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Sci Tech    H3'ed 10/23/09

Interview with Yasmine Hecker, CEO

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If you had asked me two months ago what I knew about bed bugs and how they can change your life, I would have looked at you with great puzzlement. To me, at that seemingly distant point, ├ éČ┼"bed bugs,├ éČ Ł ├ éČ┼"my life├ éČ Ł and ├ éČ┼"change├ éČ Ł were not words I considered congruent parts of a sentence. Then our life was turned upside down by an infestation of bed bugs in our building. Oh my God, I thought, what do I do? I truly considered jumping out of a window at that point. Not only did I know nothing about what a bed bug was, or where they came from or how to get rid of them, I could not get anyone to give me reasonable answers to these most rudimentary questions.

My life went from easy to the most difficult it had been almost overnight. Had I not found this website, I would not have discovered two essentials to living through this experience: 1) proper preparation for the exterminator is the key to ridding one's life of them; and 2) that finding a business run by someone who understands the fears and anxieties of her clients can make a huge difference in how the work gets done.

Yasmine Hecker is the CEO of Prep4BedBugs, LLC. At 52, she is a trim, feisty, sympathetic and bright lesbian. She can connect with her clients as well as her largely male crews and everyone knows she is paying attention and evaluating what she hears. This company has only been in existence since May when she lost her job as a managing agent for a real estate company. After 12 years at that work, she knows what goes on in New York City apartments and what landlords will and will not do for the tenants. Being fired though meant she rushed forward with her new business and has found clients from the start. The reason for that was that her business plan is a good one and the proof of that is how rapidly she has increased her work load. Beginning in May with two jobs, in June she completed five jobs. By the time her crew arrived at our apartment in September she was up to 10 jobs/day with five men/crew. Now that is rapid growth. As I quickly learned, New York City is in the midst of a bed bug epidemic. There is no place too small or too dark for a bed bug to hide and without this kind of service, and hers is the only company in the area to provide it, there is no guarantee that the exterminator called in to kill the bugs will be able to do that.

Our conversation took place in her apartment in the Bronx on October 7th. Ms. Hecker prepared a nice lunch for us and before we could even sit down to eat, she began talking about the training sessions she does every other month in order to find more workers for her crews. Her voice became quite animated as she recounted how the sessions were set up. They are run in a school, with a member of the Department of Health helping to give out information as well. They last for 5 hours with a half hour for lunch. Thirty-eight people showed up to this latest one. She does no advertising and relies on her current crews to spread the word about them. During those 4-5 hours she teaches the participants all they will need to know about the life cycle of the bed bug and how the system she uses works. She makes all of them sign a non-disclosure form as well as a non-compete form. Once she takes on these new recruits, they go on the job with the older members of her crew and she does not charge the client for them. This is her investment in growing her business. It is a smart move because there is much to learn on the job. The contents of our entire apartment ended up in plastic bags, the furniture was steam cleaned, the furniture moved from the walls, the electric sockets insulated as well as all the plumbing. All the cracks and crevices that bugs could use to migrate from apartment to apartment were caulked and there were these white dishes placed under the legs of couches filled with mineral oil and baby powder to kill the bugs. The doorways of the rooms had blue duct tape all around them covered with vaseline to also keep the bugs from migrating from room to room.

We had been given instructions from the exterminator about how to prepare our apartment for their work and it was a couple of pages long but it was nothing compared to what Ms. Hecker's crew did to make sure that if there were any bugs in our place, they would not survive this treatment.

My first direct question to Ms. Hecker was in the form of how did a nice person like you get into a nasty business like this?

Ms. Hecker is completely at ease with herself and as she began recounting her journey from being a real estate management agent to business owner, it was clear that her success was partially predicated on her clear vision as to how this business needed to be organized which was based on the massive amount of research she had conducted before getting started. Of course losing one's job is also a great motivator but had she not done her homework, this kind of rapid success would not have been possible.

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Deborah Emin is the founder of the publishing company, Sullivan Street Press ( She is also the impressario of the Itinerant Book Show as well as the program director of the REZ Reading Series in Kew Gardens, NY. Her (more...)
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