Bob Young will be the first to admit it: When he was a surgical physician’s assistant at a knee and shoulder center in South Jersey in the 1990s, he didn’t care much for the job.
“I couldn’t stand medicine; I couldn’t stand patient care,” he said. “I did it to support my family and make a better life for us.”
He also didn’t care much for dogs.
“I was allergic,” he said.
His young son, however, loved them. Lived and breathed for them, Young said. That’s why Young got his son a border collie named Boomer, the first step in a series of events that changed his life.
And at first, it wasn’t for the better.
Young didn’t know border collies were working dogs. He just knew when he got home from a job he didn’t particularly like, he had to take Boomer and son out to play — or risk having his house torn apart.
“Boomer was chewing through our walls, our furniture, the floorboards — everything,” he said. “I’d take him out and throw a ball or frisbee every day at the church field right around the corner from our house. I had to run him around and wear him out.”
One day, while playing fetch, a car pulled up — and out stepped someone from nearby Ramblewood Country Club.
He asked if Young would bring his border collie to the country club to chase the Canada geese away.
Young didn’t know that border collies had been known to chase geese — that they mimic the arctic fox, the only natural predator a Canada goose has. He didn’t know that other courses around the country were starting to use them for this purpose.
He just knew the man was promising free golf for him and free lessons for his son. So, he was happy to come to the club.
Boomer immediately took to the visit — chasing Canada geese out of the ponds and off the course. While doing so, he drew the attention of one of the club members.
“He asked what I charge to chase geese out of a neighborhood,” Young said.
With that, the entrepreneurial light went on.
By 2002, Young had enough clients and enough courage to open his own business. Twenty years later, Mount Laurel-based Geese Chasers — and its two franchisees in the state — are servicing nearly 300 clients. And that’s just in New Jersey.
Through franchising, Geese Chasers is doing business in eight other states, including New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland — as far south as North Carolina and as far west as Illinois.
“And, we’re just getting started,” Young said.
That’s what brought Young, the CEO, his wife Deborah Young, the chief operating officer, and the owners of the North Jersey franchise, Brooke Bello and Joseph Bello, to the recent League of Municipalities event in Atlantic City.
Municipalities are one of the company’s core customers, joining country clubs, universities, private and commercial properties and sports teams (Geese Chasers has a contract with the New York Red Bulls — and used to service the Philadelphia Eagles).
Here’s how it works.
Geese Chasers has more than a dozen border collies in New Jersey. How they are used — and how often they are used — depends on the client’s needs, Young said.
The size of the property is one key. More important may be the number of ponds you have.
Young said Geese Chasers may come daily in the opening weeks, but then shift to 1-2 times a week as needed — and always on call, as needed, he said.
The dogs can come throughout the day, depending on when there is the fewest number of people on the property.
And, while Geese Chasers operates year-around (most clients are on yearly contracts), Brooke Bello said one key is to make sure you’re on board by mid-February to mid-March, when the geese have their offspring.
The price for the service is based on all of the factors above — with contracts as low as $250 a month to as high as $4,500, Young said.
Young has a quick wit and is media savvy. He should be: His company has been featured on dozens of media outlets in the past two decades. That’s why he has sound-bite ready answers to the two most obvious questions:
Q: Do the geese go away for good?
A: Nope. Just like your grass, they always come back. That’s why we have maintenance plans.
Q: Where do the geese go?
A: Hopefully, to our next customer.
The team feels it got a few new customers at the League of Municipalities event. Deborah Young said each day at the event’s expo brought a few dozen solid leads.
Bob Young said the interest shows him that, 20 years later, there still is a strong need for his services — and a strong desire for a business he stumbled into by accident.
He laughs at his good fortune.
“No kid has ever said, ‘Hey, mom, I want to chase geese for a living,’” he joked. “But that’s what we do, and we love it.”
Reach Geese Chasers at: geesechasers.com or call 856-912-2764.