How I Started A $18K/Month Junk Removal Company Before Graduating From College
Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Sam Evans. I am 23 years old and a recent graduate from Penn State Altoona. I am the founder of You Call We Haul Junk Removal, a junk removal company that removes anything from single items to hoarder home cleanouts. We’re located in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and have been in business (part-time) since May of 2016.
We service any and everyone who may have unneeded items they are looking to get rid of. People often ask what items we consider junk, to us junk is anything you no longer need or want.
Our main customers are middle-aged and up adults, typically with a higher income that do not want to or are unable to do the work themselves. We complete over 75 jobs per month, bring in about $20,000 in revenue per month profiting about 65% per job.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
When I was ending my freshman year of college, I was sitting in my dorm room one day when I got a call from my cousin. Both of us had been flipping items on eBay since we were 14 and always loved to find ways to make some extra money. He told me about a book called Effortless Entrepreneur, written by the founders of College Hunks Hauling Junk which is currently the world’s second-largest junk removal franchise.
I ordered the book on eBay for $4 and as soon as it came to my dorm, I immediately started reading. About 20 pages into it, I called my Dad who is a used car salesman. I told him that I was going to start a junk removal company and that I needed his help finding a truck. After nearly a week of calling him telling him every reason I could come up with as to why I needed to start this company, he was finally in. He helped me find a $1,000 truck on Craigslist, a 1991 Ford F-150.
I bought the truck, printed out some flyers at my school’s library, ordered a few hundred horrible business cards, and was officially in business.
I had zero validation for the idea other than that big companies were making a killing doing it and I figured I could as well, after all, who doesn’t have some extra items lying around that they’re dying to get rid of? I minimized the risk as much as I possibly could because the truck that I bought was worth a lot more than the thousand dollars I paid for it. I knew that even if I failed, I would be able to resell the truck and make some money. Starting with a beater truck was my way of putting out a minimum viable product.
I had zero expertise and am still learning every single day that I work on my business. The only business experience I had before this was flipping items on eBay and running Facebook pages while I was in middle and high school. When I was 14 I built, grew, and sold a network of Facebook pages with over 5 million daily active users that were based on different teenage jokes and issues at the time. The biggest page had over 3 million likes and was called I HATE WHEN MY PARENTS ASK WHO I’M TEXTING, if you were active on Facebook in 2010 and were in high school at the time, I bet you like the page - go check and let me know. My financial situation at this time was a few thousand dollars that I had in my bank account from these previous businesses. Knowing absolutely nothing ended up being an advantage. I failed a ton in the first few summers of running the business but learned more than I ever did in the classroom. Everything takes time and effort, if you put in the effort you will be successful in the long run in whatever business you decide to start.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
There was no design process when I started out. I put out the most minimal viable product I could. The truck was cheap but luckily it did not have any rust so it had a tiny bit of curb appeal if you appreciate old Ford trucks. My flyers and free craigslist posts were really the reason I started to get business.
In my area, saying you are a Penn State student or graduate holds a lot of weight and people love to support a fellow Penn Stater. On these flyers and posts, I really honed in on the fact that I was a current PSU student home for summer vacation, looking for a way to make some extra money. The original flyer had a picture of a roommate of mine holding up a random couch that we found sitting in a field by campus.
I did not do anything legally for almost two years after starting this business, as I ran it only in the summer while home from school and on breaks when I could actually find some work. My first summer in business in 2016, we did barely $3,000 in sales. Once I took the business legal 2 years later before my senior year of college, I had about $1,200 in total legal and insurance costs to turn into a legitimate business. Upon graduation and taking the business full-time, the costs of insurance ramped up having employees and a much larger truck.
Describe the process of launching the business.
When we first started we did not have a website, Facebook page, or Instagram account. We spread the word by taping flyers to mailboxes, free Craigslist posts, and sharing screenshots of our flyers in local Facebook groups which were our biggest source of customers.
It took us about a week to get our first customers and we were profitable by the end of month one in which we did about $2,000 in sales. Starting with very humble beginnings in a beat-up old Ford truck and no advertising budget taught me that just getting started and taking action is the most important step. When it comes to service businesses that are already a proven model, I always think about the line from Field of Dreams, “If you build it they will come.” Whether it is junk removal, landscaping, garage door repair, or any other home service business, proven models like that work.
I also learned that even having a small web presence like a Wix website or a Facebook page can do wonders. Showing people what you do rather than telling them is key to any business becoming successful.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Since launch, the only paid advertising we have done is Facebook ads. We are starting to roll out Google ads this month but Facebook has done wonders for our business thus far. If I were to restart, I wouldn’t put as much faith in Facebook ads as I did though because the costs have nearly doubled in the past year.
