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SYDNEY PESTS SQUASHED BY A RED STILETTO

Nathaly Haeren, the owner of an all-female pest operation in Sydney, shares her story about how and why she entered the pest control industry. 

It’s easy to spot the Pesty Girls when they’re out on a job. While most pest control company vehicles are wrapped in pictures of cockroaches, spiders, or a rat or two, very few are seen driving around suburban Sydney sporting a red stiletto heel.

For Nathaly Haeren (pictured above), founder and manager of the female-only pest control business, she wouldn’t have it any other way. “So many trades, in any field, are male dominated,” Ms Haeren said. “At Pesty Girls, we want to be completely different and niche. That was the main reason for having a female-staffed business: the prospect of having a great name.”

Ms Haeren wasn’t always at the coalface of pest control, crawling in subfloors and examining roof cavities. The young business owner started in the industry in 2001 by working in the office for a pest control company. Although her main job was to create new business, she started to take on more managerial responsibilities and eventually found herself running the place.

“That gave me a bit of a nudge to get my licence,” Ms Haeren said. “At first, I wanted to be educated to speak on the phones rather than train as a technician. Most women in the industry get their licence for that reason. But then I thought, ‘What am I doing?’ After getting a licence, I decided to go out on my own.”

Nathaly Haeren, owner of Pesty Girls in Sydney

And that’s exactly what she did. In 2009, Ms Haeren started Pesty Girls in Sydney’s inner west. Like most ventures, the first few years of getting her business off the ground was hard work. Ms Haeren supported herself by working at Globe Australia in sales three days a week – a blessing in disguise, as it gave her an opportunity to gain an in-depth knowledge of the latest products and chemicals.

Soon the business grew, and Ms Haeren quit her job to work on it full-time. Her hard work paid off and in 2014, Pesty Girls won the local Inner West Business Award for outstanding service to the community. The business is now a team of three women with a growing client base. According to Ms Haeren, giving one hundred percent to each job is the key to their success, as well as returning phone calls. “Getting back to people is huge these days. A lot of people are disappointed when they don’t get return calls, so I try to reply when I can.”

The job has its challenges, though. Rodent infestations push the team to its limits. Last year, Pesty Girls saw a massive number of rats in the inner city due to increased construction in the area. Ms Haeren said they attack the problem in a number of ways – integrated pest management, blocking and prevention, chemical methods, trapping – and stay on top of problems through monthly visits to clients. “It’s exhausting and you’re trying every aspect possible, crawling in every space possible, trying to reassure your customers that it will get there,” Ms Haeren explained.

As for working in a male dominated industry, Ms Haeren and her team relish the challenge. Even though she gets the odd jibe now and then, running a female pest control business has its advantages. “It pretty much exploded on its own because it was so different,” Ms Haeren said. “Also, because we’re women, some clients feel a little safer, especially other women who feel a bit more comfortable having us in their homes.”

So far, the only difficulty is finding female technicians, Ms Haeren said. “Pesty Girls has grown so much that we’re looking for more girls to join the team.”

Her advice to women considering being a pest control technician, apart from being fearless when it comes to insects and rodents, is to simply go for it.

“It’s great because you’re in different places every day, you meet so many people,” she said. “If you’re good at what you do, it’s very challenging and rewarding.”