Alex Weatherholt, 39, learned to overcome obstacles early in life. At just 13, he moved out of his parents’ home in Fort Lauderdale to escape their drug addiction. He lived with friends, working construction and cleaning pools for a few years before joining the Navy at 20 to get a fresh start.
“That changed my life,” Weatherholt says, noting he became a tactical meteorologist and oceanographer. He spent the next 15 years traveling to duty stations all over the world, assisting his crew in carrying out missions, evading enemy radar and finding submarines. It was while stationed in Japan for 4 1/2 years that he met his wife, Akiko. They have a son, Arata, 4, and daughters Akari, 8, and Asuka, 10.
After returning from an overseas deployment, with rising gas prices and a long commute from his home to his base in California, he decided to buy a motorcycle. That decision changed his life once again. On the way to work, he was struck by a hit-and-run driver, severely injuring his right leg and ending his military career.
“I tried doing the [retirement] thing, but it doesn’t work. It’s so boring,” Weatherholt says. Operation Homefront, a nonprofit charity, had provided his family with a home in Naples. He knew he could use the home’s equity to start a business, so he began researching franchise opportunities.
Weatherholt spoke to about 10 different companies before discovering Pool Scouts, which has a monthlong vetting process and franchises in eight states. “Pool Scouts wanted to know me as a person,” he says. “They even gave me a personality test about leadership. They’re only trying to get quality people.”
He was officially approved to buy the Pool Scouts franchise in June of 2018, a lifetime away from cleaning pools as a teenager. Weatherholt says he was attracted to the company’s process, bringing standardization and a better customer service experience. “Pool Scouts resonated with me,” he says. “I’d dealt with water in the past. I know my chemistry.”
After several weeks of training, Weatherholt launched Pool Scouts of Naples North—serving Naples, Vineyards, Naples Park, Pelican Bay, Pelican Marsh and adjoining areas—in mid- September of 2018. He has one employee, who, like Weatherholt, is certified through the Aquatic Training Institute to service both residential and commercial pools, and 25 clients.
Weatherholt says his customers appreciate his company’s attention to detail, which includes emailing before and after pictures as well as information on 10 different chemical levels in their pools. He and his employee even give snowbird clients a heads up if they notice a broken window or other damage to the property. “We’re not the cheapest,” he says. “We’re the best.”
Weatherholt’s goal for expansion is to reach 50 customers by September and then hire a second employee. He’d like to reach 100 customers by the end of this year, triggering the addition of a third employee and another van.
He learned that mailers aren’t effective in gaining new customers in Naples. “Now, we’re focusing more on localized print advertising and reviews on Nextdoor.” He has also gained some clients through the local chapter of Business Network International (BNI) networking group.
Weatherholt says he expects to be revenue- neutral when he reaches 50 clients. “I’ll work on profits in the second year.”