Josh Cohen ’05 came to the School of Business to study real estate, but through his on- and off-campus activities, discovered an entrepreneurial drive that led him in another direction.
As a delivery guy at Wings Over Storrs, Cohen learned quickly that the faster he was able to deliver wings—and communicate accurate delivery times to customers—the better tips he would receive. This knowledge stayed with him as he seized every business opportunity that came his way as a student, remembering timeliness and communication as key guidelines for providing excellent customer service.
Partnering with his roommate, his first entrepreneurial venture was to develop themed t-shirts for UConn’s annual Spring Weekend, which they then sold to students and around town. Cohen also served on the UConn Co-op Board of Directors.
“I had a great experience at UConn,” says Cohen. “I made great friends and picked up quite a few entrepreneurial skills.”
Those skills have served him well; the ability to identify and capture opportunity has taken Cohen on a path he had never imagined.
Junkluggers: The Idea
During a semester abroad in Wollongong, Australia, a new friend mentioned to Cohen that he had made $100 hauling away a neighbor’s refrigerator. Cohen immediately saw an opportunity waiting to be seized back at home. Though he already had a real estate internship lined up upon his return to the States, Cohen used his spare time to make some extra cash by removing unwanted items from people’s homes. Advertising his removal services by handing out flyers, Cohen started receiving phone calls and service requests.
Upon graduation, he moved on to a corporate career in commercial real estate sales and development, but chose to continue the removal service on the side. Over time, Cohen came to realize that there was a bigger demand than he was able to service in the “junk-lugging” business. Taking a leap of faith (and a significant cut in pay), he left the real estate industry to pursue his entrepreneurial passion and grow his own business: Junkluggers.
Starting in a small location in Fairfield, Connecticut, Cohen quickly started to hire friends to help with the manual labor needed to run the business, and the company began to expand.
“The foundational knowledge I received from the UConn School of Business really helped,” says Cohen. “I knew that differentiation would be important, and that we would have to clearly communicate our key selling points to customers.”
So what is unique about Junkluggers? It’s green, eco-friendly focus.
“We don’t just take items to dumps,” says Cohen. “We donate whatever we can, recycle, and then trash what is left. For donated items, we mail customers the receipts so they can use them for their tax returns,” he adds.
From his work experience in real estate and even at Wings Over Storrs, Cohen knows that communication and timeliness are of the essence in any customer-facing business.
“I [also] knew from my IT classes how helpful technology can be for communication and for managing a business. Using that knowledge, we built our proprietary software to help us communicate and identify where to allocate resources,” says Cohen.
Today, Cohen has grown his one-man side job into a full-fledged business, with approximately 65 employees servicing three company-owned locations and five franchises. One of the franchise owners is his brother, Zach Cohen ’09. An accounting major, Zach worked on Junkluggers’ bookkeeping while he was a student at the School of Business. Now he’s also honing his entrepreneurial skills as a business owner.
Junkluggers has grown to service the New York tri-state area, from south of Hartford, Connecticut to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The company expects sales for this year to reach three million dollars, and doesn’t plan to stop there. Junkluggers has big plans for expansion, aiming to add ten more franchises between Boston and Virginia in 2014.