It may have taken Anthony Jones four months of sleeping in his truck to find success, but for the founder of Hunky Haulers, which aired on Dragon’s Den in November, enduring poverty panned out.
The local entrepreneur came away from that experience with two offers, one from Jim Treliving and one from Arlene Dickinson and David Chilton. He chose the latter deal of $300,000 for 10 per cent royalty and 25 per cent of the company. His only real assets to that point were three trucks and a couple of muscly men.
And, of course, a great idea and the drive to see it through.
His goals were to franchise the unique business model, a clutter removal service with a recycling component and a comprehensive and generous community give back program.
Clutter is the key word here – junk is an offensive term for the people that work hard for their items, said Jones. And an integral part of the business is the gentlemanly conduct of its hunks. Etiquette is part of the job training.
It isn’t the first time that Jones has launched himself into a business endeavor, given it his all, and come out on top – at least for a while. At the age of 19 he started a commercial window installation company and by the time he was 29 he was up to $22-million in labour contracts.
But he expanded into the U.S. market, stopped working in Canada, and lost everything when the recession hit.
“I ended up having to liquidate all of our assets and basically close the door so that we could make payroll and get all of our employees paid,” Jones said.
He lived in his truck to make ends meet until one day he saw a pamphlet advertising a junk removal business. Something clicked.
“I started searching for names that rhyme with junk, and I came across hunk . . . I didn’t want to limit myself to one industry like I did with construction, just because it can be devastating to your business if you don’t have other ways of being sustainable,” he said.
He started toying with the word “hunk” and Hunky Haulers was the result. A year later, in 2011, he incorporated the company. And in 2013 he brought himself to Dragon’s Den, a life changing experience and one that he almost didn’t follow through with.
“The personal process was bigger than the actual process of getting on, just trying to motivate yourself and stay focused and build enough courage to even get out there,” said Jones.
He drove for four days, 4,200 kilometres, in the truck that was on the show when he gave his pitch.
“I was trying to talk myself out of going the entire time. It was interesting to kind of go and have this internal battle, should I go? Should I stay? So I just kept driving, and didn’t look back.”
Even hunks have insecurities. Going into a room full of extremely successful entrepreneurs and professing why he wanted them to be part of his business was a frightening prospect.
“I didn’t really have any expectations . . . it was just, this is going to be an interesting thing to talk about, an interesting story, so I just hope I can get through it and not stumble my words and trip going down the stairs.”
By the fall he’ll be selling franchises, and the public response has been huge. There is already a long waiting list – especially from the East Coast where there’s a demand for even master franchises, according to Marco Pasqua, Director of Corporate Giving and Public Relations.
“We’re getting entire regions, which is really daunting but very exciting,” he said.
Since the show they’ve updated their website, did a brand refresh and started developing a corporate team, which consists now of eight members. The publicity has given a boost to business, which in turn benefits the community.
Various organizations that help children, support education and promote healthy lifestyle choices will receive 10 per cent of proceeds from within the province, said Pasqua.
They’re already working with Easter Seals and the B.C. Lions Society for Children with Disabilities and they’re looking to align themselves with the Salvation Army, Big Brothers, Journey Home Community Association, anti-bullying programs and more.
Additionally, specific campaigns will raise funds for major organizations. Over the Christmas season they sold truckers’ caps called “the Grinch” that came in different colours, and 15 per cent of campaign proceeds from the sale of these hats goes to Easter Seals.
“We really want to make sure that we put our money where our mouth is . . . so that they can see that we’re really giving back in that capacity,” Pasqua said, who, as a wheelchair user, has a personal attachment to the role he plays within the business.
He’s had close to 20 years experience working within non-profit organizations and also being helped by non-profit organizations.
“To be able to give back from the aspect of somebody working to develop funds and really push money in those directions is a real treat for me.”
Not only does Hunky Haulers have the Dragons’ support, they’ve also got the benefit of Surrey’s strong business environment.
Last year 2,301 new businesses started up in Surrey, a 10 per cent increase from 2012 where there were 2,082, according to Amanda Silvers, senior communications specialist for the City of Surrey.
It’s a good time to start a business here, according to Scantone Jones, vice president of the board of directors at Self Employment Entrepreneur Development Society. And that’s in large part because of its phenomenal growth. Surrey’s population increases by 1,000 new residents each month and is the fastest growing municipality in B.C.
“The city is continuously growing, then you’re going to have more possible clientele and customers that you can reach. You can make them loyal customers, as well you can continuously find new customers that are moving into the city. So I think that in itself creates a great atmosphere for entrepreneurs,” he said.
Jones, who is also the CEO and president of BATNA Technologies, helped develop and implement the Hunky Haulers business plan.
While it’s a good time to do it, starting a business is no easy feat, and one of the biggest rookie mistakes that aspiring entrepreneurs make is believing that because they know how to produce a product or deliver a service, they can run a business, said Jones. But there are many other aspects to it, and not everyone is cut out for the task.
“A good business owner is, first off, somebody who really loves what they’re doing and also is somebody who is willing to be able to fill in the holes where they lack in ability themselves,” he said.
People sometimes want to do their own marketing, or they want to create their own ads and do their own websites, and what they end up doing is making their business look less effective and less professional, explained Jones.
If a business owner doesn’t like managing finances, finding a bookkeeper and accountant that will make sure that everything is kept in order is one of the wisest things that they can do.
But the best bit of advice that Jones can offer to people looking to start up a business, is this:
“Make sure you want to do it. And make sure you’re ready to make the sacrifice in order to have the business that you dream of having.”
Jones Offers Advice For Dragon’s Den Entrepreneurs
Dragon’s Den is hosting auditions in Vancouver on Jan. 25 from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at Century-Plaza Hotel and Spa, and in Surrey on Jan. 29 from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. at the Sheraton Vancouver Guildford Hotel.
Listen to Anthony Jones and Marco Pasqua talk about the Dragon’s Den experience and hear their advice for up and coming entrepreneurs.
Editor’s Update – January 27, 2014
Watch Anthony Jones & Marco Pasqua of Hunky Haulers on The Rush on Shaw TV.