Merchant Corner: Q&A with Bob and Cathy Bellis, Owner-Operators of Dryer Vent Wizard

Bob and Cathy Bellis are the owners of Dryer Vent Wizard of Central Jersey, a relatively new business based in Tinton Falls. Unlike most business startups, Dryer Vent Wizard adds another dimension aside from the standard “fill a niche in the marketplace.” What Bob and Cathy are offering their customers is a service business with a social conscience. It’s a business that has the ability to save lives and property and most of us don’t even know we need it! Our conversation is based on the evolution of Dryer Vent Wizard of Central Jersey and why YOU should be a customer.

Q: I’m meeting with Bob and Cathy Bellis, longtime Tinton Falls residents to discuss their new business, Dryer Vent Wizard of Central Jersey. What made you folks decide to purchase a franchise in this business?

A: Well, we’ve both worked for other people during our careers and wanted to have a business that was just ours as our children grew up and started to leave the home. We felt that making an investment now in a new business was a good idea. We researched different opportunities and settled on Dryer Vent Wizard last summer. We spent several months finalizing the purchase, training to learn the business and getting our business set up, so that once we were in someone’s home, we were experienced and capable of identifying issues and correcting them as needed.

Q: What made you decide upon Dryer Vent Wizard over other opportunities?

A: We knew that whatever business we started, we wanted it to have a connection to the community in some way. Having a successful business is great, but having one that actually has a positive impact on the lives of our customers in our local area was important to us as well.

Q: Prior to opening up this franchise, what was your primary occupation and are you still involved with that?

A: (Bob) I’ve been in sales and sales management for almost 30 years. Currently I am a District Manager with an HR services company. I continue to do that work, while Cathy runs the day to day operations of the business. She is also a veterinary technician part time.

Q: Is it difficult to juggle the various responsibilities of business ownership?

A: Being part of a franchise makes that part of the process so much more manageable. Our customers call directly into the scheduling center where the parent company has agents that can explain all of the services we offer, and answer any questions that the potential customer might have. In the event that there are some questions that the agent can’t explain, our technician is advised to call the customer back to resolve any outstanding questions or provide additional information. The support from Dryer Vent Wizard is very strong which allows us to be more effective in the field.

Q: So let’s dig into what your business offers to clients and why the services you offer are so important to every homeowner.

A: In a nutshell, we clean, repair, re-route and install dryer vent lines in homes and businesses that use dryers. We focus exclusively on the dryer vent line, which can become clogged with lint and even debris, such as bird nests, especially during this time of the year. Vent lines that are not cleaned regularly create a significant fire hazard over time. Over the last 20-25 years, the style of home building has changed. For convenience purposes it is not unusual to find the laundry room located in the center of the home. This means that the vent line is longer. Longer running vent lines means more degradation of airflow in the line, which often results in more lint buildup.

Q: Why is having poor airflow and lint in the line an issue?

A: In a word: Safety. Each year, over 15,500 dryer fires occur in the US resulting in 34 deaths, 430 injuries and over $209 million dollars in property damage. Failure to clean the dryer vent line is the leading cause of these fires. In addition to the safety factor, having a clogged dryer vent causes your appliance to work harder to dry your clothes. This reduces its efficiency and effective product life. It also increases utility costs as it takes comparatively longer to dry clothes with a clogged vent line than it does with one that provides clear ventilation during its operation. And having clogged dryer vent lines can cause mold to accumulate in your home as well as increasing the risk of Carbon Monoxide infiltration.

Q: Is Dryer Vent Cleaning an expensive or time consuming process?

A: The answer to both questions is a resounding NO! When comparing the cost of having to replace an appliance before necessary, the energy costs savings realized every month (estimated at $18-$24 per month) and the peace of mind that you and your family have, the cost is very reasonable. The average service time is approximately one to two hours.

Q: How often do you recommend having the dryer vent line cleaned?

A: Every 12 months or so depending on the number of people and pets living in the household. To encourage home owners to maintain their dryer vent lines properly, we offer a Lifetime Guarantee program. This discounts all future cleanings and post card reminders are sent out about a month before the cleaning is due.

Q: Is this a service that is limited to only residential customers?

A: Not at all. We do have a number of commercial clients that have washers and dryers on-site for cleaning towels, clothing, etc. Nail spas, day spas, day cares, physical therapy facilities and car washes, just to name a few. Laundromats are also a big user of dryer vent cleaning since their machines are at work nearly around the clock.

Q: You mentioned at the beginning of our interview that one of your objectives in finding a business was to select one that also had a component of community service/outreach. How have you been able to integrate that into your first year as Dryer Vent Wizard of Central Jersey?

A: Well, for starters we feel like just educating people about the potential dangers of NOT performing dryer vent cleaning is a community service. Most people just don’t know about the importance of regular maintenance of their dryer vent lines. But we’re working with local fire departments, condominium associations and over-55 developments to make sure they are aware of the why, when and how’s of this important service, especially since so many people have non-compliant flexible dryer vent lines which are not allowed under the building codes.

(Cathy) There are so many important organizations that help people, but because our business tries to prevent fires and injuries due to poor dryer vent maintenance, Dryer Vent Wizard has selected the Children’s Burn Foundation as our charity of choice. Dryer Vent Wizard also donates $500 annually to two fire departments across the country based on their community education programs.

- Paul J. Abrams, The Today Paper, April 2015

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