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Positively Milwaukee: Family business makes a pandemic pivot

Posted at 11:34 AM, May 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-10 12:34:09-04

Sometimes it takes the dreams of a child to create life’s special moments, like this wedding between a four-year-old and the Easter Bunny. She’s the granddaughter of Jeff Hardy, Sr. and Brenda Hardy of Milwaukee.

“She was able to marry the Easter bunny,” said Brenda. “She wanted to marry Granddad, Granddad said no I’m married to nana. She said, ‘well, I’ll marry the Easter Bunny.” So, we contacted Easter Bunny, she bought a few friends, we had a ceremony, she had a bouquet and flowers. It was an awesome event.”

“Reception!” added Jeff.

“Oh, yes, and a reception. She danced with the Easter Bunny,” Brenda said.

Family ties like this give us insight into why the Hardys are a successful husband and wife team. They run their own company. Ten years ago, he came home and suggested they start their own business.

And that’s how Pest 2 Rest was born.

“In the beginning, I definitely thought he was a bit crazy. Asking me to do bugs, it just wasn’t anything that was on my radar. At the time, I was going into the medical field,” Brenda said.

“To me, I think business is just you are a solution to a problem,” Jeff said. “If people are willing to pay for that solution, you are in business.”

Jeff gave up a job at MPS and Brenda gave up her plan to work in health care. But it’s been rewarding.

“At the end of the day, we get a big gratification that we know that we came and helped someone. But meeting people and talking with people and seeing how people are living and seeing what we can do to make their lives better, that’s what is a positive part of our pest control business,” Jeff said. “We get to do that every day.”

A decade later, business is strong. They don’t advertise: 90% of the customers are word of mouth.

“We stepped out on faith. It was total, total faith. I tell you, we stepped out, we prayed about it and we’ve been walking forward ever since,” Brenda said.

The couple travels to jobs all over the state.

“I think one of our greatest trips was to Ashland, Wisconsin,” Brenda said. “We traveled to Ashland, Wisconsin for a bedbug treatment and we’ve met some beautiful people. I tell you, we’ve met some awesome people. We’ve made some great relationships. All of our customers often tell us, ‘we feel like your only customer.’ And that’s the way that we make every customer feel. When you call, I answer. If I miss a call, I return a call. And it’s all customer service. I strive for the best customer service. I want my customers to feel like me. Like I am the customer.”

During the pandemic, the Hardys pivoted to sanitize office locations, schools and churches. Because of COVID 19, there’s been a huge demand. Houses of worship get a steep discount because the Hardys want to see people in the pews once again.

“We are going to do anything that we can do possible to help churches, to help schools, to help day care centers, to help school buses,” said Jeff. “We just want to see Milwaukee bounce back. Our faith is what wakes us up in the morning, what motivates us during the day, what gets us through hard times and without it, I think you really, really, really struggle.”

They say faith and enjoying each other’s company keeps the marriage alive.

“It has been a wonderful ride with my friend,” Brenda said. “I think the most important thing is when people say to us, ‘you guys are like sister and brother, you’ve been together for so long.’ And I just think [it’s] because he’s a good guy and I like hanging out with him.”

Carole Meekins asked the pair, who’s the boss?

Jeff very quickly replied that it was Brenda – who had a good laugh about it.

“Well, it depends – where are you talking about? It depends, if you’re talking about home, she’s the boss. If you’re talking about working out in the field, then I would be the boss. So, in the house, she’s the boss. We’re at home, she’s the boss right now, and I don’t have a problem with that!”

For those thinking about opening their own business, the Hardys had some advice.

“I tell people that a thought without a date is nothing but wishful thinking,” Jeff said. “You have to put a date on so that you have a goal to reach for, an end date. And I just encourage everyone to just try it. Don’t be afraid to fail because that’s part of the process.”

And if you’re a couple dreaming of a joint venture? Here’s what Jeff says.

“Try to marry your friend and you’ll be together, like the books said, til happily ever after!”

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