Like many college kids, Nick Friedman and Omar Soliman didn’t expect their summer jobs to amount to much. They spent their break earning money by hauling away unwanted junk from attics and garages in Soliman’s mother’s cargo van. Their junk-hauling days might’ve been over after Soliman graduated from the University of Miami and Friedman from Pomona College in California.
But the corporate world just wasn’t what they hoped. Soliman did marketing at a healthcare consulting firm and Friedman did corporate litigation consulting. “We were basically working these nine-to-fives making entry-level salaries and working in these cubicles crunching numbers, and it really wasn’t where we wanted to be,” Soliman says.
In his senior year, Soliman had written a business plan for a junk hauling business operated by employees with a clean-cut collegiate image—“College Hunks Hauling Junk”—which won a UM entrepreneurship competition. It seemed like an idea worth pursuing. He turned to Friedman, his friend since high school in their native Washington D.C., who was also eager for a new challenge.
“I remember e-mailing Omar to ask him what his time frame was in terms of getting out of the corporate world,” Friedman says. “And he e-mailed me back in all capital letters: ‘MY TIME FRAME IS RIGHT NOW.’ ”
They realized they were taking a big risk by leaving their corporate jobs. But they also knew they had a good idea worth testing. “The fact that we had a business plan that had won an award and had [spent] an entire summer doing the physical work and recognizing that there was a demand for it was all the motivation we needed to go full-scale,” Friedman says.
They were reasonably confident that they could be business partners. They already had a longtime friendship, as well as experience working together, and their skills were complementary—Friedman, now president, has a background in finance, and CEO Soliman is in marketing and management.
After borrowing money from family, friends and the bank to buy their first truck, they were ready. In the early days, they had appointments as early as 5 a.m., worked weekends and employed their friends’ younger siblings for many jobs.
Since that summer in 2005 when they quit their jobs to start College Hunks, the company has grown from a single operation with two guys and a truck to include 12 franchises—with more on the way. Sales doubled from $550,000 in the first year to $1.1 million the second year.
In that second year, they focused more on the big picture. “We eventually had to remove ourselves from working in the business and doing the physical hauling to working on the business,” Friedman says. He and Soliman worked with consultants, attorneys and software developers to refine systems and create programs and procedure manuals to help expand the company and offer franchises. Projected sales for 2008 are estimated at $4 million.
This summer, Soliman and Friedman, both 26, are moving the business headquarters from Washington D.C. to Tampa, Fla., where Soliman lives. Also on the agenda is the launch of a new sister company called—wait for it—College Foxes Packing Boxes, a moving prep and unpacking service.
They continue looking for ways to offer new products and services to reach new consumers—something that, Friedman says, has been a formula for success in an uncertain economy. As of late, inquiries about the franchise program have significantly picked up.
The catchy name and clever marketing campaign have captured a lot of attention, including mentions in the Washington Post and Oprah.com. Soliman and Friedman have managed to make the junk business look fun, by injecting it with a young college spirit.
In fact, Washingtonian Magazine named them one of the best places to work. They focus on living up to that title by hosting contests for hauling the most junk and featuring their employees on baseball cards with stats of their favorite restaurants and hobbies. Online at 1800junkusa.com, you can even vote for your favorite college junk hunk in the Hunk ‘Haul’ of Fame. “We have a real strong company culture that makes it more than a job for a lot of people,” Soliman says.