From Nothing To Something: The Story Of The Junkluggers
It all started with an old refrigerator.
As I was sitting around a campfire in Australia, a friend said he hauled away someone’s fridge for a hundred bucks. It seemed so easy: take away people’s junk and get paid to do it. I thought it was the perfect business opportunity as a college student, and this early idea was the first iteration of my company The Junkluggers.
I didn’t think that this would be something I would pursue as a full-time career. But The Junkluggers went from a one-man mission to a franchised company in only a matter of years. It’s thrilling to see how my core beliefs are something that so many other people want to be a part of and share.
This is the story of how The Junkluggers has grown since our start in 2004. Let’s dive into the first junk haul.
People had limited options when it came to house clean outs, construction project cleanup, or simply getting rid of their junk. They could do one of two things: either get a Dumpster or haul the junk out themselves. Junk removal services were a viable third option, but customers needed to know why this was worth their money. They needed a reason to choose my junk removal service. That’s when I realized an eco-friendly business was appealing to customers. And I stand behind those values to this day.
As a college student, I used Microsoft Word to create flyers for stuffing mailboxes.
When I received a complaint, I started taping flyers to mailboxes and front doors. And when this resulted in some angry calls, I pushed on because I realized this business was a numbers game. For every 100 flyers I passed out, I got one junk removal job. That’s when I realized that people could support this business.
One thing stood out to me every time I drove away from a customer’s home in my mom’s SUV (and later, in a truck named Old Rusty). These people weren’t just looking for someone who would grab their stuff and help them clean up. They wanted someone who cared about their junk and the stories behind it. It might have looked like junk on the surface, but these were sentimental items, and they didn't want their memories just thrown away. I saw then that there was value in offering empathy-driven customer service.
This emotional tie continues to be a key component of our junk removal service. Customers want to buy into an experience, not just a service. This helped us form our mission, find the right franchisees, and build The Junkluggers brand.
It started with just me hustling around and picking up carloads of junk for $30. But I soon realized that this wasn’t just a summer job — the business could scale into becoming something much larger.
I found myself working in real estate post-college, but I soon realized that I wanted to bleed green — even if it meant a lot more hours and a lower salary. I wanted to pursue something I believed in: a junk removal service that’s professional, charitable, and sustainable.
This wasn’t going to be an overnight transition. I tried to take full responsibility for the company’s growth. But too many late hours and too much stress ended up taking a personal toll. I wasn’t sleeping, I got ulcers, and work-life balance was farther apart than ever before. Something needed to change.
It couldn’t be just me and a few employees pushing our vision of sustainable junk removal for a greener future. We needed this message to get out into the wild. I realized that franchising the business would be the best way to do this. Finding like-minded people who share our core values would be the perfect way to grow The Junkluggers.
In my mind, the franchising aspect needed to be perfect, so we ended up holding off on franchising for 10 years. Even when we did franchise, it took us another two to three years to figure out the best processes. Vetting our franchisees with a thorough screening process was a great first step. It also took a lot of time to assemble the right people: we needed internal employees with a combination of franchise experience and other subject matter expertise to help our franchisees succeed. On top of all else, our franchisees also needed to share my vision for the company.
I learned that franchising is a business in and of itself. It’s unique because you manage owners instead of conventional employees. Our franchisees need to support your vision and come up with new ideas to spread the business in turn. This requires our franchisees to proactively get out there and build the brand instead of only focusing on daily operations, which I consistently reinforce. Each party supports the other on a quest toward growing the business.
With our franchising option, we’ve been able to do more than spread our vision. We’ve also pioneered entrepreneurship across the country. We’ve built a community of our franchisees who work just as hard as we do while also believing that eco-friendly junk removal is possible. It lets our vision grow in ways we didn’t think were possible.
The company has grown tremendously since its start in 2004. We’re now achieving bigger goals as we continue to push our vision of sustainable junk removal. And we’re going even bigger: no junk should end up in a landfill.
There’s no denying it’s a huge goal. That’s why we internally refer to it as our Big Hairy Audacious Goal, or BHAG.
There are many roadblocks between us and achieving this goal.
- Increased greenhouse gas emissions. When machines compact organic material in a landfill (like food scraps and green waste), they remove oxygen and create methane. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. It's a direct contributor to climate change and can cause health problems in humans and animals.
- China’s recent ban on most plastic imports. We were previously able to recycle items for next to no cost. Now we pay the same rate to recycle as we do for disposing of trash. It really takes the financial incentive out of the equation. This is frustrating not only to us, but the industry as a whole.
- A lack of recycling centers. Each time we pick up junk from a client, we carefully sort through to see what we can recycle or re-purpose. But it’s challenging to recycle because of a lack of specialty recycling centers. We need increased in infrastructure to promote better recycling habits.
Our vision is big, but our drive is bigger. We’re not going to let anything get in our way of achieving our vision. As I see it, we're getting close. We’re about 80 percent of the way to completely eliminating cardboard and metals from ending up in landfills. Next on our list is to find more opportunities for recycling and re-purposing children’s toys and games.
This dedication to recycling and repurposing isn’t exactly more profitable for us — it’s actually less profitable. But our purpose drives us forward. We believe in what we're doing and know that our customers support our vision.
We maintain a firm commitment to our cause and to do our part within a larger society. Our vision is now so much more than relocating your standard home appliance at a cheap rate.
It’s about spreading our vision of a sustainable future.