Despite the rumor, LOL Transport & Moving owner Rene Van Hout says she does not know everyone in Land O’ Lakes.
But even if she doesn’t know you, there’s a pretty good chance she’s going to hug you anyway.
“Either they’re going to be overwhelmed or I’m going to make their day,” she laughs.
Van Hout founded LOL Transport & Moving with her husband, Wes, in 2005. Since then, she has volunteered and networked her way into the hearts of fellow business owners and friends, alike.
Van Hout says she starts each day with a prayer of gratitude: “Thank you, God, for giving me another day. I hope I can change someone’s life in a very special way.”
Thirteen years ago, someone changed her own life. The woman with the quick smile and a hug for all was in a dark place at the time.
Once a military wife married to her high school sweetheart, in 1998 a recently divorced Van Hout moved back to Tampa from the base with her then almost 2-year-old daughter, Robin. Needing work fast, she took a job as a bartender.
“It was a very dark time in my life,” Van Hout says.
The someone walked into that bar that let the light back in.
“I met Wes and this feeling just came over me,” she says. It took her awhile to gather her courage, but eventually she invited him over to lunch.
“The baby napped while we talked for three hours,” Van Hout says.
The two were married a year later in 1999, in the same bar where they met.
In 2001, the family bought a home in Land O’ Lakes. By then she was working as a union electrician at the University of South Florida.
“Wes was an operations manager at a freight company in Tampa,” she says. The job at USF was wrapping up for her, and because union jobs require you to go where the work is, next up would be a stint in Arcadia, away from her daughter and new husband.
“It wasn’t a question. I wouldn’t do it,” Van Hout says.
The couple talked about what she should do; a quiz designed to give career suggestions indicated she would be a great Realtor.
So Van Hout started down that path, earning her real estate license. In the meantime, her husband’s access to trucks through the freight company meant he always was being asked to help people move.
As a newly licensed Realtor, Van Hout needed a niche to set her apart from other agents, and all those moving requests of her husband inspired her. In February 2005, she bought a truck, establishing her credo: “Buy or sell with me, your move is free.”
The moving company was born, and both businesses exploded.
“Three months in, Wes had to quit his job,” she says. “And it’s just been a roller coaster ever since.”
Fast forward seven years, and the couple’s business is still thriving. Van Hout’s real estate business has slowed down, but the LOL Transport & Moving has increased because of repeat customers, who make up about 60 percent of their business.
Van Hout still works in real estate sales, but LOL Transport & Moving is her priority because the company feeds the families of nine employees, she says.
Van Hout is in the office about an hour in the office each day, then spends the rest of her time networking with other business owners and volunteering in the community. Van Hout has taken on an active role in Sheriff Chris Nocco’s election campaign, and also volunteers with the Heritage Park Foundation, among many other activities.
“The greatest blessing with this moving company has been the opportunity to network and get involved,” she says.
“When people ask how the company grew so quickly and how we’re still growing, I say it’s because we always put community first before profit.”
From that dark place in 1998 to the roller coaster of being a mother, a wife, a business owner and community advocate, Van Hout says she likes where she is today.
“I like that I’m making a difference in people’s lives and there are enough people out there that I’m going to meet someone new every day.”