Using their collective experiences from the pandemic-ravaged live events and hospitality industry to build a new business together, three Fort Mill/Charlotte-area residents launched Trash & Stash in April 2021 and have already exceeded their first operational goal—30 jobs in 30 days.
By Kent Kimes
Cameron Ungar and his wife took a leap of faith when they uprooted their family from the West Coast to the Carolinas where he ultimately landed a position as guest services manager at the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, NC.
Ungar took an even greater leap of faith a year later when he, with the help of two associates, launched Trash & Stash, a brand-new junk removal, moving help, and micro-storage service based out of Fort Mill, SC.
Open for business since April 19, Trash & Stash has exceeded its first operational goal—30 jobs in its first 30 days—while also diverting materials from local landfills, simultaneously raising funds for a local pediatric cancer foundation, creating jobs, and wowing customers.
This is the story of how three Fort Mill/Charlotte-area residents used their collective experiences from the pandemic-ravaged live events and hospitality industry to build a new business together that simplifies busy people’s lives while making a positive impact on the environment and community.
Like many sagas from the tumultuous year 2020, this story begins with the COVID-19 pandemic. With two decades of event industry experience under his belt including owning his own event services business, Ungar began 2020 with much promise, starting his new job in January at the Whitewater Outdoor Recreation Center/Event Venue. That is where he met seasoned service and hospitality professional Chase Waychoff, the center’s food and beverage director.
Then came COVID-19, the lockdowns, social distancing measures, the bans on mass gatherings and massive cancellation of events, devastating an industry that relies on people communing together for in-person shared experiences. Like many in the workforce, Ungar and Waychoff suddenly found themselves laid-off and searching for answers. A longtime associate of Ungar’s, Robert Mohorc, a Marine veteran and special event manager for noted event security outfit, Contemporary Services Corporation (CSC), was also in the same boat. Rather than wait around for the prospect of events bouncing back, Ungar began plotting an entrepreneurial future. He figured his days in the live events business were over.
Admittedly, junk removal was not his first career choice. However, he looked around at the growing Fort Mill area and its ever-increasing number of master planned communities and the preponderance of storage facilities cropping up and a vision began to form. Once the business concept and framework were created, Waychoff and Mohorc were brought on board. They have been instrumental in the execution and launch of the business. After purchasing a service truck/van from a Honda dealership that Ungar worked at for a few months, the Trash & Stash crew was ready to roll.
Trash & Stash’s first job was delivering a dining room set to a customer who had purchased it on Facebook Marketplace, but who had no way to get it to her home. “She found us from a post I made on Facebook,” said Ungar. Thus, a sweaty start-up was born.
The Dirty Work
With the goal of helping customers simplify and declutter their lives, Trash & Stash offers full-service junk removal, help with moving and/or delivering bulk items and micro-storage. This also includes home renovation debris removal, storage unit cleanout, estate cleanout, yard debris removal and household disaster clean up, with more services to come as the business grows.
Junk removal is a $10 billion industry and growing according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but Trash & Stash has not reinvented the wheel, rather the company is refining it, and improving upon it.
Trash & Stash is carving out its niche with exceptional customer service. “They arrived on time quickly after calling to set my appointment. They came to look at the job, but ended up being able to handle it the same day. Quick, careful and fairly priced. I would highly recommend this company,” raved customer Sandra Vinton.
It is all about building relationships and providing memorable client experiences, skills that Ungar, Waychoff and Mohorc honed while working in the live events industry. “Customer service is my jam,” said Waychoff. “We’re not there to just haul junk, we’re there to provide an actual experience.”
The events business is multi-disciplinary and requires skills in planning, logistics, project management, operations—and, most importantly, customer service—all of which Ungar, Waychoff and Mohorc have applied to the junk removal business. “I think it’s our customer service skills that set us apart coming from the industry that we did,” said Mohorc.
