The name College Hunks refers to staffers' internal qualities, not their physiques.
Winner: College Hunks Hauling Junk
Junk hauling and moving isn’t the sexiest business, but for those willing to work hard, it can be incredibly lucrative.
There are a lot of great franchised brands in the segment, and each has its own differentiated offerings. The winner in our research is College Hunks Hauling Junk. While the brand is among the smaller junk and moving concepts, it’s poised to grow under the right operators.
The investment range falls between $90,000 and $208,200—higher than Caring Transitions but in the mix with other peer brands. The overall average unit volume was $784,331 in the company’s 2017 franchise disclosure documents, with an impressive gross profit of 47 percent.
That profit, however, comes before office salaries, rents, insurance and other minor fees. Marketing and royalty fees are right in line with peers. Still, the brand won out in our measure of return on investment, a key factor for young franchisees who want to get to the business of making money fast.
College Hunks Hauling Junk blends moving and junk hauling with a deep emphasis on customer service, which is, for the record, what “hunks” really means. It’s not all Channing Tatum types hauling bureaus—that would be legally dicey. H.U.N.K.S. stands for honest, uniformed, nice, knowledgeable and service—and the name certainly sticks. For a service that people don’t use very often, unless they really like moving or collecting junk, that catchy branding really matters.
“You can have a stellar experience with a competitor, and that could be an equivalent experience with us. The difference is six months from now you’re probably not going to be talking about the movers or the junk guys; with us you’re talking about the hunks,” said Steven Nickels, a College Hunks franchisee in Long Island.
“To be able to have that type of stickiness where someone continues to think about you, to use the service or refer you or talk positive six months or a year later, that’s
unheard of in our sector.”
For some strong operators like Keven Elwood in Colorado Springs, the name was a little hard to swallow. The 20-year Army veteran said he eventually came around.
“I started off saying, ‘I will not buy a franchise called College Hunks,’ but I did,” said Elwood, who said half of his customers joke about the hunks. “As long as you can play it out, it means better reviews, better tips for the guys and better repeat business.”
It’s not all chatting and branding though—the moving business is not for the faint of heart or the far-flung operator.
“It’s definitely not one of those franchises that you can buy and be hands off,” said Elwood. “The beginning was hard work, that’s all there was to it. I think that echoes across all the College Hunks that are successful out there.
“People on both sides of the business are challenging, the movers are challenging and the customers are challenging, they both want the same thing: money.”
Customers want to pay as little as possible and movers want to make as much as possible, Elwood said. To solve both of those challenges, the company relies on franchisees to help educate the system.
“They’re good about getting feedback and utilizing various methods. The franchise advisory council is very active and takes ongoing feedback. They have all sorts of committees that strive to not only engage with the franchisor, but it’s actual engagement to get things done,” said Nickels.
That training is critical for new franchisees, especially in a field like moving. While junk hauling is fairly unregulated and straightforward, moving is highly regulated and often difficult for a new operator to navigate.
“College Hunks did a great job of learning what they needed to teach,” said Elwood. “It makes a big difference, especially in a business that is so state-to-state, every state has different regulations—how you get to even legally do it in different states. They are really receptive to that and were there to help.”
Another early lesson for Elwood centered on developing and appreciating truck-level employees. The branding helps a bit, but a career path helps keep them in the system and grow.
“I spent 20 years in the Army trying to turn young a--holes into Americans, and I really liked that College Hunks strove to do that in the truck,” said Elwood. “So I liked that I was able to continue doing what I did in my career inside the brand. I saw that working and I saw corporate helping, if I hired the right guy and trained them, they’d say, ‘Hey, let’s give them a franchise.’”
To further those lessons, Elwood said the company continually shares best practices top down and from franchise to franchise. He said investments in technology like trucks outfitted with cameras will help further that training.
“It’s going to be awesome for accountability, but it will be far more spectacular for training new crews and retraining crews,” said Elwood. “I can say this is the perfect moving job or this part needs work.”
Both Elwood and Nickels have ordered more trucks and are looking to grow in their markets. For them, and the right operator, the moving segment can be a great fit for those who are willing to work.
“We’re able to build a business that allows us to build our people within it, pay for the expense of that and ultimately pay ourselves and still have positive cash flow. I think that’s the ultimate success of every business,” said Nickels.
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