In celebration of our 25th year in business here is a look back at our logo and name changes over the years.
Where it all started:
The year was 1996 and I needed a job while I went to graduate school in Occupational Therapy. One of the guys I played basketball with on a weekly basis mentioned they made good money cleaning windows. My friend Tim Parker (a fellow graduate of Austin College) was also looking to make some extra money. So, on the bleachers of the gym at Thomas Jefferson High School in Dallas where we played weekly pick up basketball games, Tim and I decided to start our own window cleaning company. But what to call it? Primarily it needed to be a strong and memorable name but also one we could agree on. The mascot of Austin College is the Kangaroo so that seemed to be the perfect name.
Tim was a Biology teacher and I was a social worker so money was really tight. We headed to the Window Cleaning Supply store with much trepidation and with absolutely no idea what we were doing or what we should buy. The store owner was very helpful and guided us to the bare minimum of what we needed to get started. We each spent about $500 (which we didn’t really have to spare) on equipment and supplies. One of Tim’s family friends in Oak Cliff said we could clean their windows for practice. Unfortunately, they had storm windows which are the hardest windows to clean because you have to take them apart and they are usually really dirty. We thought we had made a terrible mistake but vowed to market to only newer homes with easy to clean double pane windows. A realtor found our door flyer and gave us a shot, and we bid it at $90 thinking it would take us a couple of hours. Eight hours later we finally finished and learned a lot of valuable lessons. She did tip us $10 so we each made $50 with the minimum wage at $3.35 was double what we would have made flipping burgers.
Our original logo was something I found pre-Google in the clip art of Microsoft Word. We used it on thousands of door hangers we passed out that first summer.
The year was 1997 and I was now in the midst of Graduate School. Money was tight because we were surviving on my wife’s meager salary as a beginning teacher. I passed out a lot of door hangers and word started to spread that a starving grad student needed the work. I upgraded to a Ford Ranger from my Honda Civic so I could carry more and bigger ladders. Everyday, I would drive to campus for class and then afternoons and weekends I would clean windows. My classmates started asking if they could help so I would put them to work on larger homes. I was able to pay them much more than minimum wage, so they were always happy to help.
After I graduated, I couldn’t find work as an occupational therapist so I just kept plugging along. I employed one of my grad school classmates for a year after graduation because he couldn’t find a job either. I was offered one job as a traveling OT working between 4 different nursing homes and making about the same amount as I was cleaning windows! I always wanted to have my own business, so I decided to stick with it. So, I paid a local graphic designer to create this logo. We used this same Kangaroo logo for many years to come.
The year was 1999, which was a couple of years before we had kids. As a window cleaner sometimes, I would take risks that I should not have considered. Here are some examples:
- In order to reach tree to reach a second story window, I once tried to put a ladder through a tree and brace it on a branch of the tree. Physics took over when I reached the top and the branch acted like a see saw which I rode all the down basically un-hurt.
- I set up my extension ladder inside a mansion with a polished marble entryway with nobody holding the bottom. Only after I reached the top did it suddenly start to slide. I had to rappel down and landed on the front mat basically un-hurt.
- Working at a house in the city of Plano that still had a wood shake roof, I set up my ladder and was walking around the roof to clean the second story windows. I didn’t notice that the AC condensate line was dripping right over one of the windows creating a slick/mossy surface on the shingles. I face planted, slid off the roof, grabbed the seamless gutters on the way over, which gave out, and collapsed the patio umbrella. I bounced off the table and fell into the swimming pool! I was basically un-hurt except for my pride because the homeowner was on the back porch and saw the whole thing while talking on the phone, “Hey Diane I have to go my window cleaner just fell off the roof.”
Now that I was more than a year out of graduate school, I now realized this business was going to be my full-time job. So, I needed to increase my income and naturally thought about windows since I cleaned them every day. Many of the windows we cleaned were foggy and/or broken so repairs entered my mind. When one of my competitors met me for lunch and handed me a $20 bill as a referral fee for windows he had repaired for my customer, I realized I was on the right track. I started doing glass/screen replacement and learned how to measure and install solar screens. Since we did more than window cleaning, we now needed a new logo and name. So, we used the same logo but changed the name to Kangaroo Windows and headed into the new century.
The year was 2001 and there were a lot of changes in my life and in the United States. In March we had a first child, so my wife stopped working as a teacher. I was now the sole bread winner! We had bought a house so now it was time to be a real grown up! I looked around and realized I needed to step up my game, so we branched out into handyman services, power washing and even dipped our toes into commercial cleaning. On a trip to Baltimore, I had run across a company called GumBusters that had a machine that would dissolve gum one piece at a time. I bought a franchise and started marketing to local strip centers. My biggest sale was cleaning the parking garages at Love Field Airport in Dallas. The biggest drawback was all work must be performed with nobody around. With most commercial cleaning happening at night, I quickly realized this was a non-starter especially with a new family. I also discovered that hot pressure washers blew gum away many pieces at a time so, the GumBusters franchise died on the vine.
