How an Army Reservist started a bed bug detection business with the help of his insect-loving pooch.
Rob Gonzalez’s entry into small-business ownership all started because of a precocious puppy. When the Army Reserve operations supervisor was training at Fort Knox, he rescued a young Jack Russell Terrier and brought the dog, named Bandit, home to his wife Reéne. The mischievous pooch would dig up bugs from the yard and bring them proudly into the Gonzalez house. That’s when Rob realized that Bandit would make a good bed bug detection dog.
When the couple moved to a permanent base in Dayton, Ohio, Reéne had difficulty finding a job. With all of the media hype surrounding bed bug infestations in hotels and retail stores, Rob and Reéne began to research what it would take to start their own business. In October 2010, the pair launched Militerriers, a full-service pest-detection company that helps homeowners, business-owners, landlords and property owners identify whether a bedbug population is present.
“It’s just one of those things that happened,” says Rob. “If it wasn’t for the dog bringing the bugs in the house, we wouldn’t have developed the idea.”
The couple reached out to the Small Business Administration (SBA) and was connected with Earl Gregorich, lead center director of the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Wright State University. Because Rob is still active duty in the Reserve, the couple was able to pursue and qualify for a Patriot Express Loan, which allowed them to finance the startup costs of their business.
Once the proper financing was in place, the Gonzalezes placed Bandit in a training program at Iron Heart Training Center in Kansas City, Kan. The center trains dogs for protection services, pest detection, and police work. Within three months, Bandit was certified to sniff out and find bed bugs.
Since launching the business, Rob and Reéne have enjoyed a fair amount of success. The couple now owns five dogs—three that work as part of the Militerriers team. But Rob stresses that the process wasn’t always easy.
“It’s been a long road—between certifying with the state, getting bonded, and getting insured,” he says. “There are a lot of steps to take when you deal with animals and are going into people’s homes.”
Rob believes that his experience in the military – which included serving as a platoon sergeant in the Marine Corps – played a large role in shaping his business plan. In April, he is scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan with the last unit, and knows how important it is to have a proper plan in place so Reéne can manage the business while he is overseas.
“I took what I learned in the military – the core competencies – and made a standard operating procedure (SOP),” says Rob. “We’re not reinventing the wheel, we’re simply plugging things in based on what our business is. Most oftentimes, whenever we encounter a problem, it’s because we didn’t follow our SOP.”
The Gonzalezes say they’re indebted to those who helped them reach their goals and get their business off the ground. “I think that there are a lot of people out there that are willing to be mentors and help veterans if they are really interested in starting a business,” says Reéne. “We had to put in a lot of work, but if you have the drive, the resources are there.
“If we mentor our vets and have someone there to give them that extra little push, there would be a lot more successes,” Reéne continues. “We got some our best advice from strangers, but the one thing they had in common was that they were veterans.”
Founder, Militerriers Inc.
Residence: Dayton, Ohio
U.S. Marine Corps (1991-1995)
U.S. Army Reserve (1995-Present)
NaVOBA Member Since 2011