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First place: Green Dragon Roach Kill

This year’s winner kills pests without toxic chemicals.

By Patricia B. Gray


WHAT IT DOES Produces an environmentally friendly, pet-safe insect killer


FOUNDER Jay Mullis, 30

LAUNCHED August 2006

STARTUP CAPITAL $63,000 in prize money from business plan competitions

Mullis is a fount of odd facts about cockroaches. For instance: Roaches
can swim. On land they scuttle at speeds up to three miles an hour
(yes, someone actually clocked it) but rarely venture more than ten
feet from their nest. They eat like truck drivers and tend to prefer
sweets, though some also like a dash of sour.

Mullis is so good
at understanding the roach that he’s building a business around
tempting their taste buds. He’s betting that roaches will eat his
gourmet bait, an environmentally friendly, pet-safe alternative to the
highly toxic pest-control products on the market. The main ingredient
is boric acid, which has about the same toxicity as table salt and
kills insects – including ants, silverfish, and roaches – by
dehydrating them. "People are going green at home," Mullis says. "They
want something safer than the chemical bombs."

He got the
recipe from his grandfather, who developed it in the 1980s. He had
mixed boric acid with other secret ingredients to create a sweet, moist
dough that could be placed behind appliances and in cabinets. The
result was so effective that he was able to build a thriving
pest-control business in Georgia. When he died in 1996, he left the
formula to his grandson. An MBA student at the University of Georgia,
Mullis decided to use the family recipe to fulfill his entrepreneurial
ambitions. He formed Mullis Enterprises, came up with the name Green
Dragon Roach Kill – "I wanted a mascot," he says, "something that could
be fierce or friendly like a dragon" – tweaked the formula a bit, and
devised a straw-shaped plastic container for dispensing the bait. "My
grandfather used to roll the dough by hand into balls – it’s that safe
– but people don’t want to touch a pest-killing product," Mullis
explains. He also began marketing it as a green solution with a kick
because, he says, his product scores a double kill, eliminating both
the roach that ingests the bait and any nestmates that munch on their
fallen comrade.

A competitor could try to reverse-engineer
Green Dragon’s product, but Mullis has applied for patents on the
formula and dispenser to keep copycats at bay. His biggest challenge is
obtaining EPA approval. To date, Green Dragon has spent $10,000 on
consultants to file the paperwork and on environmental studies required
by the agency. Mullis is an optimist, though. He intends to use a
portion of his winnings from other business plan competitions to set up
production in Danville, Ga., and then target large pest-control
companies that treat homes and commercial properties rather than go
straight to the retail market. Already, he says, he has orders from
four pest-control firms in the Southeast totaling $200,000: "Their
customers are asking them for a green solution. I’ve got it."

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