Libertyville’s ‘College Hunks’ do more than haul junk
Libertyville resident Matt Johnson, who owns the local College Hunks Hauling Junk franchise, and fellow hunk Dakota Gallery show off the company's truck during a job Jan. 24 in Winnetka. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 1, 2013 2:04AM
LIBERTYVILLE — Until 2008, Libertyville native Matt Johnson was a commodities trader in Chicago.
Now he hauls junk, but that’s only half the story.
“Let tomorrow’s leaders haul your junk today,” is the tag line of the franchise business Johnson and his wife started in January of 2011. The original concept was born in Washington, D.C. in 2003 and started selling franchises in 2007. There are now 50 local versions nationwide.
Though it’s uncertain how hunky the movers are, Johnson said the originators of the business were indeed college students,
Home from school for the summer, the mother of one of the founders implored him to make some money and gave him an old van to make it happen. The pair printed up “College Hunks Hauling Junk” fliers and stuffed them into nearby mailboxes.
When they got home, the phone was ringing off the hook and they knew they were on to something.
Johnson admits that the junk-hauling business is a complete departure from his trading career.
“Nothing in the commodities world prepared me for this,” he said. “I’m learning every day.”
The best part, Johnson said, is hiring the “hunks” and teaching them how to make the most of their time with him.
Hunks, by the way, stands for Honest Uniformed Nice Knowledgeable Students.
“Many of the ladies consider the guys that work for me hunks in the other respect,” Johnson joked, “but we don’t discriminate on looks.”
Why college kids?
“We hire students because they’re aspiring to do more with their lives than haul junk,” Johnson explained. “I’ve had kids who were genetic engineering majors, material science engineers, advertising majors, finance, sociology, French, religious studies.”
Johnson takes pride in the fact that his employees have opportunities to meet people informally, in their homes, who may be good connections later on in their careers. He counsels them on how to make the most of it.
“I say to them, ‘tell (clients) who you are and what you want to be,’” Johnson said. “There’s no way they could get that working at the counter at Panera.”
Employees also can learn the basics of running a small business. Johnson explained that he often talks with his guys about business fundamentals, like marketing and writing a business plan.
It’s paying off, Johnson said, pointing out that a former employee recently landed a job after highlighting his experience working for College Hunks Hauling Junk.
Johnson said he’s also learned a lot himself.
“We’re a life event business,” he said. “We deal with couples moving in, people cleaning out the baby’s room, people getting married, people who are downsizing.
“We’ve been in homes where a couple is getting divorced and they’re fighting over things right in front of us.”
This too, Johnson said, is something he can use to teach his “hunks.”
“We go into places with a sensitivity to our surroundings,” he said.