When their new franchise launches around the start of 2021, Tina Kaduck and Christopher Pfanstiel will have three full-time employees, all of whom had been furloughed or laid off from their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We didn’t specifically set out to do everything we could to create jobs. We thought it was an exciting venture,” Pfanstiel said. “It has a cool ripple effect, more than just that Tina and I are in business.”
The Peters Township residents, both graduates of Upper St. Clair High School, have signed an agreement to own four territories in Western Pennsylvania for Koala Insulation. The Melbourne, Fla.-based company has experienced rapid growth, awarding more than 100 territories since its founding in August 2018.
Meanwhile, Kaduck’s job as a restaurant manager had been cruising right along until the pandemic forced closures, seating capacities and other business-inhibiting measures. Along with the negative effect on her own livelihood, she was hearing similar comments among her colleagues.
“Is this really what’s going to be stable for me, forever?” she said she was told. “Is this the right career for me?”
At that point, she and Pfanstiel, her boyfriend, decided to take the plunge into the world of franchise ownership, a longtime goal of his. They credit Pittsburgh-based franchise consultant Chris Cynkar with steering them in the right direction.
“We met with Chris really to help us identify what a good franchise concept would be, and if we’re even good people to own a franchise. He felt like we could be a good team, and he introduced us to a few concepts,” Pfanstiel said.” And the concept that blew us away was Koala.”
Although they’ll admit to scant advance knowledge of the insulation business, the couple were impressed by members of the Koala management team as “the right people to building a long-term relationship with,” Pfanstiel said.
He already has built his own business in another field as the founder last year of Axias Wealth Advisors in Green Tree. This year has been a good one, despite the pandemic.
“We were really fortunate in that we were there for our clients, and they told their friends who were nervous about the market or unsure what to do,” Pfanstiel said,” Our clients kept telling other people to call us.”
As a result, Axias added three full-time employees, around the time that Kaduck was being furloughed.
“That allowed us to make it a really easy decision, that her future ought to be in something, one, a little more recession-proof, and two, it ought to be in something that we, together, can own and enjoy,” Pfanstiel said. “And finally, something that offered a little more potential for work-life balance, maybe not immediately.”
The restaurant business, as those who have worked in it know well, isn’t exactly a 9-to-5 proposition. Plus a little versatility goes a long way.
“I was a front-of-house manager, but if the person on pantry in the kitchen didn’t come in or the person on the dishwasher didn’t come in, I would go back there,” Kaduck said. “When it came time for us to look for a franchise that I was going to operate, it wasn’t so much important to me about the initial concept as it was for something I could roll into and kind of be a chameleon, and still have that management background.”
As such, she appreciates the Koala philosophy of teaching everyone involved to know every aspect of installing insulation.
Kaduck, Pfanstiel and their soon-to-be employees are scheduled to attend training in mid-December, and they expect to be ready to serve customers, anticipated to be mostly residential, a couple of weeks later.
In addition to performing work that can help increase property value while decreasing power usage, Pfanstiel and Kaduck look forward to operating a business that is not as susceptible to changes in health-related policy and shifts in the economy.
“When I’m employing people, I feel better knowing if something else happens, you all are still going to be able to have a job. I’m not going to have to lay you off,” Kaduck said.