We typically spend less than $600 a month on ads but really need to up the ad spend to reach our current goals. We do a ton of grassroots marketing. Bandit signs, stickers, signs in customer’s yards, door hangers, giving out t-shirts, etc.
Our biggest successes from organic marketing have come from midnight bandit sign drops. Going out in the middle of the night allows us to put out 50-60 signs in high traffic areas in under three hours. We map out where to put them based on incomes in various local zip codes. Zip code incomes can be found through USPS Every Door Direct Mail tool. We’ve also been utilizing the Nextdoor app which is tremendous for home services. If you are recommended on that app, customers treat it like the bible. They will hire you blindly and agree to any price you say.
We also post on social 2-4x per day, every single day. It is a great way to gain customers organically and get a lot of exposure for the company. Videos work great for home services because as I’ve said before, people want to see who they’re hiring to come into their homes, especially women hiring men. They want to be able to trust a brand and social media is a great way to build that trust for free.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Today, we are growing every single month. We are doing about a 75% profit margin on each job but expect that to go down over time as we hire more employees and acquire more trucks. We are going to start investing a lot more heavily in PPC ads and SEO to gain more exposure in our area. Right now we have about 1,200 facebook likes and a little over 700 Instagram followers. We typically have about 400 people visiting our site each month. Short term we want to reach 100 jobs completed in one month and hit $30,000 in monthly revenue. We believe we can do that with the one dump truck we currently have as long as we up our ad spend.
Long term, we want to franchise the business. Junk removal is growing at an extremely fast pace as we live in a society that thrives on convenience and wants to show off to their peers, so people are buying more items than ever before. Studies have shown that less than 2% of people know how to get rid of unneeded items so the industry is really just getting started.
We’re confident that through the culture we are building we can get our employees on board to start their own locations. We will give them the choice of where they want to start because we believe the model we’re perfecting will work in any location. Junk removal is an extremely fun business because no two days are the same, you meet very interesting people, and you never ever know what you are going to find.
Employees love it because they can keep some of the stuff they find too which makes it all that much more enjoyable. It really is the perfect, simple business model that anyone who is willing to hustle can start and succeed in.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Since I’ve started this business I have really learned to appreciate services. The home services industry in particular is only going to grow in the next 5-10 years. We’re moving away from the times of people wanting to do everything on their own. Our society is starting to value time over money and that means paying people to do the things they do not want to do, like removing the broken freezer from their basement.
I was very lucky to start my business during college when I really could not fail. Being able to work on it for three summers and research it not stop during the school year set me up to succeed post-graduation. I didn’t have to jump in blindly and hope it would work, I had already proven the model and created a solid base of customers that were constantly referring me business.
One of the best decisions I made was joining a junk removal mastermind group. It taught me more in 3 months than I learned in 4 years of college studying business. I highly recommend that people try to find Facebook groups or subreddits where they can share ideas with other owners in their industries and if there aren’t any, start one.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Platforms I use are: Facebook, Instagram, YouTube for learning, Housecall Pro, Quickbooks Online, Nicejob.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
- The Power of Broke
- Everything by Malcolm Gladwell to challenge how I think
- Everything by Dale Carnegieto challenge how I interact with other
- Living With a Seal
- The Last Lecture
- Alarmy- I used to hit the snooze button multiple times, every single morning. This app allows you to find a barcode in your home or elsewhere and scan it, you then have to scan the barcode to shut off your alarm. There’s no other way to get it to stop other than to scan that barcode. It’s a blessing and a curse, trust me.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Start. Just start. If everyone waited for the right time to start, we wouldn’t have any entrepreneurs. Don’t think you need to know everything, no one knows everything. Take a ton of risks, every successful person ever credits their risk-taking ability with them becoming successful. Don’t try to build the next Facebook or Instagram, you do not need to reinvent the wheel. I bought a thousand-dollar pick-up truck and got started.
If you over-think things it just makes it harder for you. Put out a minimum viable product and hustle, the results will come if you do not stop.
Most people think they’ll make a ton of money and their business will boom from the beginning. Rarely is that ever the case. Give it time, lots of it, and do everything in your power to grow your business. Everything takes time and effort, if you put in the effort you will be successful in the long run in whatever business you decide to start.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
You Call We Haul Junk Removal has provided an update on their business!
About 1 year ago, we followed up with You Call We Haul Junk Removal to see how they've been doing since we published this article.
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