When he was 18, high school dropout Hunter Moore saw an opportunity to provide "lumping and logistics" staffing to companies needing to load and unload trucks and find drivers. With Memphis-based Moore Advanced, the 22-year-old now serves difficult-to-staff industries like recycling plants. --As told to Liz Welch

I was 16 when my father passed away unexpectedly from a G.I. bleed. I was living just south of Memphis, and wound up dropping out of high school. I'd broken my hip playing football when I was 12, and as a result I had medical issues until I was 15, so school was never much fun for me. After my dad died, I helped pay for the mortgage on his house. To make money, I got a job working for a fire- and water-damage restoration company called Advantage One. We'd go into houses after a fire or flood and rip out compromised walls and remove soaked or charred furniture. I learned pretty quickly that I had a knack for talking to those people whose homes had been destroyed, and rose up the ranks in that company.

My older sister had started a staffing company and asked me to join her. That's where I learned about lumping. Everything you buy, from apples to lawnmowers, is transported by 18-wheelers hauling containers that need to be loaded and unloaded at distribution centers across the U.S. While there are several lumping companies in Memphis, no one was aggressively selling services. I saw an opportunity.

I was 18 when I called my childhood friend Justin Hankins and persuaded him to quit community college to focus on the lumping industry. We unloaded trucks, and I saw
that if I supplied staffing for both lumping and logistics, or hiring the truck drivers, that meant better coordination and less room for error, and it would save companies money.

I left my sister to start my own company in 2013 with Justin as my first hire, and he's now my COO. We grew from two to 34 people that first year. Things were going well, and then one day I drove past a recycling plant and it dawned on me: Recycling was another niche, fast-growth industry that was difficult to staff because of employee turnover. It's not easy to find people who want to sort through trash. I called the human resources department of that plant daily for a year until the company gave me a chance to fill the position for a manager at their Athens, Georgia, plant. After that, we started staffing plants in Milwaukee, Mine Hill, New Jersey, Hartford, Connecticut, and the Memphis one, too.

I realized that these recycling plants have to be shut down and cleaned once every quarter. Immediately, my brain started clicking--Advantage One, the fire and flood restoration company, could do that work. I acquired 50 percent of it in 2016, and later I bought the rest of the company. We now service industrial cleaning for many of these plants.

We've developed a distinct approach to staffing that considers the employees' point of view. For instance, if people don't know there may be rats onsite, you could lose an employee the same day he or she discovers them. So we started offering thorough pre-screening and pre-orientation. The plants are often in rural areas, which makes commuting tough, so we offer a shuttle service from the plant in Detroit to the one in New Boston, and we struck a deal with Uber in a few locations where it costs less than public transportation. The idea is that hard work really can pay off. One employee, a green card holder from Mexico, started sorting at a plant in Tucson for $10 an hour. He's now the assistant plant manager, making $50,000. I love those stories, because I can relate.

I get that determination from my dad. He built apartment complexes and houses for a living and used to say, "Son, you want to own the store, not work for the owner." That always stuck with me.