Nick Friedman is hard to miss. You can recognize him by his tan pants, lava-orange shirt and the smile that wraps around his face like a scarf. To the employees operating out of his College Hunks Hauling Junk headquarters in Tampa, Florida, USA, the sight is every bit as common as the palm trees that pepper the local landscape. As the co-founder and president of the largest US-based junk-removal and moving service, smiling has become second nature for the EO Central Florida member…like breathing, blinking or ruminating about business during a culinary chomp in nearby Ybor City.
And why not? In 10 years, Nick and Omar Soliman—co-founder and CEO of College Hunks—went from college graduates to cornering the market in an ultra-competitive industry. While their peers were hitting the mile markers of a corporate career, the best friends were turning an old cargo van that ran on Metamucil and unleaded into a junk-removal and moving empire. With more than 50 franchises, 500 employees and 150 vehicles, Nick and Omar have redefined an industry through their electric marketing, renowned company culture and innovative approach to business. All it took was passion, persistence, and yes, a lot of muscle.
An Entrepreneurial Errand
The thought of turning trash into cash started the way most business concepts start: A flicker of an idea, fanned by opportunity, turned into a roaring fire of possibilities. Nick first experienced the entrepreneurial heat when he and Omar led a charge across their high school’s football field during the halftime of a rivalry game, a prank that resulted in lemming-like behavior from their classmates, a few too many stitches and the realization of a powerful partnership. From that moment on, Nick and Omar knew that they had the power to influence through action. All they needed was the right outlet. In 2003, they found one. They didn’t know it at the time, but their future was arriving on four wheels.
“Omar and I were trying to earn some extra money for school one summer, so we borrowed his mom’s beat-up van to pick up junk from one of her clients. It was a simple errand, but we made more money that day than we ever thought we would,” said Nick, who went on to make US$5,000. “We knew that we had stumbled across an awesome business concept, but we didn’t know where to go from there. So we tabled the idea and pursued corporate jobs after college.”
As it happened, caging their entrepreneurial spirit didn’t last long. After Nick and Omar graduated from college, they took the traditional “9-to-5” route, a respectable path worn well by their parents and peers. Although full-time employment promised security, their intolerable itch to be more, do more, never waned. They had already taken a bite out of the entrepreneurial apple, and they were hungry for another taste. Eager to become the architects of their future, Nick and Omar exited the world of cubicles and entered an exciting new one. They decided to become entrepreneurs.
“I remember one day during work, I texted Omar and asked him about the business idea we had during that summer break. I wondered what the timeline was for turning the vision into a reality. He texted me back: RIGHT NOW!” said Nick. “From that moment on, we dedicated our- selves to starting a junk-removal business that was unlike any other. We had no idea what it involved, we didn’t have business degrees and we had zero experience … but we had an idea, and that was enough.”