In the summer of 2003, Omar Soliman and Nick Friedman were preparing to begin their senior year of college. As in previous summers, the pair returned home to Washington, D.C., to earn a few extra bucks cleaning out basements, garages, attics and offices, toting away unwanted items in a rundown cargo van that belonged to Soliman's mother. Five years later, Soliman and Friedman have expanded their summer job into a multi-location franchise: College Hunks Hauling Junk.
The only junk removal franchise based in the United States, the company has nine U.S. locations, including Tampa, Fla.; Raleigh, N.C.; Richmond, Va.; Los Angeles; and Denver. The company employs about 100 students and last year serviced 7,500 clients.
Despite the company's rapid success, Friedman says he never envisioned himself as an entrepreneur, figuring he'd end up in an office somewhere following graduation. Although the premise of College Hunks Hauling Junk won first place out of 150 entries in an entrepreneurship program, the two friends at first found other jobs — Soliman in marketing and management and Friedman in finance. But they quickly decided it was not enough.
“We just had this epiphany,” says Friedman, now president of College Hunks Hauling Junk. “We looked at each other and said, ‘Why don't we take the business plan off the shelf and implement it on a full scale?’”
But, Soliman and Friedman didn't want to start an ordinary junk removal company. “The whole secret recipe to our success is the combination of a clean, unique, energetic brand that is atypical of a trash hauler or junk removal service,” Friedman says. “[We are] putting this client-focused, youthful and quirky marketing approach to the concept. It makes it more of a personal interaction to the people that we're servicing, not just a commodity or transactional service.”
College Hunks Hauling Junk services residential and commercial customers, removing items such as furniture, appliances, electronics, construction debris and yard waste in bright orange and green trucks. The company recycles more than 60 percent of what it collects. The rest is donated to charitable organizations or taken to a landfill. Even large collection firms, such as Phoenix-based Allied Waste, have contacted the company to remove items that they are unable to collect.
The youth-minded organization mainly recruits college students. Friedman says this not only helps the company live up to its name, but gives those students a chance to learn skills that will serve them in their eventual careers. “It is a unique opportunity for them because we treat each truck as if it's its own small business,” he says. “They're learning a lot of great tools and techniques, like customer service, sales [and] marketing.
Soliman and Friedman plan to expand into all major U.S. metropolitan areas within the next two years. “We're a customer service company first,” Friedman says. “We just happen to pick up junk and trash.”