Hard work is something that's been engrained in me from a young age, but I never knew it would be the impetus of a business venture I believe is changing America.
I grew up in a low-income household outside of Philadelphia. I didn't have the support or finances to attend college, so I joined the Army. I spent two years stationed at Ft. Stewart, GA and made the most of it, ultimately deciding that I wanted to attend college on the GI Bill. After about six months of school, I quickly ran out of money and was forced to drop out.
Left without options to further my education, my work ethic was kicked into overdrive. I started working odd jobs to make ends meet – everything from bouncing at a nightclub to working as a dish washer at a restaurant, and even a gas station cashier. It felt freeing to work hard and make my own money. One of my jobs was loading trucks in a warehouse for $5.50 an hour, and because of my military work ethic, I would clock in 90 hours a week and was ecstatic about the paychecks I was bringing home. The company noticed and ended up promoting me to manager.
I went on to other retail ventures, including opening my own stores, designing a kid-related business and even starting my own small franchise. But in 2008, my dreams were shattered by the economy and I was forced to file for bankruptcy. My bank account might have been empty, but the one thing I held on to was my determination.
Finding the next path to success
Because of my past experience, I knew my next business idea must be "recession-proof" and would be able to weather any economic storm. I landed on junk removal and in 2011, I was able to finance an old Jeep and started hauling junk from homes around my neighborhood. I called the business JDog (my nickname from the Army) and thought that even though there were larger chains out there with more junk removal brand recognition, I could outwork and outhustle everyone.
Word started to spread and before I knew it, the business was booming. It became clear that people were hiring me to haul their junk because I was a military veteran and they trusted me in their homes.
Today, I am proud to say that JDog Junk Removal & Hauling is the only franchise in the nation offered exclusively to military veterans and their family members. Our trucks are recognizable since they are decked out military-style, and we are proud to be building a U.S. veteran brand in this country. We have grown to 110 territories in 29 states and are currently opening franchises every month.
As I was personally hauling old appliances and furniture out of my neighbors' homes, I didn't dream one day JDog would form a national partnership with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to help veterans find jobs in their communities. We did that this year. We also were designated by the VA as a Veteran-Owned Small Business (VOSB), and now our JDog Services arm of the business can perform government-contracted jobs.
My wife Tracy has a large role in the business, working with the JDog Spouses, the partners of our military veterans. She also heads up the workforce initiative, providing the JDog franchisees with veteran employees across the nation. I've also been able to hire an entire corporate team made up of veterans and veteran family members to help run the company and work with our franchisees.
The franchisees that are part of the JDog brand encompass the military-bred qualities of respect, integrity and trust. It is humbling for me to watch many of our franchisees open their own local business when they never thought business ownership was for them. JDog is helping people to realize the American Dream and putting veterans to work in their own local communities.
About the author: Jerry Flanagan is the creator of the JDog brand and founder of JDog Junk Removal & Hauling. He served in the U.S. Army from 1987 to 1989, where he achieved the rank of E-4 Specialist and received an Army Achievement Medal. He looks forward to the continued growth and impact the JDog brand will have on veterans and their communities.
Edited for length and clarity by Nicole Taylor. Have a great entrepreneurial story to tell? Contact Nicole at firstname.lastname@example.org with your pitch.