Having flown countless missions around the globe as a former Air Force pilot, Jack Child, founder of BLACK DAWG SEALCOAT®, is frequently asked how in the world he wound up in the sealcoating business. "I often ask that of myself," laughs Child. But, when you dig deeper, you learn he's on a new mission - to reshape the asphalt maintenance industry - and he just might be succeeding.
Child flew seven years in the military and 15 years for a major airline, advancing to Captain, before losing his medical certificate. He needed a Plan B. Having previously owned a commodity-based venture, Child knew he wanted to start a service business where he could focus on the customer.
After researching all sorts of opportunities and businesses, Child found himself drawn to sealcoating. "I discovered no one had really created a national brand for this type of service, so I began my serious due diligence on the competition and the industry itself," he says.
And the more he looked, the more he liked. Child says that from a consumer standpoint, he found quite a bit lacking in terms of general information, standards, professionalism and customer service. He says sealcoating prices were all over the charts, the presentation of most contractors was lacking and, most compelling, was the glaring absence of a real brand the homeowner could turn to and trust to do the job right. Child viewed all of these weaknesses in the marketplace as opportunity.
Once he decided to become a sealcoating contractor, the first thing he did, and one in which he admits flowed greatly from pure luck, was to choose a name for his start-up. As a veteran in the post-9/11 world, friends had encouraged him to choose a name that reflected his military service and patriotism such as "All American Sealcoating," "Veteran Sealcoating," etc. Other contractors had jumped on that bandwagon, but Child says he was not comfortable doing the same. Then, while sitting at his desk scribbling various names for his concept, his black lab puppy, Olive, curled up at his feet - and Black Dawg was born. With the name being what it is, the logo was easy - a stylized profile head shot of Olive. This, too, would prove to be good fortune.
Next, he researched equipment, eventually deciding on an Equipt 825 sealcoat tank and a Keizer-Morris Crack Jet for his first truck. He ordered crew uniforms and yard signs and launched his website -www.BlackDawgSealcoat.com - even before he took delivery of the equipment.
Child says his mission to build a unique brand for the industry focuses heavily on creating a professional image - clearly rooted in his military and airline background.
Recognizing the challenge of keeping the seal rigs clean, an early decision was made to place the equipment inside a 20-ft. box truck. Child's concept is simple - keep the ugly part of the business out of view of the customer. The trucks are bright yellow or black to match the color scheme of the logo, and homeowners see a nice, clean truck with a prominent dog logo pull up in front of their home. The professional image continues from there as the technicians wear dark pants (no blue jeans or shorts allowed), yellow or black logo'd shirts and logo'd hats. Smoking is prohibited on the jobsite for appearance and added safety.
The response to his first ad took Child by surprise. "Customers love the name and the logo," he says. "We had been in business less than a week and people were saying they had seen our signs 'everywhere' and many thought we had been around for years. My very first call off a job's yard sign was very telling…the woman's voice was excited as she fawned over the dog logo. People wave and smile at my crews all the time. It really is remarkable. I realized immediately I was onto something very unique."