The Woman Behind Onsite Pro Can Faces Heckling in a Rough-and-Tumble Men’s World

When Carolyn Kahle pulls up to a Texas construction site and starts cleaning restrooms, she has to work to assert her spot in a male-dominated environment

The Woman Behind Onsite Pro Can Faces Heckling in a Rough-and-Tumble Men’s World

The Onsite Pro Can team includes (from left) Kilee Steele, Carolyn Kahle, Doyle Brown and Heather Bayliss. In the background are a truck from FlowMark Vacuum Trucks with a Masport pump and PolyJohn restrooms.

On her travels in the construction industry, Carolyn Kahle had grown tired of seeing dirty portable restrooms. Frustrated, the 33-year-old from Texas did something others may not have done — opened her own business with a supportive father, marketing moxie and a drive to do better.

Kahle launched Onsite Pro Can in Boerne, Texas — about 10 miles north of San Antonio — in 2017. With a background in construction and heavy machinery, she started her company with 28 purple and lime green PolyJohn restrooms and a 2017 Ford F-350 with a Lely Tank & Waste Solutions slide-in tank.

“I wanted to create a product that stands out,” she says. “When you’re driving down the road, my goal was to be 100 percent identifiable and be very visible to everyone in a professional manner.”

Now after only a year in business, she is up to 350 PolyJohn units, has a second home base (in Kerrville) and runs routes with two other female employees, Heather Bayliss and Kilee Steele. Onsite Pro Can serves a 60-mile radius in the Hill Country in Central Texas, pumping holding tanks, as well as offering portable restrooms.

At its two locations, Onsite Pro Can has four trucks in its fleet. Its Boerne location has the 2017 Ford F-350 with a 400-gallon waste and 200-gallon freshwater Lely Tank & Waste Solutions stainless steel tank and a 2013 Ford F-550 with a 900-gallon waste and 400-gallon freshwater aluminum FlowMark Vacuum Trucks tank and Masport HXL4 pump. 

Its Kerrville location operates a 2001 Isuzu NPR with 500-gallon waste and 250-gallon freshwater steel Dyna-Vac tank, Masport HXL4 pump, and four-unit carrier with lift gate and a 2007 Isuzu NQR with 600-gallon waste and 300-gallon freshwater Keith Huber steel tank and Masport HXL4 pump, with two-unit aluminum fold-down gate carrier.

WORKING IN A MALE-DOMINATED BUSINESS

1. When Kahle started her business, construction workers would stop and watch her clean every toilet, often noting that they had never seen a woman do that work. But Kahle finds that engagement a great opening. “It impresses and encourages them to talk about our business more,” she says. But not every encounter is positive; Kahle notes she sometimes gets heckled. “In certain instances, I’ve had to earn the respect. One thing I’ve learned is as long as you’re respectful, you know what you’re talking about, you know what you’re doing … you’re just one of the guys,” she says.

And while some in the industry may cringe at the word “potty,” Kahle embraces it. “I call myself the Potty Lady; I do that so that people remember.” Women have come up to her and said, “I’ve seen your videos; you’re the Potty Lady. … We’re proud of you doing this in a man’s world.”

“At the end of the day, they all remember (the name).”

Kahle has not registered as a woman-owned business yet, but that is on her to-do list. “We’ve been overwhelmed with the growth; it is important and it can help win different contracts; it has a lot of advantages.”

2. MEETING THE NEED FOR CONSTANT EXPANSION

In May 2018, only a few months into her business, Kahle had grown by 40 to 50 percent and she now operates out of two locations. “It’s been extremely hectic,” she admits. “From the very beginning, I did projections. … I more than doubled these goals; it’s been difficult to keep up with the growth pace.”

Recently, Kahle acquired another company, adding about 90 units and two service trucks to her fleet. “There have been many challenges in the acquisition,” she says, such as trying to switch out old inventory with new restrooms, wanting to maintain her recognizable color scheme. “We did make a very large investment,” she says, “But as the business has grown, so have our margins, and our cash flow has been able to support more and more.” If growth continues, Kahle says, she would consider opening another location or possibly, down the road, adding roll-off containers.

3. BUILDING A GREEN REPUTATION

Onsite Pro Can uses only biodegradable, nonformaldehyde chemicals from J&J Chemical, and Kahle adds, “We literally recycle everything. We recycle all of our boxes; everything that comes in a case — toilet paper, shipment boxes — those are all broken down and recycled. All of the plastic bottles for cleaning solutions are recycled. The only thing that goes in the trash is plastic wrappers, and the trash bin only gets emptied every two or three weeks.” Even toilet paper rolls are put to good use. Empty rolls are bagged and sent to a local primate rescue facility, which uses them as play items for the animals. Partial rolls are donated to homeless shelters and/or hurricane relief. Their focus on sustainability “has gotten us a lot of attention,” Kahle says. “For me personally, I have kind of an obsession with recycling. … It’s important just in general for the environment.”

4. ADAPTING TO SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING

In high school, Kahle helped her father with office work at his business, but later worked in Spain doing tourism rentals and business development. That eventually led into roles in marketing and consulting. And these days, while she’s not aggressively marketing in any of the traditional ways, she is very active on social media. “We have a Google listing,” she says. “I think that’s your very first step, especially if you’re starting a new business; everybody’s on the internet looking for services.”

With younger users on Instagram, Kahle finds that an important outlet as well. She uses the hashtags #pottylady, #toiletTuesday, #weeweeWednesday and #procanFriday. “I have gotten a few sales off Facebook and Instagram,” she say. “At first, that was very shocking to me, but that one customer could mean 5, 10 or 15 customers down the road. I think it’s more of a building block; it’s a way for us to direct people to photos,” says Kahle, who linked the Instagram account to her business Facebook page so posts will appear on both.

Joining organizations such as the Portable Sanitation Association International and attending their events, as well as the Water & Wastewater Equipment, Treatment & Transport (WWETT) Show, have been important. “The people involved in this industry are the salt of the earth; they are so kind; they have all kinds of experience they are willing to share. It’s kind of a brotherhood and family where everyone wants everyone to succeed.”

5. WORKING TO MAINTAIN HIGH CLEANING STANDARDS

From the start, Kahle was focused on keeping the units clean. “People do notice and appreciate it … especially women and kids. It makes me feel good, and it makes the community happy,” she says. Her website actually “guarantees” her clients and end users will be happy. “I do guarantee if you call me, I will personally go out and clean it … top to bottom, inside the tank. I’ve never had any complaints.” She realizes customers sometimes like to cut costs and may not have units serviced as often as they should. But Kahle says part of her job is working with event promoters to ensure proper usage. “If they want to order fewer restrooms, I will require that they are cleaned more often,” she says. “I’ll walk through the scenario with them.”  



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