Franchisee Spotlight: Zak Raffel

Zak Raffel, 28 years old, was born in Westchester County, New York and went to the University of Vermont in Burlington earning a business administration degree. After graduation, Zak came back to New York City and was searching for a career that was right for him. Zak started selling memberships at a local gym and then worked for a wholesale manufacturer of licensed sports and entertainment photography. After these jobs, Zak got a job with Godiva Chocolatier in the licensing department focusing on brand development and imaging, but soon realized the corporate world wasn’t his thing. He started looking for other opportunities and came across The Junkluggers.

How did you learn about the brand? I wanted a fresh start since I did the big company thing and it wasn’t for me. Professional environment became a big factor for me and when I saw the Junkluggers, and the potential to grow, I knew it was a great opportunity. Even though I took a pay cut, I was familiar with Junkluggers and really thought it was an environment I could thrive in.

Why did you choose an opportunity with Junkluggers? I loved the company and environment as well as its focus on going green. Coming from Vermont, the green industry remained in my mind as it’s really big in that state. There’s always recycling events, street fairs, that kind of thing going on. It was almost like you were an outsider if you weren’t doing your part.

Are you involved with any charities or do any community outreach with your business? Our organization continuously works with all kinds of charities on the national and local levels.

What challenges have you overcome to get where you are now? I always had it in my mind that I was going to be my own boss. I made some attempts early on, they didn’t pan out, but I still wanted to achieve this goal. I was too naïve and it was hard to stay positive at first, but with the support of my wife, I am really happy where I am now. I learned it doesn’t help to obsess about the “would of, should of, could of” in life and that you should be happy where you are in the present.

Do you have any superstar employees? What is their story? One guy in the office named Mauricio Hildago stands out for me. What makes him exceptional is at 25 years old, he has such a positive aura about him that permeates throughout the office. His positivity and energy makes Junkluggers stronger in this community.

What are your expansion or development plans? What is your end goal with Junkluggers? The initial goal is to focus in the Northeast corridor for growth. It’s important to us that we do this at the right speed and do it in a way we can truly control and support. We’ve leaned on consultants and networking opportunities to really understand the best way to go about this.

Right now, we’re at about 40 people in the system. It varies depending on the season. We peak in June, July and August, but start ramping up in March. We can get up to a staff count into the mid-fifties in the summer. Our territory size is 400,000 people, that’s with two trucks, which means we have about four to eight employees per territory region.

What are some of the publications you read? Local? National? What is your goal publication with your business? I subscribe to Success Magazine and get my other news online. I’m also an avid reader of personal development books, auto biographies and other stories about great individuals in the world.

Do you have any other interesting hobbies or passions? I am a huge skier. Part of my decision to go to Vermont was due to the ski slopes. I also love to spend time with my wife. We support each other’s hobbies by going to different events together. We also have a dog, she’s almost three and has tons of energy. We like to get out of the city and hike in the woods with her. Family is very important to us with her family in New Jersey and all of mine still in Westchester County.