Pest Friends––Creators of Natural Insect Repellent
No bugs in this partnership
Nantucket Spider, an environmentally friendly, non-toxic bug spray that is safe for adults, kids, and pets, is the brainchild of Nancy Jack and Jeffrey Busch.
When Nancy Jack moved from her native Canada to Wilton ten years ago, she left behind a job in environmental law and faced an uncertain future in her career. A problem-solver with an inquisitive nature, she struggled to reinvent herself and to decide what to do next.
It turns out that part of the answer was right in front of her, in the form of Jeffrey Busch. A lifetime Wiltonian, he’d left for a while to pursue his career as a public interest lawyer, before returning to his hometown. After an encounter at Starbucks where they initially met to set a play date for their kids, the two became close friends and, later, business partners.
The play dates soon morphed beyond the kids, and Jack and Busch developed a level of respect and admiration for each other that grew over the years. “She’s like my drug,” Busch says with a smile. “She’s become one of my best friends because, beyond being smart and fun, she’s really thoughtful and considerate. I’m really lucky.”
Busch describes Jack as something of a Renaissance woman. “She doesn’t have a TV,” he says. “She doesn’t need one because her mind is always active. She’s constantly thinking about some new thing—could be anything—product ideas, board games, or some life hack. She’s always looking for ways to make things better.”
The duo pondered many ideas, until one summer following a beach outing in Nantucket, Busch mentioned to a friend how much he loved the beach but hated all the horse flies, ticks, and mosquitoes by the surf. He wished aloud that there were some kind of “Nantucket spider” that could eat all the troublesome insects.
Ever resourceful, and mindful of her days as a girl battling black flies at her family’s cottage north of the 49th parallel, Jack began experimenting, formulating her own blend of essential oils, and testing the concoction during her summer trips back to Canada. True to her environmental interests, it had to be a natural product that was safe and pleasant to use on clothing, skin, and hair, and also fine for kids and pets. To make sure that she covered all potential allergens and sensitivities, Jack also wanted the product to be vegan and completely Deet- and soy-free.
“I like to make things, invent new ways to do things, so I tried just about everything,” says Jack. “I’m very persistent.”
“Her inventing-ness is part of her problem-solving,” Jeffrey adds. “But, she came up with a great product and we had a name, so Nantucket Spider was born, which was wonderful. But we didn’t know what we were doing,” he says, laughing. “At first we just sold some at the Westport Farmer’s Market in these Windex-like bottles, but we knew we could do better.”
Undaunted, the entrepreneurial team headed out to the local business community for advice. “Everyone at all of the local businesses was so helpful and supportive,” Jack remembers. “Nancy Dolnier at Village Market gave us pricing tips and our first real order, then Tom at Wilton hardware took some, so did Ed at Outdoor Sports, and Ray at Keough’s Hardware, who helped us with some packaging ideas. Ambler Farm, the barber shop, all of them gave us the support and confidence to keep going.”
The pair also credits much of their success to the mentorship support and insight from the Fairfield County chapter of SCORE, a free professional resource organization that provides new and existing businesses an opportunity to learn from experienced business leaders and retirees. “There are definitely some ‘Shark Tank’ moments,” says Busch, “but we learn so much from them.”
Indeed, in the past five years Nantucket Spider has grown from a home-brewed start-up (Jack’s husband finally kicked the business out of the family kitchen), to a real business with a production facility in South Norwalk and a warehouse space in Shelton.
They have dozens of sales reps and an online presence where they sell and promote their products as the “Official Bug Spray of Summer,” and now their modest bug spray idea has become a regional summer mainstay, available on Amazon, and in more than 800 retail outlets, including all Whole Foods stores in the northeast.
So, what’s the secret to having a successful friendship and balancing it with a business partnership? “We keep our priorities straight,” says Busch. “We remain good friends first, which is how we approach and solve business issues. Basically, we learn not to let anything bug us.”