Got Junk?

These 1-800-Got Junk? franchisees spend their day finding treasure in other people's trash.

By Devlin Smith

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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. In the spring and summer, Gold and Durling can be out until 8 p.m., but with the arrival of fall, the days end around 6, making for shorter workdays and fewer jobs.

Gold and Durling leave their home office at 8 a.m., get into their truck emblazoned with the 1-800-Got-Junk? logo, and head off to the first job. They have four jobs today--most days involve three to six jobs--ranging from a complete office cleanup 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.

Customers pay based on the volume of each job--how much space their junk takes up in the truck--ranging from $65 to $428. All this information has already been provided to the 1-800-Got-Junk? corporate call center, where customers call 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-GotJunk?, which also handles scheduling franchisees. "[Customers] explain how long they think it's going to take and where the junk is located," says Gold, adding that the information often requires some discernment. "Even if they think the job is going to take an hour, if the junk is located in the backyard down 50 stairs, we know it's going to take a bit longer, so we can plan our day accordingly."

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 writers on its client list, one of their more memorable jobs wasn't 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, handling budgets, marketing, making and returning phone calls. Though having only one employee leaves Gold and Durling to handle most aspects of the business themselves, Gold accepts that as part of being a franchisee. "If I am going to be working 12- to 14-hour days, I would rather be doing it for myself so that 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 get off the truck altogether, 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. When the day finally ends, sometimes it's hard to shut the business off, but Gold is learning to make those life and work distinctions. "I'm finding myself still in the office until 10 at night. Just having the office right in your home, it's difficult to shut it off, but you have to force yourself," she says. "I have just recently said I'm not going to work anymore on Sundays, because you've really got to separate yourself from the business. Otherwise, you can get burnt out very easily."

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