The biggest challenge Trash & Stash encountered during its company development process involved staffing. “How do you say you’re open for business without any customers in the pipeline, but also have the right amount of people on board to be able to take jobs?” asked Ungar. The way the company jumped that hurdle is by starting all employees at the same level—as hourly crew members—even the owner, Ungar.
And by instituting a rigorous employee screening process. “People don’t necessarily want to do this kind of work, so finding that type of unicorn person who wants to do the hard, sweaty work, but is also great at customer service, can chat it up with a customer, think on their feet, and provide estimates and do all that is required is a challenge,” said Ungar. “We have set high expectations on staffing.” To aid in the scheduling process, Ungar also decided to batch jobs on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. “This is to make sure that we’re always staffed on those days,” said Ungar. “On the other days of the week we take jobs by appointment. That has helped address the staffing challenge.”
For Trash & Stash, it is not simply about growing greenbacks, this business model is about going green as well. Every effort is made to repurpose the junk that the crew removes and divert it from landfills. “I don’t think anybody likes the idea—even if they’re giving something away—of it going straight to the dump and ending up in the trash pile,” said Ungar.
The owners pride themselves on making Trash & Stash an environmentally responsible junk removal choice. The crew sorts the junk it removes, with the goal of donating (providing customers with donation receipts), recycling and repurposing as much as possible. They donate items to Goodwill, while more valuable or collectible pieces are sold on Facebook Marketplace. The last resort is the dump.
Sustainability is one of Trash & Stash’s core beliefs and they are committed to Corporate Social Responsibility. Hand-in-hand with its commitment to sustainability, Trash & Stash has an obligation to the community. Striving to be transparent with customers, Ungar decided that collected items that Trash & Stash sells online will benefit the Isabella Santos Foundation, a local nonprofit that “is dedicated to improving rare pediatric cancer treatment options in an effort to increase survival rates of kids with cancer.”
The foundation resonated with Ungar because a boy in his neighborhood passed away last year from a brain tumor and to witness a family deal with the trauma of losing a young son who had previously been healthy was terrifying and heartbreaking. “It was important for me to find ways to give back to the community,” said Ungar. “And it’s been a nice partnership with the foundation.”
Along with growing the micro-storage facet of the business, looking forward, the roadmap for Trash & Stash’s scalability is focused on three areas:
• Customer service—The goal is to continue to provide the best customer service period. And to be able to do that with every customer—whether it is a $50 job or a $5,000 job—“to treat them all with the same respect, dignity and importance regardless of a spend. To do that means further investment in people, technology, equipment and whatever else,” said Ungar.
• Hyper-local—With a strategically defined hyper-local target area in Charlotte’s southwestern suburbs, Trash & Stash is focused on future growth in the South Carolina communities of Indian Land, Fort Mill, Lancaster and Rock Hill as well as North Carolina’s Waxhaw and Ballantyne. “We prioritize the neighborhoods along the North and South Carolina border because that’s our community,” said Ungar.
• Environmental responsibility—The goal is to qualify as a B Corp, a new kind of business that balances profits with purpose, such as notable Certified B Corporations Ben & Jerry’s, New Belgium Brewing and Patagonia. It is the only certification that measures a company’s total environmental and social performance.
Hosting events is in Ungar, Waychoff and Mohorc’s DNA, so they are itching to produce their own events with Trash & Stash now that pandemic-related restrictions are being eased. Ungar wants to get a sponsored event planned soon that will incorporate a charity drive or fundraising element, something like a plogging challenge, which combines jogging with picking up litter. “It’s part of how we give back to the community, and will also work as a promotion engine,” said Ungar. “Hopefully, as the world starts to gather again, we can give our Fort Mill neighbors a reason to hang out with us.” | WA
For more information, call (855) 52-TRASH, e-mail [email protected] or visit www.trashandstash.com. Follow Trash & Stash on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and tumblr.
Kent Kimes is a Decatur, GA award winning writer, editor and content manager with more than 25 years of professional communications experience.