Former financial executive recently started his College Hunks Hauling Junk and Moving franchise in Charlotte, North Carolina
After 22 years in the financial services industry, Danny Church was struck by a new investment opportunity. After years of balancing mutual funds, real estate investments, and other portfolio items for a succession of investment firms, he found himself captivated by an episode of the hit show “Shark Tank,” and the business model of a pair of brash young entrepreneurs who had started a business called College Hunks Hauling Junk.
As he watched from a hotel room in Bethesda, Maryland, he was intrigued by co-founders Omar Soliman and Nick Friedman, and how they had created a memorable and fast-growing brand by bringing a new level of service to an old — and universally needed — industry. “I liked their drive, their energy,” Church says.
So he decided to do what a good investor does, and he researched. What he discovered inspired him to become a franchisee. He opened his own College Hunks Hauling Junk and Moving franchise at the end of 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
This is his story:
What were you doing before you became a College Hunks franchisee?
I was in the financial services industry. I was what they call a wholesaler, working with investment professionals, teaching and training them about different types of investments. I enjoy training and teaching, and face-to-face interaction. What I didn’t enjoy was being away from my family. My job required a lot of travel. I was typically on an airplane Monday morning, and didn’t get back home until Wednesday or Thursday. I missed a lot of things I’d rather not have missed.
Running my own business allows me to spend more time with my family and in my community, and I still get to mentor and serve customers one-on-one.
I’ve been married almost 24 years. I’ve got four children. I’m really active in our church, which also has a school, and half of my employees have been graduates of the school, and they make really good College Hunks. A lot of folks in the church see our big, bright orange College Hunks trucks, and they stop me and they kind of curiously ask, “You’re not in the financial services industry anymore?” And I say, “No. I’ve made a total change.” And when they ask me what it is, and I tell them that I’m the owner of a junk-hauling business, I laugh about it. And then when I tell them the name of the business is College Hunks, and it always puts a smile on their face.
What convinced you this would be a good business to open?
The opportunity for growth in my market is huge. When I saw that episode on “Shark Tank,” I immediately went to Google to look up the College Hunks franchise. I only saw two or three junk-hauling businesses in Charlotte, and College Hunks wasn’t one of them. Obviously, they didn’t have a presence here. That’s why I stepped in to buy the franchise.
When you look at some of the revenue numbers that some are able to generate in this type of business, it was clear this could be a tremendous opportunity. Let me give you one example. Another location opened five years ago about three hours down the road in Raleigh, and they’ve taken it from a startup to very significant revenue. They have close to a dozen trucks in and out each day that they own and operate, both on the moving side and the hauling junk side. Charlotte and Raleigh are very similar markets, so I think there’s a fantastic opportunity here.
Who are your main customers?
Our main customers, generally, are the folks who are tired of all the clutter at home, whether it’s in a garage or a basement, or an attic, and they want somebody to come in and clean that out for them. On the moving side of the business, we tend to get a lot of referrals from real estate agents and from retirement communities where they have a lot of people who are downsizing and looking to move into a smaller place.
How does the corporate team support your growth?
I think the main way corporate helps us grow is through the online marketing and management. They are the ones who help us get set up with things like Google+ ads. They were the ones who helped us get set up with Home Advisor, entities like Yelp, etc. They’re the ones who are helping us generate leads, so I don’t have to go knocking on doors every day. They also provide marketing strategies such as focusing in on a certain neighborhood, making sure that the folks in that neighborhood, the potential clients, see our brand three or four times. It includes parking the trucks, which are very eye-catching, in those neighborhoods. It also includes having the Hunks, after a job, go to 10-20 houses around the job and put some door hangers up, as well as putting signs up in the yards. And then, that’s eventually followed up by mailing. We have a nice mailer that the corporate offices have put together. They’ve set us up with a good relationship with a company that will do those mailers for us. All of that marketing and advertising has been really helpful. In fact, that’s one of the reasons I bought the franchise. I don’t know why I would want to bang my head against the wall and figure all of that out, lose time and money trying to figure it out when somebody’s paved that road ahead of me.
What sets College Hunks apart as a business?
I think the people and principles. The people that are in the organization really care about the customer. We have a number of different principles we live by, but the one that spoke to me the most is one that they call “Listen, Fulfill and Delight.” Literally, that says they do more than a good job for the client; they want to go above and beyond and have the client not just fulfilled, but delighted in the job that College Hunks does. I think that’s what sets them apart more than anything else.
What kind of person makes a good College Hunks Hauling Junk franchisee?
I think the best College Hunks franchisee is somebody who has some experience dealing with customers in any kind of business, so that they know how to deal with the good, the bad and the ugly. They know how to deal with rejection. They’ve also had the experience of turning things around if there’s an issue that arises. I personally find that to be fulfilling, because I can go out to someone who is expecting a low level of service because of the associations they have with junk hauling, and we can come out and give them an estimate wearing a professional uniform and looking clean-cut, and then my Hunks follow me with the the same type of appearance and charismatic personalities. People expect moving and junk-hauling to be a blue collar, you-get-what-you-get-when-they-show-up type of business. I think College Hunks delights them by bringing a white-glove service mentality.
What does a typical day look like for you?
A typical day is meeting the Hunks first thing in the morning, giving them their assignments, talking them through the stops that they’re going to make throughout the day and getting them fired up so they go out with the right attitude. I’ve got a great crew, and they’re already really fired up, typically, when they show up in the morning. And then, I’m usually spending most of the day in the office working on new leads, and working on administrative tasks. I follow up with people and try to get new business on board. Then what I’ll try to do toward the middle or end of the day is meet up with the College Hunks out on a job site and see if I can’t lend a hand for a little while or if I can’t meet the customer face-to-face. As the end of the day is winding down, I make sure the trucks are either headed to the dump or to a donation center. Then they’re coming back clean, ready for the next day’s work.
What do you like about the business?
The bottom line is that I like the satisfaction that customers receive under what is normally a very stressful situation. Any time a customer is moving or they’re trying to un-clutter something, there’s automatically stress. And then the College Hunks show up and say, “You know, Mrs. Smith, you don’t need to categorize or sort anything out. Just point to it, and we’ll move that out of your situation and into ours.” And by the time we leave, in 99% of the cases, there is a sigh of relief.
What does franchise ownership allow you to do that you couldn’t do before?
Franchise ownership is ownership, so it allows me to call my own shots, to set my own schedule, to hire my own people. The part I enjoy the most is following up with customers to see if they were satisfied. They reply, in many cases, through online ratings services. It’s the difference between working for someone and running your own show, with some very good help from the corporate office.
Would you recommend this franchise?
I would wholeheartedly recommend it. Everyone is on the same page, and they’re working toward growing the franchisee’s business. Everything the corporate team does is a real bottom-up approach to help us become better and grow over the long term.
Learn more about College Hunks
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