employees on average and over $2 Million in sales.

What’s the most important risk you ever taken? How did it play out for you?
Besides buying a pest control company at 25 years old with no experience in the business??? Seriously, I think that is the most important and the best risk I have ever taken. When we bought the company in 1997 it had $75,000 in sales on the books and 2 employees. Today we have over 20 employees on average and over $2 Million in sales.

How do you continue to constantly grow both personally and professionally? What have been some things that have worked well for you, and some that have not.
By following the advice I received in the earlier question. I surround myself with good people; both professionally and personally. Professionally I belong to the Syracuse Chapter of the Women Presidents Organization, this organization and the women in it are an amazing support group that reminds me every month that I am not alone and; regardless of business size; we all have the same concerns and issues. I also feel the work I do with local non-profits helps to keep me grounded and always understanding that everyone has their own story or journey and we cannot judge.

Personally, I have an amazing and diverse group of friends and family. I am thankful that I am surrounded by those that support me and cheer me on (even when my opinion or choice might be different than theirs)

What have you found to be challenging in your business especially during the past few years?
The supply chain issue hit our industry hard. We had to do a lot more early or bulk ordering of products or trying new or different products because we could not get a lot of the items that were readily available. That and staffing; we hire seasonal staff for the spring and summer and that has been significantly more challenging the last couple of years.

What is your vision for the future? Where do you see yourself in the next 3 years? What about 5 years?
I am only 50 years old, probably doing the same thing as today but with a little less hands on in the business. I am learning to be better at delegating and I have an amazing Operations Manager; Courtney, that I hired 5 years ago and she is taking over much more of the day to day of Gannon Pest Control. Greg & I are talking about a house somewhere warm that we can visit throughout the year… who knows??

What do you think is the biggest problem facing young entrepreneurs, especially females today?
I think the idea that they need to look or act a certain way. Young women need to find their own truth and stay true to that. If those around you do not agree or expect you to change, then it is time to find a new circle. We live in a time that women can literally be anything they want to be but yet it seems that more & more they want to follow the crowd and be like everyone else. We need to teach our daughters & nieces that it is totally ok to be an individual and speak their own truth.

If you could give your younger self one piece of advice, what would that be?
See the answer to the above question. Stop trying to please the world; especially at the expense of your own happiness

Does your family support you and your business journey?
We are a family business so yes. My step father is still involved, my brother, cousin and son are all involved and even my sister in law (different brother) is now a part of our team. Greg, my long time boyfriend, is also an entrepreneur and he “get it”; it is wonderful to be with someone that understands the responsibilities and stressors of owning your own business.

What has been the most successful form of referrals for your business?
Word of mouth and personal recommendations.

How do you stay ahead in the industry?
A lot of reading, listening to customers and constant communication with vendors and product manufacturers. Our technicians that hold Commercial Applicator licenses are required to obtain continuing education credits but we also have our apprentices and office staff sit in on a lot of those trainings in order to enhance everyone’s education.

Tell our audience something people may not know about you?
I recently started Yoga Teacher Training and will be a Certified Yoga Teacher in June of this year.