Andy Weins is a U.S. Army Veteran and the co-founder of the companies Camo Crew Junk Removal and Green Up Solutions.
Weins and his team offer environmental consulting and junk removal services, and through national and local partnerships, they have achieved an 80 percent diversion rate with the material they handle. He’s also passionate about learning and sharing what he knows. On his Trash Talk Business Podcast, Weins and his co-host speak with industry leaders and share their own advice for growing a successful junk removal business.
In this Q&A interview, Weins, a 40 Under 40 award winner, talks with Waste360 about his care and his commitment to empowerment, the environment and education.
This interview has been edited for length.
Waste360: What are some of the services you offer?
Weins: We do business as Camo Crew Junk Removal. Green Up Solutions is the consulting arm, and Camo Crew is the execution arm. We operate a residential and commercial junk removal operation, with a focus on environmental sustainability and recycling. We have a 20,000 sq. ft. facility, and we reverse engineer the supply chain, and develop relationships and partnerships to keep material out of the landfill.
The second arm is consulting with other junk removal companies. Through our podcast we give away a lot of information, between the podcast and YouTube, to other people in the industry, and what that does is it adds global professionalism within junk removal. And, then, we share relationships. I introduce recyclers to other local haulers so that we can develop the best solutions to keep all of these materials out of the landfills.
The third aspect is large companies call me that have complicated projects, where they need either supplemental labor and/or expertise to resolve a solid waste issue.
Waste360: When did you found your company and what brought you to the industry?
Weins: In February 2016, we officially founded Green Up Solutions. I started doing junk removal on the side, back in 2009, with my company called Clutter Busters, which was basically me and a van and a good attitude. I was a scrapper. I drove up and down the northwest side of Milwaukee, primarily, and the surrounding suburbs, and would pull appliances off the road and take them to the scrap yard. On occasion, I would do jobs here and there, and, at some point, I realized people would pay me to go into their houses to take appliances out, and there was more money in it than the back end.
Because I started with the back end in mind, I started by getting paid by only recycling, that is what my bread and butter was. A lot of people in the junk removal industry, they get paid on the front end to take things away, and then they take them to the landfill, and they go to the next job. Because I only got paid on the back end to start, I started my entire business by reverse engineering. I said, “How do I maximize the value of everything I pick up?” Because of that, our entire business philosophy, from the ground up, started differently than most companies that are in the junk removal space.
Waste360: Quality and sustainability are the values of your business.
Weins: Absolutely, the three pillars we have within our business of Camo Crew, are empowerment, environment, education. Empowerment is all about bringing on our veteran team, primarily veterans, and also other individuals who have possibly struggled with employment throughout their career. We give them career opportunities and advancement opportunities. We also work with a lot of veteran organizations and seniors, because that’s a primary market for us.
The second is environment, and that’s developing sustainable solutions for all the customers that we interact with, whether that’s a company that’s got a really good sustainability initiative and wants to partner with us, or it’s a homeowner that wants stuff gone and doesn’t really care where it ends up, we’re still environmentally-focused.
The third part is education. That’s our podcast where we put out free content and deliver solutions to other people in the junk removal industry, about how to be more efficient, effective, and environmentally responsible as a junk removal company. I also speak at high schools and colleges about entrepreneurship, small business ownership, and the environment.
Waste360: How does your military service connect to your business story?
Weins: I have been in the Army Reserves for 19 years. I spent a year in Iraq, as a truck driver, learning the tactical end of how to operate trucks and trailers, and run a motor pool. There’s a science behind how to set up your yard and being efficient. I spent a year in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and I worked in the facilities there. What I learned in my time there is operations: how do we make things systematic and repeatable?
I’ve taken those two mindsets, along with the training—I was nominated to weapons instructor, I’m a master resiliency trainer, and I was a career counselor—I’ve taken all these things and blended them, to say, what are the best of all these things, and how do we run a small business with big business accountability and responsibility?
On top of that, about half of our guys, consistently, are veterans. With veterans, we do things different. We run our businesses different. We have a different language, a different set of values and culture. We respect each other’s time; we work hard throughout the week, and we also understand the importance of home time.
Waste360: Why do you think it’s important to share your experience and the professional learning you have gained through conferences and trainings with others in the industry?
Weins: That’s how we grow, as humans. I want the junk removal industry, especially, to have a higher level of professionalism and responsibility. One of the biggest things I hear consistently from people that are newer in junk removal or did not have a waste industry background, is “I didn’t realize I could recycle this or I could recycle that. I didn’t know where to start.” They often get so caught up in their own business that they don’t think about recycling. They don’t look at it like, how do I keep material out of the landfill? That’s not a top priority to them.
For me, it’s all about giving the answers away for free. I don’t expect anybody to go out there and figure out all the stuff I figured out, because I didn’t figure it out on my own. My dad, my grandfather, they taught me how to run a business, how to be environmentally responsible. My great-grandfather owned a scrap yard, back in the 1930s. This is something I grew up with. I grew up with this knowledge and desire to scrap and to recycle.
Knowledge is power. We can sit back, and say, I want to make the world a better place, or we can do something about it. I choose the latter.