College Hunks Hauling Junk.
The company’s name itself is a conversation piece, according to owner Carl Carter.
Carter opened the Jackson moving services franchise in January at the age of 50 after spending more than 20 years in the insurance industry.
“Some people may find it a little crazy,” Carter says. “After you’ve done something for so many years it’s not as thrilling. I was ready for a challenge.”
While he says he never knows what each day’s operations will bring, he knows it will be interesting.
Founded by college-age entrepreneurs Omar Soliman and Nick Friedman, the company assists in residential and office moving, junk removal, donation pickups and professional packing.
The name Hunks stands for: Honest Uniformed Nice Knowledgeable Students. The company came together as a winning business plan at the University of Miami and Soliman and Friedman started franchising in 2008. They have since been featured on the Oprah Winfrey Network, ABC’s hit show “Shark Tank” and reality shows like “The Millionaire Matchmaker.”
College Hunks is currently the only franchise donation pickup and junk removal service in the area, according to Carter.
“I wanted to find a business that I felt like was a market niche in central Mississippi,” Carter says. “If you find that you have a much better chance.”
The brightly wrapped trucks with their glaring fonts and colors easily spell out what the company does. Carter’s small fleet at his Foley Street office in Jackson can be seen by hundreds of motorists every day from nearby Interstate 55.
Carter says there’s a negative stereotype of junk haulers: the shady beards, torn shirts, unprofessional appearance. His employees are breaking that image every day with their crisp uniforms (usually golf shirts, shorts or pants and a logo hat), good manners and people skills.
“Most of our part-time help is usually college students,” Carter says. “We train them and try to get them jobs. They aren’t just hourly labor. They have to communicate. I am looking for a professional appearance and the ability to sell themselves and our services.”
When a customer wants to call the College Hunks, the call is usually routed to the company’s 24/7 call center in Tampa. The job assignments are then forwarded out to the company’s more than 40 local franchises across the country.
Carter never gives an estimate over the phone but sends a team member out to meet the customer and review the site and its needs.
The team tries to recycle 60 percent of the junk they haul, sorting through each load and finding things that could be donated to local charities. “They don’t just take it to the scrap heap,” Carter says. The company has a national partnership with Goodwill, and Carter is currently in talks with the local directors to close on a deal.
A young woman waves at Carter from her front yard as he drives past in his wrapped pickup. He jokes that the younger guys keep reminding him that “he isn’t a hunk,” but that he doesn’t have any trouble finding his truck at Wal-Mart.
Later that morning he meets up with team members Frank Vance, Ben Robbins and their captain Jason Brown as they help a family move out of their northeast Jackson home.
“I think he’s an anesthesiologist,” Brown says as he and Carter catch up. “There were a lot of medical books in there.” Brown is a baseball player and business major at nearby Belhaven University. Robbins attends Mississippi College.
The local college population is ripe with potential employees and job prospects, Carter says. Being a new company, he really had to sell it to the campuses that he was a job creator and needed to build his core team. Future hires most often come from referrals from his current team of eight Hunks.
The mood is light as the men work. One team member jokes about one mover’s nickname: “The Dolly Llama.”
Austin Parker found out about College Hunks while earning a business degree from Mississippi College.
It was a good fit for the 23-year-old Purvis native after he completed his final Army tour in Afghanistan last summer. Serving as an infantry specialist with the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, Parker worked as a truck driver and machine-gunner.
“I enjoy it,” Parker says. “I was recently promoted to captain to take charge of my own team. We talk the customers, drive the trucks, lead the team and make sure they do their job.” Parker is also learning how to do estimates and work with the customers on closing the deal.
Never knowing what he will face each day with a customer, Parker takes everything in stride.
“Some ladies asked us to work shirtless once,” he says.
“We had this one 96-year-old man who had lived in this house since the 1940s,” he says. “It took us two to three days to clean that place out. The owners let us keep a few things like his fishing reels.”
Parker wants to open up a dog-breeding business after college and in his spare time enjoys fishing and spending time with family, friends and his Great Dane and English bulldog.
“Somedays I’m going 90 miles-an-hour,” Brown says. Not in the truck, mind you, just in his responsibilities.
The Houston, Texas, native started working at College Hunks as a “wingman” responsible for navigation, tool checks and putting out promotional flyers after finishing at a job site.
Now as a captain, Brown helps schedule crews and get the word out by calling real estate agents and apartment complexes to get on their radar. He says its the crew’s goal to always be energetic, clean-cut and nice.
“How many other 20-year-olds can say they do this,” he says. “It’s good for the resume.”
Some of the moves are more memorable than others. One elderly woman wanted everything at her home moved including the rocks underneath the house. Brown says the team enjoyed browsing through her old record collection and Coca-Cola memorabilia.
“We’ve done everything. We’ve even taken the kitchen sink,” he says.