Hauling in Success

EARLY INTO THE START OF THEIR BUSINESS, College Hunks Hauling Junk & Moving, Nick Friedman and Omar Soliman recognized the power of online reviews. Initially nervous about the scrutiny of consumer feedback, Friedman and Soliman decided to give Angie’s List a chance, hoping to improve business and build a solid reputation. “It kind of gives you that 360-degree feedback from the client,” Friedman says. “The transparency and the feedback really helps us quite a bit.”

Angie’s List members are the duo’s target demographic — customers who value quality and trustworthy service. “We ask every customer, ‘Have you ever used a moving company before?, and nine out of 10 customers have had a negative experience,” Soliman says. “With platforms like Angie’s List, now they can tell that [positive] story to hundreds of thousands of people, really millions of people. Now they have that stage.”

Friedman suggests other business owners use Angie’s List as part of their direct marketing plan to attract potential customers in their area. College Hunks also offers eCommerce deals on Angie’s List to attract new clients. Their business strategy helped grow a company started by two college guys with a single van into a business with 82 franchises across the United States.

Friedman and Soliman began College Hunks Hauling Junk inthe summer of 2003 before their senior year of college. Soliman’s mother gave the two high school friends a cargo van from her furniture store. The two came up with their name, created fliers and got busy. “It was really hard,” Soliman says. “We would get up at 5 or 6 in the morning and work ‘til 7 or 8 at night. It was the first thing I was really passionate about.”

At the time, neither realized they caught the entrepreneurial bug. The friends returned to college, graduated and began working in corporate America. During their senior year, however, they entered their summer business into an entrepreneurship competition and won first place — a $10,000 prize.

“We had always been brought up to follow the traditional career path,” Friedman says. “It was about three to six months after working in the corporate world, and I emailed Omar about a timeline to start the business. He emailed back in all caps: RIGHT NOW.”

In 2005, they left their jobs in Washington, D.C., and used their winnings as startup funding. After customers continually asked if they were a franchise, Soliman and Friedman took the plunge in 2008 and became franchise owners. They also moved the headquarters to Tampa, Florida, where they set up a centralized call center and even wrote a book, “Effortless Entrepreneur.” “I didn’t even know what the word entrepreneur meant until we started the business,” Friedman says.

Realizing that hiring a company to haul away junk became a luxury service for many during the Great Recession, Friedman and Soliman decided to diversify. They added moving to their business and tweaked the name to reflect the range of services offered. In addition, the natural ebb and flow of the moving business makes staffing another challenge, Friedman says. To avoid scrambling for employees in the spring and summer when moving is in full swing, College Hunks continually recruits staff and says it helps them to be prepared, even during the busiest times.

“We realized very quickly if we were going to succeed long term, we better become business savvy [and] more resourceful, other than having just a catchy name and catchy colors,” Friedman says.