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Got Junk?

Clean up by taking trash to a whole new level.

One man's trash? Jocelyn Gold and Geoff Durling, both 30, know all about it. Six days a week, the couple goes to homes and businesses in Oakland, California, to remove a variety of trash and leftovers for their 1-800-Got-Junk? customers, a franchise they've owned for a year.

Most days involve three to six jobs, ranging from a complete office clean-up to appliance pickup. On each job, the couple removes trash, scraps and general junk left over from seasonal cleanings, moving and renovations. They divide everything in their truck, making piles for recycling, dumping and donating.

Gold and Durling charge based on volume-how much space the junk takes up in the truck--ranging from $65 to $428. Customers can call the 1-800-Got-Junk? corporate call center to schedule pickups and let the operator know how much stuff they have and where it's located. This information is then passed on to franchisees like Gold and Durling by 1-800-Got-Junk?, which also handles scheduling franchisees.

Depending on the size of a job, Gold and Durling can make one or several drop-offs each day at recycling centers, charities or the dump. "We try to recycle anywhere from 50 to 60 percent of our loads, so we do anything that's salvageable or recyclable," Gold says. Furniture, appliances and other reusable items in good condition are donated to organizations like the Salvation Army.

While the couple has rock stars and famous writers on its client list, one of their more memorable jobs was not exactly glamorous. "We had to clean out a house for this lady who had 65 cats that had the run of the house," Gold says. "Needless to say, our masks were on the whole time."

When not picking up or dropping off other people's junk, Gold and Durling, who both have marketing backgrounds, spend time drumming up business. "Our biggest marketing tool is our truck. It's like a moving billboard," Gold says. "People seeing our trucks accounts for about 35 percent of the jobs we've booked." Some evenings, Gold and Durling simply drive their truck through busy streets to get their franchise's name out there.

The couple does have another employee who comes along for large jobs or rides along with Durling, giving Gold time to work on the business. She handles the budget, marketing, and making and returning phone calls. Though having only one employee leaves Gold and Durling to handle most aspects of the business themselves, Gold accepts it as part of being a franchisee. "If I am going to work 12- to 14-hour days, I would rather be doing it for myself so I can truly enjoy the rewards," she says.

Gold and Durling would like to have three trucks and six employees by the end of their third year in business. Eventually, Gold would like to move operations out of their home and work full time in the office. "By next spring, I should be focusing strictly on sales and marketing," she says.

Until then, it's days in the trucks and nights and off-hours in the office. At the end of the day, sometimes it's hard to shut the business off, but Gold is learning to make those life and work distinctions.

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This article was originally published in the April 2003 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Got Junk?.

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