If it's true that one man's junk is another man's treasure, then what happens if you get everyone's junk?
Brian Scudamore is the man who is the king of junk. The CEO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK has grown his multimillion-dollar business into the Starbucks of trash.
1-800-GOT-JUNK is a full-service junk removal company that began in Vancouver, Canada, and has now spread to the United States and Australia. Scudamore's company has become a classic example of a simple idea executed to perfection and raking in millions as a result.
"I'm surprised nobody thought about it," Scudamore said. "I mean, I'm a high school dropout, a university dropout. It's such a simple idea, how did it become what it is today?"
Recently, business has been getting a boost from a strange pop culture phenomenon: hoarders. Not just people hoarding junk in general but from the A&E's hit TV series "Hoarders," which uses 1-800-GOT-JUNK on its house calls.
"Some people, it's just like, you know, 'Clean out my entire garage,' and we get to work doing it and they're kind of watching, and they're like, 'Oh jeez, I didn't even know I had that,'" said Wyatt Skovron, one of the 1-800-GOT-JUNK crew members. "So I think it's for sure people don't realize how much they have until it's time to get rid of it."
But the company has seen tremendous growth overall. It hit its first $1 million year in 1999 and now brings in roughly $100 million each year. One thousand trucks do the simple task of picking up people's unwanted stuff and getting rid of it.
"We had a guy from Ottawa in Canada go to Sydney and spend a few months working in the trucks in Australia, and he said, 'Brian, it's the same junk in every city.'"
And they get a whole host of bizarre stuff, with a few memorable gems, including John Wayne's personal Bible, a truckload of denture molds, a defused World War II bomb, a trophy from a nudist colony, 50 garden gnomes, 18,000 cans of expired sardines and even a live kitten who was found inside of a refrigerator.
After the junk is collected, Scudamore explained, it is taken to transfer stations and recycling depots.
"Landfills are the last resort," he said -- "61.3 percent of what we haul away gets reused, donated, recycled. The goal is 75 percent by the end of 2014."
The 1-800-GOT-JUNK call center is a massive span of phones ringing off the hook, and Scudamore said they sometimes get very strange requests.
"A lady said if we can pick up her cats," said Steven Kadiebwe, one of call center employees. "I said we don't, you know, I know we don't do that!"
There's even a special section of phones where the Australian calls are fed that is staffed with people with Australian accents to give the callers a local feel thousands of miles away. On a record day, Scudamore said 5,000 calls will come into his call center.
When he first started out, Scudamore had only $700 and an old pick-up truck.
"Called the company the Rubbish Boys," he said. "Started knocking on doors when I saw someone had a pile of junk in their alley, the laneway. Would introduce myself and offer to cart it away for a fee."
As his business grew, he thought a catchy phone number like "1-800-GOT-JUNK" would work better as a company name, but at first the number was taken and actually rang to the Idaho Department of Transportation. Scudamore said 60 phone calls later, he convinced them to let him have the number.
Running his company with the enthusiasm of a start-up, Scudmore holds mandatory daily office huddles to discuss numbers.
Despite the dirty work, he makes sure all of the trucks are clean, and he believes in free advertising at all costs -- his own car is wrapped in the company logo. Trucks are also left in prominent places as billboards when they are not being used.
Chasing a bottomless pit of junk, a seemingly endless demand, Scudamore said the next step is to expand the business to more countries. He also wants to professionalize more dirty jobs that are generally a pain to get done, such as landscaping, maid services, carpet cleaning, window washing and house painting.
"I believe we can take out model, 1-800-GOT-JUNK, and make it a billion dollar business, whether it's just in junk removal, or a second brand that we started calling 1-888-WOW-1DAY-Painting," Scudamore said.