Ownership at Rytech of Mid-Hudson will remain in the family as owner Brian Starkey turns the reigns over to his daughter, Vanessa DiBernardino–who, along with her husband, must first overcome the challenges of running a household and their own business during a pandemic.
In 1983 he earned an Accounting degree from Pace University, then spent the next twenty years learning the ins and outs of the construction business. Brian Starkey was also in the insurance restoration field beginning in 1995 just before he moved into something decidedly more inflation proof—he bought a Rytech Franchise for the Mid-Hudson area of New York State, which includes 7 counties in the Hudson Valley.
Consistent with Rytech’s family atmosphere, Brian hired his daughter Vanessa to work for him and his company beginning in 2003. Vanessa, now married with four children and with the new last name of DiBernardino, says… “I have always helped my father and when the time was right for him he asked if I would like to take over the franchise!”
Today just 38 years old, Vanessa attacks the job head on. She’s earned certifications from the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) in WRT (Water Restoration Technician), ASD (Applied Structural Damage Technician), AMRT (Applied Microbial Remediation Technician) and FSRT (Fire and Smoke Restoration Technician). She is also separately certified by the State of New York as a Lead and Mold Remediation Supervisor.
“My husband and I run the company” she says. “I’m currently the Owner and Operations Manager and Mike is my lead technician, who also helps fill the role of Operations Manager, Business Development Manager, Marketing Specialist, laborer and Point of Contact for insurers and clients.”
According to Vanessa the coronavirus required the kind of improvisation no one could have anticipated. “We’re still building our employee base but as an essential business a lot of our original employees left due to fear of the pandemic.” Now Vanessa says, “since the outbreak… it’s been very tough recruiting new people. Everyone felt safer staying home instead of being on a jobsite.”
Speaking of home, the DiBernardino’ s have 4 children: Olivia 10, James 8, Hailey 7 and Mikaela barely one year old. “We’re still hoping to have more” she says but “our youngest was born last December and our older three are home remote learning.” She laughs while explaining that she and Mike have roles of new parents, principal, teacher, and cafeteria lady. “It’s been an absolute strange and chaotic year,” she exclaims, “but we have made it all work and are finishing our most successful business year to date.”
Believe it or not, there’s still spare time at the DiBernardino household. “My husband loves all sports and is incredible with his knowledge of past and present sports trivia.” This contrasts with Vanessa’s love of collecting handbags and “spending all our money” she jokes.
“He loves the Cowboys, Bulls and Yankees but his favorite thing is fast cars.” Vanessa, on the other hand, says…“I love playing baseball, basketball and football in our yard with the entire family, as much as we possibly can.”
The Future? Well at some point, of course, the virus will be gone, and the kids will be grown. And the Rytech Mid-Hudson Franchise will be ripe for another family takeover.
And that’s the big payoff for most Rytech owners. “My husband and I want to be able to purchase an enormous piece of property and build our dream home as well as homes for each of our children so we can all be close.”
Like Rytech generally, the appeal of being a franchise owner is that it’s about family. Stating the obvious Vanessa say’s “Family is our center.” And, both Mike and Vanessa proclaim their ambition is “to be successful enough to allow all our kids to have every opportunity to succeed whether with our family franchise or by choosing their own path.”
And to that we say… “Amen!”