Lilly Sorensen didn’t start her career wanting to be in the junk business. But she’s not sorry her career path took her down that road.
The owner of 1-800-GOT-JUNK – serving Boulder, Weld and Larimer counties – worked in a darkroom for 10 years in Ann Arbor, Mich, until the business closed. After that she decided she wanted to do something different.
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“Hauling garbage was tough work, but driving the truck was fun,” she said. While working for 1-800-GOT-JUNK in Michigan she applied to school at Naropa University in Boulder, planning to study contemplative psychology. When she arrived in Boulder she received a call from the owner of the 1-800-GOT-JUNK franchise there, asking her to come work for him. It became readily apparent after working for the franchise for a few months that the owner wanted to sell it.
“Out of nowhere, I jumped on it,” she said. “Before I knew it I was finishing my degree at Naropa and buying a business.”
That was 10 years ago, and in the past three years the company has seen tremendous growth, moving from $320,735 in revenue in 2012 to $764,129 in 2014. In the past year, the business grew its revenue by 48.6 percent, and in the past two years, that number increased to 138 percent.
The junk industry has had a lot of ups and downs over the years because of the economy, and Sorensen began to question why she was in the business. She even put it up for sale a few years ago. Her attorney kept asking her why she wanted to sell and what she wanted to do afterward. The end result was that she remembered why she loves the business – and took it off the market.
“From that point on, it has been growing,” Sorensen said. “Truly, what happened is I became passionate and engaged with my business. Before that, I wasn’t sure why I was doing it. That’s a big part of it. The economy is obviously strong in Colorado, so it has been a combination of passion, persistence, marketing and having the best people on my team.”
Her business really took off after the floods of 2013. Sorensen and her crew hired trucks and additional people to come in and help homeowners affected by the floods clean out their homes and dispose of saturated items.
“We were doing really good in 2013. We started off really strong and were growing at 20 percent or something, which was awesome. Then the flood happened,” she said. “That was October and that was kind of a turning point for me because, while I was engaged and motivated and trying to drive everything, the flood happened. I thought this is where my company can really shine.”
For three weeks straight, Sorensen and her crew took trucks down closed roads and hauled 25,000 pounds of soaked material a day. They worked 16-hour days trying to get to people and help them when there was no other access, she said.
Even when the city of Boulder stepped in and brought in a larger company to start handling debris removal, 1-800-GOT-JUNK’s business “never really slowed down. That was a year and a half ago. It has continued to grow since then. We provided good service, friendly people and upfront rates,” she said.
“It was a way we got to meet a lot of people and have great exposure and help when a lot of people were struggling with flooded homes.”
Sorensen predicts that her franchise will grow from 44 percent to 45 percent in 2015.
“It is really exciting,” she said. “It has got momentum and I have a really engaged crew.”