Young entrepreneur joined College Hunks as an employee before making the leap to franchise ownership
New College HUNKS Hauling Junk and Moving franchisee Trent Lott has been studying business since he was a child. He grew up in an entrepreneurial family (“I joke that I went to the University of Rick Lott,” he says, referring to his dad), studied entrepreneurship at the University of Tampa, and, after graduating, set out to learn from another set of entrepreneurs: College Hunks co-founders Omar Soliman and Nick Friedman.
Trent recently opened his own College Hunks Hauling Junk and Moving of Central Florida, which serves all of Polk County, as well as parts of eastern Hillsborough County (Plant City) and Pasco County (Zephyrhills).
This is his story.
Congratulations on the launch of your business. The timing was fortuitous. Isn’t there a big festival near you?
Yes, the Strawberry Festival. It draws tens of thousands of people to Plant City every year, which is where we have our office. We made sure a lot of people saw our truck!
How far are you from the Strawberry Festival grounds?
I could literally jog there from my location.
You were a mover and junk hauler at one of the corporate locations in Tampa for six months. What made you decide to become an owner?
I always wanted to get into franchising, especially toward the end of my college career. I needed a summer job, and started at College Hunks, mentoring under Brandon Underwood and Acey Ignacio, and they really worked with me to help me understand the business as fast as possible.
Tell us about your background. There aren’t too many people launching businesses at the age of 22.
My dad is a small business owner. I always say that I went to the University of Rick Lott ever since I was a kid. His claim to fame is Zeno Office Solutions. He sold it a few years ago and is now doing an IT business called Zymphony Technology Solutions. Whenever I worked at his companies, I typically worked on the front lines, in the warehouse or in office doing administrative stuff. He helped me learn business. I would go out with some of the higher-ups in the company and shadow them. I would also shadow him all the time and go to his meetings, and he would always sit down and explain things to me. I loved it.
How do some of the things you learned from your father compare to some of the things you learned in the six months you worked at College Hunks?
From my dad, you could take a lot of his business principles and philosophies and his management style — it’s all solid. College Hunks was able to teach me a lot about the specific industry. They had all the knowledge that could be used to take my dad’s principles and combine them with industry experience to create a strong business.
You know, a lot of the franchisees that join College Hunks are your dad’s age. You sound like you might be part of a small group of owners who fit the traditional customer definition of “college hunk.”
(Laughs) My dad jokes about being the “Middle-Aged Hunk Hauling Junk” and I’m the “College Hunk.”
How do you all work together?
Typically I call him or he calls me a couple times a day and he guides me. Once a month we get together and I go over the financials with him and get a gameplan for the next month.
You could have chosen any number of franchises to start. How did you settle on College Hunks?
Nick Friedman spoke at the University of Tampa at the Entrepreneurship Center. I was not able to make it because I had class, but I looked up the company and read over a company analysis that a class had previously done about College Hunks. I just fell in love with the organizational culture and what the company is about.
What stood out about the culture?
I have always played sports my entire life. I played soccer at the University of Tampa for four years. One thing I liked about this company is it wasn’t just a bunch of guys working — it was like everyone is part of a team that comes together to go after a common goal. Whether it’s job completion goals or revenue goals, we are all in it together, and I really loved that about it.
A lot of business-minded college graduates pursue an MBA before starting their careers. Why did you decide to pursue franchising instead?
I was sick of being in classrooms. I wanted to go ahead and get going. I am a big risk-taker and I was ready to start my own thing. I will eventually get my master’s degree. Once I build this business up and have a great management team in place, I plan to let go of the vine a little bit and get an Executive MBA.
What do you like about owning the business?
I really love this place and the hard work of it. At the end of the day, after you work so hard, you’re like, “Yep, I got things done today.” I know that moving is a stressful time for a lot of people, so I like to make it as stress-free as possible and turn it into more of a fun experience.
Are there any touches you like to do for customers to make it more fun or take the stress down a notch?
I know some companies don’t allow their workers to talk to the customer, but I like my guys to build a rapport, talk to them, explain about College Hunks, ask why they’re moving and get to know them a little bit. Customers feel more at ease, and not like there are strangers in their house. We also try to sweep up after every job, take out the trash and make it extra clean for customers — little things like that.
How many trucks do you have? Are you doing both moving and junk removal already?
We have junk removal, and we just started offering moving. Our move truck just got here this week and it is a beast and I love it. It is the prettiest move truck I’ve ever seen in my life.
Did you finance that through College Hunks?
College Hunks has a partnership we do our financing through. They have been very good to us.
What would you like your customers to know about your business?
I always say that we take great pride in the fact that we are a very green company. We have not once gone to the landfill. We either take it to a recycling place where they repurpose everything or we donate to Lighthouse Ministries or Goodwill.
We take great pride in the fact that all of our workers are involved in the college process. They are either working their way through college, saving up to go back to college, or have just graduated from college and are looking for business experience before they go back for more education. I am about to hire a guy who works full-time, and he has a child getting ready to go to college, and he is going to work here to save money for his kids to go to college.
I always say that College Hunks is very interested in educating people. We teach our Hunks business skills so they learn how they can run their own business. We are very big on teaching them how to be the perfect Southern gentleman or lady. I have a deal where if one of the Hunks or Hunkettes doesn’t always say “please,” “thank you,” “ma’am” and “sir,” then customers get a little discount. I always want them to be bright, shining, smiling. Your smile is your business card.
What are your plans for the business?
One of our core values here is building leaders. The plan now for the guys that I have hired is to train them up so that we can open satellite offices — our territory is huge — and those guys can run the satellite offices for me. After this territory is fully developed, then I’d like to partner with some of them to open up new territories. That is how I see growing the business. We build leaders from the trucks up.
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