Omar Soliman's business may be called College Hunks Hauling Junk, but the 27-year-old has learned his most valuable lessons outside the classroom.
No. 1: Just do it
The summer before Soliman's senior year at the University of Miami, he was home in Washington, D.C. Most of his friends had summer jobs or internships.
"I didn't have anything lined up," Soliman said. "And I always wanted to do something on my own, so I figured it was the opportune time to try and do something on my own and start a business."
Soliman decided to start a junk-removal service out of his mother's beaten-up cargo van.
"My intention was to just make some money," he said.
He recruited his best friend, Nick Friedman, and a few jobless buddies to help. During a dinner conversation, they came up with a name: College Hunks Hauling Junk. Soliman printed some fliers with his cell number at the bottom, spent a Saturday passing them out, and by the time he got home his first customer had called. He made $10,000 that summer.
"The lightbulb went off. It was like, 'Wow, this is what I was meant to do,' " Soliman said. "Not so much haul junk, but run a business."
No. 2: Experience trumps education
After that summer, Soliman submitted his business plan to UM's annual Leigh Rothschild Entrepreneurship Competition.He won first place and $10,000 to launch his business concept.
Soliman and Friedman finished college in 2004 and began working full time on College Hunks Hauling Junk in June 2005.
Back then, "We had no idea what we were doing," said Soliman. Still, College Hunks did $500,000 in business in its first year. Its second year, $1.1 million.
"Formally we don't have MBAs, but I feel like we both have received an MBA just from having grown this business to where it's at," he said.
Two years ago, College Hunks moved from Washington, D.C., to Tampa. Today, there are 28 locations nationwide. There are as many as 400 employees nationwide, depending on the season. In the headquarters on W Gandy Boulevard, there's a staff of 10.
No. 3: You're never too young
College Hunks' director of franchise development is in his 40s. The company's franchise partners range from age 21 to 50. And Soliman and Friedman are in charge of them all.
"That was actually really tough for us when we first started," Soliman said. "The best advice is just to communicate in a way that's clear. . . .Just let them know what you're trying to do, and that usually tends to work."
College Hunks recruits mostly on campuses, so the majority of its "junkmen" are young guys. Soliman and Friedman play up their young, fun side, striving to make College Hunks the nation's largest employer of college students.
"We want to be a launchpad for aspiring entrepreneurs," Soliman said.
No. 4: Junk haul = bad date idea
Soliman may have the business thing down, but missteps in his personal life have been a bit more public. After Soliman and Friedman appeared on ABC's entrepreneurial reality show Shark Tank, a producer from Bravo's The Millionaire Matchmaker approached the guys about filming an episode. In October 2009, Soliman and Friedman traveled to Los Angeles, where Friedman took his date sightseeing and then out for sushi. No sparks flew, but Friedman came off looking like a nice-enough guy. Soliman, however, picked up his date in a College Hunks signature orange truck, gave her a work shirt and took her to clean out a client's garage.
The purpose of the date, Solimon said, was to make sure the girl wasn't just after his money.Needless to say, there was no second date.
No. 5: Recover quickly
After the episode aired Jan. 19, friends and even strangers began razzing Soliman.
"I felt like he was given a bad rap for the way he came off. By the end of the show, he humbled himself, he admitted that he made a mistake, he apologized to the girl," said Friedman, 28.
But Soliman has learned his lesson. In fact, shortly after filming Millionaire Matchmaker, Soliman started dating his friend Stacy Kramer of Tampa.And no, she has never been on a junk haul.
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Need a summer job?
College Hunks Hauling Junk is always hiring. You don't have to be in college or be a hunk. Apply at collegehunks.com.