We continued to expand into more and more home repair and remodeling projects during the early 2000s. I had past experience doing that kind of work for two reason. First, my father, who grew up on a farm and was very handy, didn’t believe in paying for any home services work. Growing up we did all the home repairs around our house and we had a lawn care business and had to maintain our own equipment. Second, I spent a gap year after high school building houses for Habitat for Humanity in Americus, Georgia. The highlight of the time there was building an entire house in one day alongside former President Jimmy Carter. So, I did have some experience but a lot of it was working with sub-contractors which I quickly learned promised the moon and rarely delivered. During this time, I met Marco who was recently laid off by a home builder that went bankrupt. I quickly realized that he was an incredibly hard worker that was truly a jack of all trades and master of all of them. Twenty years later he is still working with us and is the core of or our home remodeling business.
Since we were expanding and decided to incorporate, we needed a new name to encompass all of our new offerings so Kangaroo Building Services, Inc was born.
The year was 2008 and things were not going well for Kangaroo or for our country. Things started slowing down in late 2007 and the beginning of 2008 was even worse. We were holding on by a thread, the expansion during the early 2000s was too quick and our overhead was crushing. By August, work had pretty much ground to a complete halt especially after Lehman Brothers went under and the stock market/housing market cratered. I went to one of my dependable customers in the Park Cities who wanted to prepare for a going back to school party for his family. We went room to room, and he paced back and forth and was biting his fingernails. He would often get distracted and stop and watch the TV that was tuned to CNBC, Of course, all of the news was dire, and he vacillated on what he wanted done in terms of cleaning and painting. Finally at the end, he told me to take it easy on him with the estimate because he had, “lost north of $100,000 today” and wasn’t sure how he was going to recover. Afterwards I sat in my car in complete shock. If this guy was hurting what chance did I have to survive this economic meltdown? At the time, we were on the verge of the next Great Depression, and I had no idea what I was going to do to make ends meet. I went home and started working on my resume and applied to be a manager at several area pharmacies.
But, in early September, Hurricane Ike slammed into Houston with 110 mph winds and caused significant damage. I had no experience selling roofs but figured I had nothing to lose? So, I drove down and started cold calling roofing companies. Only one returned my call and it was a female roofer that had over 400 people to call back. Needless to say, she was thankful for the help as I was for the work. To say it was a wild ride for the next 7 months would be an understatement. I slept on my brother’s dining room floor and installed as many roofs as I could as quick as I could. Working for this other roofing company I learned exactly what NOT to do when running this type of business. She alienated customers, did not pay her vendors and crews, and refused to do any warranty work. There is a book’s worth of crazy stories from my time in Houston that I will have to write someday.
There were crews and roofers from literally all over the country in the Houston area because everyone was out of work at this time. A trip to Home Depot or the roofing supply store was a 1-2 hour ordeal every time. There were police officers posted outside the doors to ABC Roofing Supply that would screen people coming inside because fights had been breaking out. Thankfully by April of 2009 things started picking back up back in DFW so I headed home. I had learned a ton about roofing and insurance and realized I could harness that knowledge into a new vision for our company that we finally dubbed Kangaroo Contractors (fourth and final name change!)
The year was 2011 and I had completed all the necessary training to become an Insurance Adjuster. After I came home from Houston, I went through adjuster training and got my license. I signed up with a company called Renfroe and they eventually deployed me to a large hailstorm in the Spring of 2011 in Knoxville, TN. They called on a Wednesday and said that I had to be there Friday by 8AM. I quickly got everything wrapped up on Thursday but realized it was a 14–15-hour drive. I did not leave McKinney until 3 PM and I drove all night and finally arrived at 6 AM. I somehow survived on a diet of Monster Energy Drinks and coffee. I was so hopped up; I stayed awake through all day training and didn’t go to bed until midnight the next day.
This was a year with a lot of tornadoes and hailstorms, so I had arrived at approximately the 200th catastrophe center that had opened that year. I was way down on the deployment list as a newbie adjuster, so they had clearly run out of seasoned adjusters. We went to a crash course for a couple of days in Knoxville on how to adjust for State Farm and then we were set loose with 50 claims that had to be completed as soon as possible. We had access to trainers and managers at the catastrophe center that would help us write the estimate, but we were on our own doing the actual inspections. After about a week, all those managers left for Joplin, MO that had been devastated by an F5 tornado, so we were truly on our own.
I quickly discovered that Knoxville was very hilly with lots of 2 story homes with basements. There really was a need for 32-foot extension ladders and since many of the homes were very steep. There is nothing like manhandling a super heavy ladder and trying to get on a steep roof by yourself. This was at a time when aerial measurements were just starting to get more prevalent but many of the homes were in new neighborhoods that had not been measured yet. Lots of hand measuring of 8000 square foot beasts were done by yours truly.
I worked 14-hour days for 3 weeks straight including weekends and I was beat. I turned in my credentials and I made a mental note that I would only do that again under the most dire of conditions. Previously I had been told on multiple occasions I couldn’t pay for what should have been covered by the insurance carrier. But I learned now I can countermand them as a contractor for my customers.
We decided to make the logo more up to date and simple and this was the new logo for 2011.