JunkGator Founder Al Lijee Talks About His New U.S.-based Junk Removal Platform

Interview with JunkGator founder Al Lijee

Published on January 19, 2022

What is JunkGator?

JunkGator was launched in November 2021 as a lead generation website for junk removal businesses located in the United States. So far, we’ve got hundreds of local, independent junk haulers listed in cities and states across the USA.

Americans in need of affordable, quick same-day junk removal services can get in touch with genuine, approved junk removal businesses that have become members on our platform. Most of our partners provide a vast range of specialized junk removal services, including house cleanouts, office cleanouts, bulky item removals and more.

Our USP is based on a single point of contact for customers to find cheap junk removal services near them and to get in touch quickly and easily. JunkGator is completely free for users and they can also request as many free, no-obligation quotes as they like from local junk haulers.

This creates a competitive marketplace whereby customers can find junk removal services that they need from local, independent junk haulers, all at affordable prices. Customers have greater control over who they do business with, and since our partners tend to be small, local businesses looking for a competitive advantage, they’re far more willing to negotiate for fair prices and to provide exceptional service.

Where did you get the idea for your business?

With JunkGator, I used the same approach as I did with Rubbish.com.

JunkGator itself is an American platform that mirrors another platform that I’ve established in the UK, Rubbish.com, which is the most extensive and successful network of independent and licensed waste carriers in the UK. Since Rubbish.com took off and grew over the past few years, I figured a similar approach would work in the US.

JunkGator, and by extension Rubbish.com, I used the same approach. Customers looking for junk removal services should have greater freedom and choice than just a few big name companies. Small, local junk haulers benefit by getting more quality leads, customers benefit by engaging their services which are often cheaper and more flexible.

Were you aware of demand in the market for these types of services?

When it comes to junk removal services, customers want dependable services at fair prices, wherever and whenever they’re needed most. Likewise, many companies with big marketing budgets and perhaps not such a good track record of quality services, reliability or value for money end up leaving customers dissatisfied and looking for alternatives.

Small, local junk removal businesses with maybe a handful of staff need to remain competitive, so often they can offer better services, better reliability, and fairer prices. The only downside is that a lot of these businesses sorely lack any visibility or traction, especially online. In today’s increasingly online world, this essentially means they don’t exist and lose out business to those companies with better visibility online.

What did you do before starting your own business?

I’ve been working in web sales and internet marketing practically since the dawn of the internet age, first working in service sales back when terms like ‘domain name’ were foreign in the business world. Afterward, I transitioned into digital marketing and worked for UKFast for seven years, a leading hosting provider in the UK.

Was running a business something you ever imagined?

Absolutely. I’ve known since I was very young that running a business was a goal of mine. I always try to challenge myself, to think creatively and ‘outside the box’ while also trying to improve processes and how things are done.

I saw great success with my first commercial venture in the junk removal niche with Rubbish.com, which is now the largest man and van rubbish removal platform in the UK. The traditional approach to rubbish removal, I found, was slow, expensive, and outdated and so I was determined to improve the situation.

I use the same approach for JunkGator as I did with Rubbish.com, which is to improve the way that we do things. Both platforms do this by giving customers better quality and better value while rewarding good, honest small junk removal businesses with quality leads.

How did you raise capital for these ventures?

I’m proud to say that I have never needed to borrow any money to start any of my ventures. All were designed and organized such that they would be fully self-funded.

Early on in my career, I had worked a typical 9-6 job to pay the bills. During my lunch breaks, I’d focus on my side projects (working from my car) and spend hours after work developing them. When the time was right to transition these side projects into a full-time business, I left employment and started to focus all of my energy and resources on my business ideas.
It’s a big relief that I was able to get my businesses off the ground running. These days, I’m happy to have a robust and well-rounded team of professionals that help me with a lot of the more specialized tasks like web development, digital marketing, accounting, and content writing.

How do your businesses generate revenue?

The goal of JunkGator and my other businesses is to make it quick and straightforward for customers to find reliable, quality members through the platform. Our team provides remote marketing for members by generating quality leads and through digital marketing, so the process is also simple and hassle-free for members as well.

Although customers don’t pay a single penny for using our services, members do pay a monthly membership fee (a modest $40 per month) on a rolling contract basis. It doesn’t matter whether the member is a one-man, one-truck sole proprietor or a small or medium-sized junk hauling business, the flat monthly fee gives each member access to high-quality leads that match their skills and availability.

This simple revenue model ensures that operating costs for the business are covered.

Have you faced any challenges? If so, how did you overcome them?

Even during normal times, starting a business always comes with many risks and challenges. Starting a business in the middle of a global pandemic certainly has had its own unique challenges that made me seriously question whether it would be worthwhile.
Fortunately, junk removal is an industry that is currently thriving in the United States. With more people spending more time at home, many of which are now working remotely, residential homeowners are increasingly looking to de-clutter their homes. Offices and commercial businesses undergoing phases of transition also need quality junk removal, so there’s no sign of slowing down for this industry in the near future.

What was the first big breakthrough for your business?

In the beginning, we mostly used word of mouth to build some organic traffic growth to our websites, but that has its limits. I realized early on that we would need professional marketing and good PR to really get a big break and to reach a wider audience.

We engaged a professional marketing company to help expose us to a much wider audience than what we originally had from our website and social media profiles. They helped us get noticed by newspapers, magazines, and radio mentions which brought in plenty of new customers and businesses wishing to become members.

If you could give a piece of advice for a budding entrepreneur, what would it be?

First and foremost, it’s critical that you love what you’re doing. If you’re chasing dollars, you might have some success for a time, but running a business involves long-term planning, so at the very least you’ve got to enjoy what it is you’re doing.
Becoming successful most often requires time and effort paired with energy and optimism. Patience is an important virtue, so keep investing your time and effort since the fruits of your labor can take a while to grow.

Also, you’ll almost always have some setbacks and challenges. You will fail or make mistakes along the way, but if you treat them as learning experiences you will be able to grow and progress.

Old fashioned question: where do you see yourself five years from now?

Hopefully, JunkGator will grow just like Rubbish.com did in the UK. Although the market is much bigger in the United States than it is in Britain, I’m hoping that JunkGator can grow to become a well-known and respectable platform that continues to reward honest, local junk haulers while giving customers better access to fair prices for quality junk removal services.

Business Editor