OREM -- He may not be a superhero with muscles of steel, but Reg McDaniel is The Metal Man, and he describes his work as a "maid service on steroids."
An entrepreneur, McDaniel has a penchant for seeking out the latest and greatest ideas and solutions, and then capitalizing on them. Currently, he makes decent money collecting anything made of metal and recycling it or selling it for scrap metal.
But life has taken him down some very diverse roads in his 53 years. Born in the Dallas-Fort Worth area of Texas, McDaniel saw things differently from an early age.
"I was very religious from age 6 to 7," he said. "I'd walk to vespers at the Episcopal church on my own every morning and then go to first grade."
His dream of being a policeman stopped short at age 8 when an accident left him deaf in one ear. So he decided to become a Methodist minister. A few years later his parents divorced. During that time he and his mother joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and moved to Utah, where McDaniel graduated from Orem High.
With a strong work ethic, he found ways to earn cash. He needed money for an LDS mission and was given permission to cut down an orchard at the end of Center Street to earn the money. Following his mission to Italy, he returned home, married his high-school sweetheart, Roxane Eagar, and received two college degrees in business.
Over the years McDaniel has had several occupations. For 24 years he had his own home remodeling business. Then, while living for a short time in Las Vegas, he developed the High Tech Wellness Club with an accompanying radio show twice a week. The unique concept enlisted the use of several machines that would work to help the body including biofeedback, foot baths and others. It was cost-effective and made getting better easier.
While he was laid up for a few days, McDaniel spent time watching the Food Network. He realized the station didn't have any programs about how to cook in regards to food storage. He immediately started researching and thought it would be interesting to have a show where the host demonstrated some aspect of food storage or survival methods. A featured food storage recipe would be shared at the end of the each show. He met producer Richard Dougan and the dream became a reality.
"I immediately said yes, because it was something that had never been done before," Dougan said. "That's one thing about Reg -- he's an idea guy."
Twenty-eight episodes later, Dougan and McDaniel are currently seeking national syndication for the program. To this point, the series is only broadcast in Utah on Comcast On Demand. A family illness over the past year has slowed down the effort to expand their broadcast audience.
In the meantime, the Metal Man idea was hatched.
"I use to take appliances occasionally to the dump," McDaniel said. He noted at the time he could get around $10 a ton for scrap metal.
"Prior to the [Beijing] Olympics, China started to buy steel in the U.S. I was getting up to $175 a ton," McDaniel said.
So like any good entrepreneur, he test-marketed collecting and scraping metal. He did it part-time for three months and made $2,000 a month. It was a way to help him get out of debt quickly and, at the same time, build a lucrative business.
"At first it was mostly appliances; then a guy asked me if I do cars," he said. One thing led to another and soon McDaniel had a new trailer and truck.
"Thirty days later, China stopped buying metal" after the Olympics, McDaniel said. "I started to figure out new strategies. I was in emergency mode and I had to get creative."
He said he devised 75 original ways to keep his business operating. One of the ideas was to tell the salvage yards to stop telling the public that they didn't pick up metal. Instead, he asked them to give folks his name, and he would pick up the metal items for free.
His record is hauling off nine refrigerators from one house. "Four of them had been gutted out and were being used as smokers," McDaniel said.
The idea caught on, and now he has clientele in the thousands with referrals from Deseret Industries and Savers.
"It's lucrative and recession-proof," McDaniel said. He is looking to franchise The Metal Man, and said that the Ogden and Salt Lake City markets are currently open.
What's next for McDaniel? He says he has two inventions that are just waiting for the right investor to come along. Until then, McDaniel will continue to pick his brain for other marketable ideas and concepts that might some day turn into business enterprises.
The Metal Man metal salvage service can be contacted at (801) 687-8787.