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How one man turned his college side hustle hauling junk into a $300 million-a-year empire

How one man turned his college side hustle hauling junk into a $300 million dollar empire
How one man turned his college side hustle hauling junk into a $300 million dollar empire

When Brian Scudamore was 4, he drew a picture of a himself hauling away junk. "I guess I saw myself as a junk man," he says on CNBC's "Blue Collar Millionaires."

That early intuition proved clairvoyant. Now at 47, he is the founder and CEO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, a multimillion-dollar business that dominates the trash-hauling market with over 160 locations throughout the U.S., Canada and Australia.

In 2016, the business brought in about $223 million, he tells CNBC Make It.

The business began as a college side hustle. Scudamore was enrolled at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec, the only school that accepted him because he had dropped out of high school. "I found a loophole and talked my way in," he says on the 2015 episode of "Blue Collar Millionaires."

Brian Scudamore, CEO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK?

But his parents weren't about to pay his tuition. His father, a liver-transplant surgeon, was dismayed by his son's poor academic record. Scudamore had to find a way to fund his schooling himself. After he saw a beat up old truck advertising a trash hauling service while going through a McDonald's drive through, he thought to himself, "I can do better than that."

In 1989, Scudamore invested $1,000 in the venture — $700 for a pickup truck and the rest for fliers and business cards — and began scrounging for customers. "I was pounding the pavement, I was meeting realtors, I was knocking on people's doors and asking if they had junk or who they might know that had junk," he says.

His girlfriend at the time had an idea to call the local newspaper, the Vancouver Province, to tell his story. An an article about Scudamore made the front page. In the next 24 hours, he says, he had 100 job offers.

The business took off and the success inspired him to do something he had done once before. To the chagrin of his father, he dropped out of school — this time, college.

Brian Scudamore, CEO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, in college

As he says on "Blue Collar Millionaires," he told his father, "School will always be there. I guarantee that that university isn't going away. My business opportunity might, and I'm going to seize it while it's hot and follow through with my business."

Of course, the decision was ultimately the right one. Scudamore realized he was tapping into a huge market. Everyone has junk and no one wants to deal with it. "People would rather trade time for money," he tells CNBC Make It.

In the early days when Scudamore just had his truck, he charged around $100 for a typical job. When he bought larger trucks, the rate began to depend on the volume of what customers needed hauled. The jobs have remained mostly residential, but he has also began working with big companies, like Gamestop, for instance, which hired GOT JUNK? when it shut down a number of its resale locations.

By his eighth year in business, Scudamore was making $1 million in annual revenue. But, even with this impressive success, he was not satisfied. He dreamed bigger.

"I did not have the right people in place in my business," he tells CNBC Make It. "I didn't have the clean cut, friendly professionals that I was looking for that was needed to revolutionize a very dirty industry."

So he fired all 11 of his employees.

Brian Scudamore, CEO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK?

"I took a piece of paper and wrote what the business would look like in the future," he explained in the episode. "It said we'd be on 'The Oprah Winfrey Show.' It said we'd have clean, shiny trucks and we'd have friendly uniformed drivers." It said the company would be franchised in the top 30 metros in North America.

By the end of 2003, all of those things came true.

Today, Scudamore runs three operations in addition to GOT JUNK?. In 2010, he launched WOW 1 DAY PAINTING and more recently, the moving company You Move Me and the cleaning service Shack Shine.

Those three franchised businesses accounted for a significant chunk of the $304 million in total revenue that he brought in last year.

"When I first started my business, it was an investment of $1,000, and it seemed crazy," he says on "Blue Collar Millionaires." "It was a risk that paid off."

This story has been revised with GOT JUNKS?'s 2016 revenue and franchise numbers.

–Video by Richard Washington

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