Why hire a pool boy when you can hire a pool girl? That was the questions Kathryn Fernandes asked herself before starting her own pool-cleaning business; the query became the slogan for her North Port-based company, Healthy Waters Pool Service.
“Pool boys have such a bad reputation,” Fernandes laughed. “So I think people call me because there is a greater level of trust and because they see the logo on my truck and they think, ‘Why not?’”
Fernandes said she started Healthy Waters after working for various pool businesses in the area. When there were no longer any opportunities to advance in the trade, she decided to found her own company. Kathryn said her daughter was the driving force behind the decision.
“As a single mom, I wanted to be a better provider for her,” she said. “It just felt like the right time in my life.”
The U.S. Department of Labor projects that there will be an expansion in employment opportunities for women in trades that are not traditionally associated with women in the near future. The strong demand for workers in those fields is due to the large number of women currently in the workforce and projected retirements or transfers of current workers to other occupations. However, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is still a great gap between women and men in many industries and occupations.
“You don’t find too many women who get involved in our business,” said Marie LaBrosse, who has co-owned Charlotte Well Drilling with her husband for 23 years. “The job is physically challenging; on some occasions, I’ve literally shoveled mud and carried drill rods.”
LaBrosse acknowledges that there are physical limitations for women, but it shouldn’t prohibit women from opening a business in a predominately male trade.
“You just hire someone,” she said. “You should never let the limitations of your gender define who you are or what you want to be.”
Rose Klempner, who owns Flex-Path Inc., a decking company specializing in pool decks, lanais and driveways, attributes her success to her attention to detail and her marketing efforts. After she took over her husband’s business when he retired, the company has grown substantially. During the summer when snowbirds leave and business slows, Klempner is out promoting her product in a variety of board meetings for the Charlotte County Chamber of Commerce, the Punta Gorda-Port Charlotte-North Port Association of Realtors and other business-oriented associations.
“I’m sorry, but if my husband was still running the company, it would be vacation time.” Klempner said. “But you can’t do that. You have to work for your company before it can work for you. I don’t care how good your product is, if you don’t market it, people won’t want it.”
While all the women agree that marketing is key to attracting new customers, Fernandes likes to leave her personal touch at every pool she cleans in order to keep her customers loyal. It’s not unusual for her clients to find a note on their pool deck with a personalized message that is signed with a smiley face.
“It’s the little things that people remember,” Fernandes said. “They love when I bring their pets treats or polish the stainless on their swim ladder. I get onto them if I don’t see fingerprints because that means they aren’t enjoying their pool.”