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'Keys to the kingdom'

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  • | 11:00 a.m. December 2, 2016
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Pinellas County College Hunks Hauling Junk franchisees Brandan Underwood and Acey Ignacio are all about transparency and teaching the business to their employees. Their goal? To help others achieve exactly what they did.

The Tampa natives, friends from Plant High School, went from part-time jobs to leadership positions at the corporate location for the $50 million organization-wide junk removal and moving company.

Underwood worked his way up to general manager and Ignacio the operations manager at the company, helping to grow the Tampa territory from $400,000 in annual sales with five employees to more than $1 million in annual sales with 30 employees, according to College Hunks Hauling Junk President and co-founder Nick Friedman.

“Nick and Omar gave it to us to run,” Underwood says. “Mistakes were on us, achievements were on us...they gave us the keys to the kingdom.”

Learning through the ranks, and from co-founders Friedman and Omar Soliman, inspired Ignacio and Underwood to start their own business. “I saw that they loved what they do,” Underwood says.

In spring 2015, the young men approached the College Hunks co-founders with their idea. The aspiring entrepreneurs agreed to a yearlong exit strategy, along with some “skin in the game” to purchase the Pinellas franchise of the business, one of the company's 100 franchises spanning the country. Though the pair declined to share specific details, a typical franchise for the company costs between $89,300 to $208,200 in startup costs, with average yearly sales of $730,553, according to the company's website.

Underwood, 29, and Ignacio, 27, are well on their way from their official open in April, with the business generating around $40,000 a month. “We just opened up and we are doing pretty dang well,” Underwood says. The duo is hoping to reach the $800,000 or $900,000 mark next year.

The company is currently operating at full capacity with 10 employees, two junk trucks and one moving truck on hand. They're working to open a second location at the beginning of next year to chop the territory in half and to raise brand awareness.

The duo is an example of the American Dream, according to Friedman. “Building leaders is one of our company's core values,” he says. “They successfully improved their own skill sets and executed the business model in such a way that it prepared them to lead their own franchise.”

Underwood and Ignacio credit Friedman and Soliman for teaching some of the best business lessons they've learned. For one, making sure that they treat everyone the same — because everyone is on the same team. It brings them back to their football team days at Plant — it doesn't matter what position you play, you need all team members, they say.

The pair has also decided to encourage “their guys” to follow similar paths of moving up the ranks by being transparent with the business. “They will take away more than just labor-intensive work,” Underwood says. Each all-staff meeting includes a walk-through the profit and loss statement, explaining to the team “why what you do out in the field impacts the bottom line.”

Any employee who wants to learn the logistics side is welcomed to learn from the duo or participate in client interactions or proprietary work, Ignacio says. “Now these guys's not just a day job where you clock in and out.”


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