Phipps says if anyone ever sees her in public without something with a ladybug on it, she’ll give them $100.

Mrs. Phipps has a liking for ladybugs, which is the name of her business, Lady Bug Exterminating Co.

The longtime business owner also is serious about the profession, having been named recently to head the Chattanooga Area Pest Control Association.

It’s the second stint as head of the group for Mrs. Phipps, the organization’s only black president.

“The advantage of being the only black president of the association is the respect of my peers, confidence in fulfilling my duties and bringing new ideas to the association if at all possible,” she said. “I also serve as a positive role model to young African-Americans aspiring for success in the industry.”

 Wayne Holden, the association’s vice president and owner of Holden Exterminating, said Mrs. Phipps is plugged into the organization.

“She participates,” he said. “We’ve got confidence she can serve well again.”

Mrs. Phipps wants to grow the 41 dues-paying member association and add to its reach during her yearlong tenure.

 “We’re trying to do things for the community and let them know it’s not just out for ourselves,” she said. The businesswoman cited funds for a scholarship as an example.

The Mississippi woman has run Lady Bug Exterminating for 27 years. She came to Chattanooga in 1973 to work for a chain of pizza restaurants.

However, an acquaintance who worked for ABC Exterminating suggested she talk to the owner, who hired her.

Mrs. Phipps later decided she wanted to run her own business. She studied for the state exam which she passed in 1982. She believes she is the only black woman in the state designated as a licensed exterminator.

Mrs. Phipps said she came by the name of her business when her clients called her “the bug lady” when she showed up for jobs.

“My husband said turn the name around,” she said. “I didn’t want to lose the focus on bug lady.”

The business woman said her company has four employees and is growing. She won’t give 2008 revenues, but said the number was up about 10 percent over the year before.

However, Mrs. Phipps said, she doesn’t see revenues up that much in recession-plagued 2009.

“We haven’t lost any business,” she said.

Mr. Holden said he has lost two accounts, but he plans to go the next three to five months without charging them.

 “I’ll stick with them,” he said.

Mr. Holden said that while the exterminating business isn’t recession proof, many customers perceive the service as protection of an investment.

“They’ll do what they need to do to protect their homes,” he said. (MTIS)

Copyright 2009 Chattanooga Times Free Press, Tenn.