This Chicago Native Makes History As First Black Woman CEO With Pest Control Product In Home Depot
Southside Chicago native and CEO Robiar Smith is breaking barriers in the pest control industry by becoming the first Black woman to have her bug spray product on shelves in Home Depot.
In an interview with The Chicago Defender, Smith talked about her parents and how they taught her the value of an education. A Chicago Public Schools system graduate, she earned multiple business and information technology degrees and held several corporate America roles.
However, in 2015, Smith wanted more for her life and turned to her father, Michael Benton, for advice. He was an independent pest control technician in Southside Chicago for 40 years but never owned a pest control company. For years, Benton encouraged his daughter to take the necessary steps to be part of the pest control industry.
A year later, Smith took the extermination exam multiple times until she passed it. She then founded R.B. Pest Solutions, and her passion for pest control inspired her to do groundbreaking work in the business venture.
“When we started the company, and we’d go out on jobs, people were surprised to see me actually doing the work,” Smith told the newspaper.
While the pest control industry is male-dominated, Smith couldn’t understand why being a woman was a big deal. She relied on her corporate background and education, turning R.B. Pest Solutions into a successful business.
“Like everything you see, from the websites to the logos, everything I designed. I didn’t go to someone else. I did those things myself, and I’m a product of Chicago Public Schools and the urban city of Chicago,” Smith said.
She also expressed the importance of representation for Black women in this field.
“More people need to understand that we [Black women] can be in this space, and we can dominate it as well,” Smith stated.
Seven years later, R.B. Pest Solutions became the fastest-growing pest control company in the Midwest. Smith released her first product, Bug Strike, appearing on the black carpet at the BET Awards and several other media outlets.
Smith also secured government, city, commercial, restaurant and facilities contracts, making history with a pest control company as a Black woman. In addition to serving Chicago, the company is now in Indiana and plans to open a third location in the city, per the Chicago Defender.
The entrepreneur hopes to inspire young Black girls to enter the pest control industry.
“It really is a confirmation to continue going because my purpose for it was legacy,”s he said. “My family, me being able to be a representative for little dark-skinned Black girls from urban areas, to see how I could have on a pest control uniform doing the work, and then shift to a power suit and run the company. The representation drives me, and as a result, these accolades confirm that I’m doing God’s work. They let me know I’m doing the right thing.”