Proudly serving VA, MD & DC for over 16 years.
Schedule a Pickup
Schedule a Pickup
Mar 03, 2020

How I Became a Junk Man (Part 1)

In The Beginning

I was a few years outside of college, and I wore a tie to work every day. I had an excellent job in sales with one of the top moving companies in the Washington, DC, area. I had a company car and a relatively flexible schedule. I enjoyed who I was working with, and I took pride in what I was doing. The CEO of my company was a self-made millionaire and a brilliant businessman. I had almost unlimited access to him, which was uncommon for somebody in my position.

Earning an entry-level salary, I lived comfortably with my three roommates in our luxury townhome in Herndon. Our rent was low, and I had some money to spend each week, which I successfully burned through each weekend. I had stress typical of any full-time professional, but my work-personal life balance was relatively healthy.

Still, there was a void in my life… or at least in my career.

I just wasn’t sure what was missing. Eventually, I began to figure it out, when I started realizing one common concern that each of my clients shared. It seemed as though they all had items in their homes that they were not interested in moving to their new home. In some cases, it was a ratty old appliance or a worn out sofa, but in other instances, it was a whole basement, attic or garage worth of miscellaneous “junk.”

This Crazy Little Thing Called Junk Removal

I had heard that such a service existed that would come into your home and remove your unwanted items for a fee, but I didn’t know the first thing about how it worked. So, as any responsible sales consultant would do, I decided to reach out to a few of them, if nothing else, to find out how they operated so I could confidently refer them to my clients who were moving. The idea was to sit down over coffee so that I could get face-to-face with a decision maker, and then he or she would be my go-to person when I was in my client’s homes, and I recognized the need for junk hauling services. I got on the phone and started cold calling.

I quickly started to realize something about my now competition. Of the four companies I called, only two of them answered the phone (the others never called back). Both of them had little to no interest in sitting down with me, let alone chatting with me over the phone. The way I saw it, there was one of two reasons for this: 1) They were so busy building their junk empires, that they didn’t have the time to be bothered by another potential referral source, or 2) They were completely blind to the fact that I, a moving consultant, would be somebody who was capable of referring them business.

The Decision

Either way, I saw an opportunity. That day, I began writing a business plan. I was determined to flip the junk removal industry upside down (atleast locally), by creating a more honorable customer centric business with a company that emphasized the donation process to no end! I had my work cut out for me!

I still remember the savings account bank statement. It read $4,127. Although this was a lot of money for a 23-year-old, I knew it wouldn’t get me very far. I wasn’t living in the 1950’s.

I told a few friends about my intentions to put in my two-week notice and start hauling junk for a living. The collective feedback sounded something like, “You’re an idiot.” On a certain level, I agreed with them, but I figured I had little to lose. After all, the only person I was supporting financially was myself, and I had seen the demand for these services firsthand as a moving consultant.

So I went with my gut, and I purchased an old truck from my Uncle.

He gave me a good deal, but this thing was “a beater” in the true sense of the word. The side view mirrors literally flapped in the wind at highway speeds. The entire bed was framed with wooden 2×4’s. I had to paint it just to get it presentable and to hide the rust. In order to dump it, you had to remove the doors and they weighed 85 pounds each. It wasn’t the proudest vehicle I had ever called my own, but it started up (usually) and it allowed us to get the
job done. That first year, we ended up making $89K with that old thing.

What Junk Removal was Missing

As a rookie in the junk removal industry, I noticed some opportunities that were being missed by the competition. Very few, if any, were going to great lengths to donate or recycle the items they picked up. So much valuable stuff was being landfilled. I couldn’t find a company that put responsible disposal first, or one that built their brand around their disposal process.

I remembered a few months prior, cleaning out my own home and having a great deal of trouble allowing myself to trash some old pots and pans, as well as some clothes that no longer fit me well. I put them in bags and boxes and threw them in the trunk of my car. I ended up driving around with them for a month, before I finally made it to Goodwill. I remembered how important donating those items were to me and I was pretty certain I wasn’t alone. I decided our disposal process would be our differentiator – our value proposition — our main focus – our brand!

We got our first call on January 4, 2008 from a Washington Post ad. We had no idea what we were doing.

Ugly Start

In the early months, let’s just say, the phone wasn’t ringing off the hook. We needed business and we were willing to take just about anything that came our way. We got a call from a lady who had a shed in her backyard. The shed was made of solid wood. She wanted it removed, as well as a riding lawn mower, some lawn equipment, and several dozen blocks of large concrete that sat inside. I gave her the price -$350- and I clenched as I watched her reaction. Surprisingly, she accepted the price without hesitation. I thought to myself, “Collin, you smooth son of a gun. You just got away with murder!”

Three and a half hours later, we were only halfway through the job and running out of sunlight. I was bleeding in two places and I had nearly admitted defeat. One of my new employees had already told me that this would be his last day of work – that he wasn’t cut out for the junk-hauling business. By that point, I was strongly considering getting out of the junk business myself. I remembered that somebody had once warned me that starting your own business takes blood, sweat, and tears. I had never taken the figure of speech literally until this point.

We ended up coming back out the following day to finish. This is when I learned the importance of carrying the proper equipment on your truck.Our disposal fees ended up being over $130. I had to pay my crew (2 men) the sum of $170. Two trips to the client’s property put our fuel expense somewhere around $50. We had broken even! This was no way to run a business!

Losing Hope

Just when I was getting ready to hang up the towel, we got a call from a Realtor. She was selling a property for a family who had recently moved, but had left a ton of stuff behind. I was still surprised when I arrived on site to find 4 Full Truck Loads worth of junk. You have to understand that, at this point in the business, this was the MOTHER LOAD!  We had to staff up just to handle the volume.

We charged a more appropriate fee this time and I realized that maybe I could make money in this industry after all. Perhaps just as importantly, I learned another valuable lesson. Not all of our junk jobs consisted of “junk.” That day I took home some 500 bottles of unopened, aged wine. As you might imagine, that following week, my house became a very popular gathering spot as my friends and family came over in flocks to taste the wine!

“I guess junk removal did have some benefits,” I thought to myself. “Maybe I’ll stick it out another week. If nothing else, maybe I’ll find some more wine!”

View All Blog Posts

Similar Posts

123JUNK is a Minimum-Waste Junk Removal Services company serving the DMV.

Learn More About Us

Connect with us and clear your junk

Get a Quote or Schedule a Pickup

Office Hours

M-F 8:30am-6pm
S-S 8:30am-4pm

After Hours?
Leave us a message

Want to join our team? Learn more about our open positions!

Your message is on its way!

Someone will reach out within 24 hours. You can also connect with us on Social Media, someone may be able to get in touch faster there.

Review Sites

Check Us Out On Social