Andrew Hodson: Hauling Happiness
Welcome to “Procrastineur”, a newsletter about struggles and successes in modern entrepreneurship.
Welcome to the 6 (!!!) new subscribers who joined us since last Thursday! I can’t thank you all enough for supporting my writing. I’m so excited to share these stories with you.
It’s Thursday, July 22, 2021, and this week’s founder is Andrew Hodson.
Andrew knows cars. That’s what his dad taught him. As the son to an ASE certified mechanic, Andrew learned more by his teens about working with machinery than many ever will. In fact, he followed in his father’s footsteps and became a mechanic.
Andrew loved his work. He was good at it, too! He worked his way up from changing the oil in engines to running the shop. It was a full and fulfilling career, but Andrew had something else in his back pocket. He always loved computers.
Andrew studied in a school where Apple ran a pilot program to distribute computers to students. From early on, Andrew was experimenting with all of the different settings and tools his Macbook provided. Even afterwards, when he was a mechanic, Andrew would spend time reading books about business and coding. His passion never went away.
As luck would have it, his mom had horses. She was also a bit techy and had a problem she wanted to solve. When she would travel with her horses, she often had open space in her trailer. She wanted to build her own business, helping people move their horses. With a Facebook group and Andrew’s help, they grew to over 16,000 members from 2012 to present, all concentrated around helping haul horses from one location to another.
Andrew saw the success and realized there was an opportunity to make it even better. He wasn’t building for the money, though.
“I never worried about monetization. I’m just going to build a company and hope it helps people.”
Andrew was a mechanic until July 2020, but as he built his website and saw more and more people using it, he made the decision to chase after this idea he was passionate about. His hobby became his every day. He’s loved it ever since.
The animal transport industry revolves around word of mouth. It’s been run in basically the same way for years! Andrew wanted to break the mold.
Hauling Buddies does that by allowing people to make a post either requesting or offering service to haul animals from one location to another. Some businesses are centering their operations around these offerings.
The biggest benefit, though, is trust. Now people have a verified way to ensure that a company is trustworthy. After the haul, they can rate the company. Companies have more incentive to do what they’ve promised, or lose business to increasing competition.
Hauling Buddies is separating themselves from their competition, too, by charging customers differently. Citizen Shipper and uShip both charge high fees for each haul. Andrew charges only a membership rate. What a company quotes is what they earn, and what you’ll pay. It’s at the center of Andrew’s trustbuilding with his community.
How many people can you serve?
As Andrew built, he also started pitching the company to investors. Investors, you might know, are pretty good at asking hard questions - questions like “What’s your total addressable market?” (translated, how much money can you make us?). Andrew didn’t have a great answer at first, having focused only on hauling horses, but he found one.
Facebook groups were Andrew’s bread and butter. He knew that his was in the thousands, so he started looking around for more. He found a group of 17,000 for shipping livestock, another of 6,000 for small animal transport.
Andrew became an integral member to each group, forming relationships with members and leaders. He would offer his help in running the groups, often to the founder’s delight. All told, Andrew now moderates 12 different Facebook groups. Each of them helps him reach more potential customers for Hauling Buddies.
Thanks to nearly $2,000,000 in quotes and 3,000 successful transport requests, the Calm Company Fund invested in Andrew’s vision.
With the new investment, Hauling Buddies is growing its team. Andrew is tying their offering in with insurance, sweetening the deal for his clients. They continue to grow their customer base at about 12%, an impressive clip. I’d say they can serve plenty of haulers.
Connect with the community first! Don’t build until you know at least directionally what they want or need.
You become what your surround yourself with. Select friends and mentors carefully.
Be patient! When you’re choosing a new craft, you become junior again. You’re not going to be an expert immediately!
You can connect with Andrew on Twitter as @MyBuddyAndrew.
Word from Will
Andrew really has it going. Hauling buddies has grown tremendously even while Andrew learns the ropes and figures out how to code more complex things, build and run a business, and pitch to investors. He’s the founder investors dream of.
Connecting with his clients, and potential clients, is a passion of his as well. He noted it in his advice, but Andrew told me it “flabbergasts” him that people will build a whole product without ever talking to customers. I don’t think it’s necessary to have tens of thousands of potential clients lined up prior to building something, but do make sure they want it!
Check out Andrew, and if you’re ever needing to transport something living, Hauling Buddies is the place to be. I dare say they’re in it for the long haul 😉