A longtime worker in the manufacturing industry, Sandy Embroli wanted to develop her own business and went to the Small Business Development Center at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

But what type of business? That, of course, was important. So director Heidi Melancon got her started with a basic idea.

“She asked if I had ever thought about franchising,” she said.

There were a handful she passed on. A flower tent. A cleaning business. A workout business. But something about the name of this other one sounded catchy: College Hunks Hauling Junk and Moving. The business specializes in exactly what’s in the title. And the “Hunks” is an acronym: Honest Uniformed Nice Knowledgeable Service.

The company has locations across the U.S. and Canada and bills itself as the only full-service residential and commercial service company that offers moving, junk removal, donations, pickups and hourly labor services. What started out as two college buddies with a beat-up cargo van is now a franchised company that tries to stand out from the others in the moving industry by being eco-friendly — either donating unwanted items to a local nonprofit or recycling them.

It also stresses building leaders, another aspect that caught Embroli’s attention.

“The name is catchy,” said Embroli, a Lafayette native who opened the business in June. “The franchise’s core values are in direct alignment with my own core values. I also wanted to be a teacher when I was a little girl, so I’m fulfilling that by mentoring the young people. Another core value is creating a fun, enthusiastic work environment. I enjoy having control over the culture of the company.”

Franchised businesses have become big business in recent months as the coronavirus pandemic’s effect on the economy has resulted in a shift in the workforce. There’s been a bigger demand for franchises, particularly ones for services in the home, said Bob Breaux, a Baton Rouge-based franchise consultant for FranNet and a Lafayette native.

The International Franchise Association estimated that 26,000 new franchised locations would be added this year, up 3.5% compared with 2020.

Breaux said he works with more than 250 different types of franchisers trying to recruit more franchisees. In general, people looking for a franchise are paying for a process in a region that's been vetted for having the right demographics.

"There's been tremendous growth in the service area like homes, yards, windows, bathrooms and kitchens have been exploding," Breaux said. "People don't want to cut their own grass or clean their own houses. When people think of franchises, they always think of food. Everybody wants to do Chick-fil-A, but those are very hard and expensive to get into.”

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Expenses up front — the franchise fee and other requirements — are what’s required and can be what determines the business a franchisee takes on. With Embroli’s company, the franchise fee can be $40,000 to $60,000, and operators are required to have enough working capital to cover expenses for the first six months. Because the franchise fee is often financed, the company requires at $75,000 in liquid capital and a net worth of $200,000.

When Amy and Walter Paine, of Baton Rouge, decided to retire from their jobs, starting a business was the plan. But the first-time business owners liked the idea of having a roadmap so they went with a franchise. The pair bought into Monster Tree Service just before the COVID-19 pandemic began.

The franchise costs for Monster Tree Service requires a total investment upward of $314,500 with $100,000 in liquid capital required and net worth of $350,000. The franchise fee itself is $49,500 and a 7.5% royalty fee on revenue. The company has generated more than $700,000 in annual revenue.

"We wanted something that we could do ourselves," Amy Paine said. "I like having structure and best practices. I'm a tree lover. I loved the idea of being able to care for people’s trees even if they have to be removed."

The company has been consistently busy but doesn't rely on hurricane- or storm-related work, rather a customer base of regular clients with trees. The plan is to potentially expand their service territory over the years to meet customer demand. One of the things the Paines have learned that franchising follows a blueprint, but at the end of the day, it's up to the franchisee to make it successful.

“Whenever it comes to operations and running the business, you are really on your own," she said.

In Lafayette, Julie Cummins and her husband, Allen, are in the middle of opening three franchised PJ’s Coffee locations. The first one opened at 1801 Camellia Blvd. in June 2020, and their location on Pinhook Road near the DoubleTree Hotel is slated to open early next year. Another one will open later, she said, possibly in Youngsville.

The two paid $30,000 as a franchise fee — it’s since gone up to $35,000 — and have a 5% royalty fee and a 2% advertising fee per week to the New Orleans-based company.

The fee was lower than other franchises, she noted, and the guidance the company offers separates it from others.

“I pretty much run the business,” said Cummins, who quit her job as a nurse to run the business. “I have lots of support from PJ’s corporate as far as how the business goes. They’re there every step of the way — getting open to even now. We have a consultant that is appointed to us that I’m in contact with almost on a daily basis.”

Staff Writer Kristen Mosbrucker contributed to this report. 

Email Kristen Mosbrucker at kmosbrucker@theadvocate.com or follow her on Twitter @k_mosbrucker