SAVE THE DATE | WBDC 2024 Midwest Business Conference 9.12.24

BOSS
Yolanda Dunn
Owner and President of Leave Me Bee Pest Control, Inc.

What is the “Black-Owned Spotlight Series”? The Women’s Business Development Center is proud to celebrate the great business owners we work closely with. As part of our commitment to advocating for and amplifying diverse voices, we launched the WBDC Black-Owned Spotlight Series, where we will periodically highlight experiences from our community of Black business owners.


Meet Yolanda Dunn: Today we celebrate Yolanda Dunn, Owner and President of Leave Me Bee Pest Control, Inc. Located in Aurora, Illinois, Leave Me Bee is a full-service residential and commercial pest control business that services the western suburbs of Chicago and beyond.

We asked: Please discuss your experience as a Black business owner and share any challenges you have faced.

Yolanda shared: As a Black business owner, challenges we’ve faced include obtaining capital needed for supplies and equipment, as well as marketing consistently. We started our business in 2006 using our personal funds to purchase the equipment and supplies we needed. It wasn’t until 2017, with the help of the WBDC’s Scale Up program, that we were able to obtain a business line of credit. This line of credit has assisted us with our short-term needs and gaps. However, when the pandemic began, we took a huge hit on our revenue, and it has been very challenging to regain the momentum we had prior. We’ve had to use our line of credit as an emergency fund to cover our regular operating expenses as opposed to being able to use it to grow our business.

 

We asked: What inspired you to start your business?

Yolanda shared: My husband, Tito, worked for two leading pest control companies for over 10 years, and he’d always been a top performer in sales and service. During his tenure with each of these companies, whenever there was a route that was low-producing or had high turnover, they’d take him off of the high-producing routes he’d worked hard to build and place him on the low-producing routes. This not only impacted Tito’s income, but it also affected his drive to do what he loved.

During this time, I was working in banking and going to school for my master’s degree in business. For at least two years, Tito would come home from work frustrated and unhappy about not only our household income being consistently lowered but also about having the routes that he’d developed, and customers he’d built a rapport with, being given to another technician, so, it was time to decide. One day, I asked Tito, “What do you want to do?” He said, “I’m ready to start our own company.” With that, we took equity out of our home and started Leave Me Bee in 2006.

 

We asked: What has your experience been like when trying to access capital (loans, investments, etc.)? Did you face any systematic barriers? Please elaborate.

Yolanda shared: It has been a challenge to obtain and maintain access to capital. Obtaining credit before completing the Scale Up program was nearly impossible. We had to jump through hoops to obtain a line of credit – only to be denied. Our personal credit has always been good, but it feels not good enough when our applications are scrutinized. In all our years of business, it has never been easy for us in the sense that we would receive a recommendation to apply for credit from a respected business referral of another race that seemed to have completed the process with ease. They would give us insight and we’d follow the steps accordingly, only to be turned down.

In 2022, as we were still coming out of the pandemic, we had to renew our line of credit. We were originally denied our renewal because our revenue had been hit hard and our tax returns reflected the biggest loss we’d experienced over our years in business. Luckily, we have a business banker from our completion of the Scale Up program who went to bat for us and explained all we’d endured and that we were graduates of the program. By God’s grace and with his help, the bank renewed our loan but lowered it by $5,000. We know that there are so many bigger businesses that have not been put through as much stress as we experienced over the past four years and it’s disheartening to experience obstacle after obstacle.

 

We asked: What is the best way others can support Black-owned businesses?

Yolanda shared: The best way others can support Black-owned businesses is by inviting us to the table of opportunities in the field of our expertise. What we’ve found with local businesses and government entities is that although they have our information on file, we are not granted the opportunity to bid for service contracts as are generally given to pest businesses connected from the inside. Other ways to support Black-owned businesses are by referring us or recommending our services, and offering grants to assist with marketing and business development.

 

We asked: How do you support or serve your community?

Yolanda shared: My husband and Leave Me Bee co-founder, Tito, was born and raised in Aurora. We’ve also raised our three children and grandchild here. We are very invested in the community we live and serve in. I am a member of the Quad County Chamber of Commerce and serve on the Women of Influence auxiliary board. I am also a board member of the 708 Mental Health Board. We are active members of Living Purpose Church and volunteer regularly at the Aurora Interfaith Food Pantry and Feed My Starving Children.

 

We asked: What advice would you share with new business owners? What lessons have you learned since growing your business?

Yolanda shared: The first piece of advice I would give – and a lesson I have learned – would be to utilize the WBDC! Secondly, I would advise new business owners to have their business filings and taxes completed by a professional/reputable company. Always be a life learner, especially in your field of business.

Also, we know what is for us is for us! It may not come to us with ease, but we truly believe in our business and the service we provide, and that we are the best at what we do. Knowing and understanding our financials is also so important. We are lifelong learners and have been able to sustain ourselves during tough times by remaining diligent and by being able to pivot in our business when needed.

 

Thank you, Yolanda, for participating in the “Black-Owned Spotlight Series.” We are proud to have you in our WBE network! 

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