Butler-Based Junk Hauling Company Aims to Give Veterans Jobs

Jan 10, 2018

A military veteran in Philadelphia started JDog Junk Removal & Hauling seven years ago. Business boomed so he decided to offer franchises to fellow veterans and their families. That’s where Wisconsin native Andrew Weins enters the picture. 

“This business allows me to take care of the environment,” he says.

Military veteran Andrew Weins (center) co-owns JDog franchise with his brother Isaac (right). Here they lead the morning meeting before crews head out on jobs.
Credit Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

Weins served in both Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

“We push the fact that we’re veteran owned and operated because from a marketing standpoint, it’s a competitive advantage," he explains. "However, I’m here for environmental responsibility. That’s my goal and mission in life. [It]  just so happened JDog allows me to get into it."

But if you think his sole motivation is environmental, you’re about to learn otherwise. The 33-year-old has experienced his share of challenges.

“I’ve been an unemployed vet, I’ve been a homeless vet. I’ve worked at small businesses that didn’t give me an opportunity or they didn’t like the way I did business, or I wasn’t there long enough," Weins says.

Nineteen months ago after three failed business attempts, he launched a barebone JDog franchise from his kitchen table. “One truck, one trailer, one part-time employee,” Weins recalls. “Now we have 10 trucks, 13 trailers, 20 employees across three states.”

And he is planning ahead. “Five year mark, our goal is to have a crew of between 180 and 220 with a fifty percent veteran retention."

If possible nothing JDog hauls goes to landfills. This load will be donated to Goodwill. Other materials, from building materials to metals are salvaged and sold. Eileen Weins in background.
Credit Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

The business recently moved into a 28,000 square foot building in Butler, which contained dozens of huge oil tanks. Crews had to extract years worth of sludge and oil before the tanks could be removed.

Andrew’s mom, Eileen Weins, is in charge of the  evolving facility.

She admits plenty of people wouldn’t touch the place, but she and her husband, who've run a home improvement business for 25 years, see its potential. “We see the vision. I know by the end of the June this place will be rocking,” Eileen Weins says.

Andrew Weins explains what he’s looking for in employees: “We always hire veterans and felons; guys and girls that need and want a second chance. The only skill set you need to work for us is a good attitude and a willingness to learn.”

Jerome Holmes' metal scrapping expertise is invaluable to JDog but he's also building new skills on the job.
Credit Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

But not every employee falls under the mantle of “felons and veterans.”

Jerome Holmes temped on a big JDog job and was hired on the spot for his metal scrapping expertise.

“Just so happened I found these guys and they gave me the opportunity of my life, so here I am,” he says.

His skills are invaluable to JDog, but owner Andrew Weins knows Holmes wants to add to his skills. “We sat down with Jerome on his 90 day review, he said 'I want to learn more, I want to take on a truck, I want to do these things.' So we train him to do more,” Weins says.

Credit Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

Robert Morris is a veteran, who served in West Germany during the Cold War era.

At JDog’s daily morning staff meeting, Morris stands out with his pant legs tucked neatly into his boots, jacket impeccably clean.

Robert Morris second right with fellow JDog members.
Credit Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

His colleagues call him GI Joe, but Morris says when he left the service, he floundered. “Not being able to deal with things that I’d seen or done. …There didn’t seem to be a way to climb up."

A relative told Morris about JDog and he immediately reached out. “Andrew talked to me on the phone and said 'What do you like, what do you want to do and what don’t you like?' He asked me what I liked, I said 'I like the idea of belonging to a company like this. I like what you stand for,'” he recalls.

At age 52, Morris says he wasn’t keen about lifting and hauling heavy materials the rest of his career. What he likes is sales. “Talking to the people, I like being out there for the company."

Owner Andrew Weins says the success bubbling around him is easier to explain than you might think. “We communicate effectively and we’re kind – that’s it.”

And he adds with a smile, his mom keeps him in line.

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