Jerry Flanagan never dreamed his veteran-owned and operated junk removal business would make it to the small screen.
But that’s happening on Sunday, Oct. 10, when Discovery and American Heroes Channels begin airing reality show Operation Hidden Treasuries, produced by veteran TV producer Jim Milio. Among other notable programs, the Emmy-nominated Milio had a hand in Dog Whisperer for National Geographic, Founding Fathers for the History Channel, and The Real Las Vegas for A&E.
“Jim Milio heard about what we’re doing, putting veterans into business ownership through our franchises, and how we do junk removal and clean outs in an environmental way, instead of just putting stuff in landfill,” said Flanagan, a Philadelphia native, Army veteran and JDog’s founder.
It makes for compelling TV — American Pickers meets Storage Wars — but with a higher purpose: JDog franchises are sold to and operated by veterans of the armed services and their families.
After one of the pandemic’s reopenings, filming finished in May. Ten episodes will air between October and December, Sundays at 8 a.m. on Discovery and Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. on the American Heroes Channel.
“It should reach as many as 86 million viewers, and our hope is all these eyes on JDog will help hire veterans and sell more franchises,” Flanagan said.
Two franchises — one in Lancaster, Pa., and another in Austin, Texas — appear in the series.
Founded by Flanagan and his wife, Tracy, JDog Junk Removal began with two Philadelphia-area franchises in 2012 and has grown to more than 240 active franchises nationwide. Headquartered in Berwyn, the original company employs 17 people.
Producer Jim Milio said the company’s practice of regular donations and recycling done is what intrigued him as a feel-good story.
“They donate furniture or toys to hospitals and the elderly. They don’t get paid for that. That’s on their own time. They use the military values ehether or not our cameras were there, and that’s cool to show what they do,” Milio said.
“During the pandemic we were an essential business, so we actually grew tremendously during that time,” adding 80 franchises, he said. The cost for opening a new franchise includes a $45,000 franchise fee and an additional investment of $50,000 to $100,000, Flanagan said. He and his wife own 60% of the parent company, a controlling stake, and outside investors, including a private equity firm, own 40% of JDog.
JDog as franchisor expects $5 million in revenue this year, and aims to sell an additional 80 to 100 new franchises next year.
The company competes with 1-800-GOT-JUNK and College Hunks, but with that veteran focus.
JDog also launched JDog Carpet Cleaning and Floor Care in the past year, and currently has sold 17 of those franchises. Franchise fees total $25,000 plus a similar investment as the junk removal.
Flanagan said that among the challenges facing the company is finding workers.
“It is very hard to find employees. We and our franchisees have to pay more money hourly to attract people,” he said, adding that the average hourly wage at a JDog franchise is $13 to $18 an hour depending on the city. JDog hires from sources including GI Jobs and Orion Talent. Due to the war in Afghanistan, 20,000 vets were “getting out of the service every year for the past five years,” he said.
For returning veterans seeking contracting opportunities, check out databases run by the National Veteran Owned Business Association (https://navoba.org/) and VetBiz.va.gov, compiled by the Veterans Administration. Their websites are not complete but offer a starting point.
ID cards, for vets starting businesses or seeking work, can be obtained through the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, www.dmva.pa.gov, and through individual New Jersey counties.