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The Winning Franchisee | Husband and Wife Franchisees Blow Past Their Sales Goals After Introducing VaVia to the Knoxville Community

After decades of working for other people, Serge and Linda Emelkin decided to follow their entrepreneurial dreams and franchise with VaVia to bring high-quality waste hauling and dumpster rental services to the homeowners and businesses of their community.

By 1851 Staff1851 Staff Contributions
SPONSOREDUpdated 1:13PM 10/26/22

Serge and Linda Emelkin, the husband-and-wife pair behind VaVia’s operation in Knoxville, Tennessee, always knew they wanted to open their own business. After nearly two decades of experience in the railroad industry, Serge shifted his focus and started a corporate position in the waste removal industry a few years ago. When he and his wife Linda, a former school teacher, decided it was time to take control of their own destiny once and for all, they knew they wanted the support infrastructure and proven business model of a franchise — especially following the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The two looked at various concepts, but Serge knew from experience that the waste hauling industry was booming, and nothing stood out quite like VaVia. The emerging dumpster rental franchise offered the Emelkins a streamlined, well-positioned business model and the backing of an expert leadership team. Now, the Emelkins are excited to restore order to the people, homes and businesses of their fast-growing community by removing excess junk and giving them back their spaces. The Emelkins say they are already significantly exceeding their sales expectations, and demand shows no signs of slowing down.

1851 Franchise: Tell me your story – what did you do before franchising?

Linda Emelkin: I used to be a school teacher for kindergarten and third-graders. After that, I had children of my own and stayed at home. We moved around a lot during my four years as a teacher, and I worked at schools in West Virginia, North Carolina and Kentucky.

Serge Emelkin: I was in the railroad industry, specifically CSX Transportation and Canadian Pacific, for 18 years in corporate positions. In 2019, I began working in the corporate waste industry, and we eventually decided to go into business on our own. We studied a number of different franchises and found VaVia. We weren't familiar with the brand, but we loved that they were environmentally friendly and forward-thinking. We wanted to have a big impact on the environment and the everyday life of our community.

1851: How did you initially find out about franchising? 

Serge: It has always been a dream of ours to own our own business instead of working for someone else, so we thought about it for several years and decided now was the time.

1851: Why did you pick franchising over starting your own business?

Serge: We like the idea of having that support. We are doing it on our own, but we have the corporate support behind us, especially with the supply chain. We started our business right when COVID-19 hit, so we thought we would have fewer disruptions and run into fewer issues by going with a franchise instead of starting it independently.

1851: What types of brands did you look at?

Linda: We looked at preschool concepts, handyman services and fitness brands. We were looking into owning a yoga studio for a while.

1851: Why did you pick VaVia? What excited you most about the brand’s potential?

Serge: Because of my experience in the waste removal industry, we decided on a dumpster rental, and when we found VaVia, we loved their corporate strategy and got along with the founders. It felt familiar, and we felt confident going that route.

1851: What trends are you seeing in your local community?

Serge: Knoxville is a fast-growing town, and construction waste hauling is growing alongside it, creating many opportunities.

1851: What kind of growth has your business seen since you opened? 

Serge: We are still educating the market, joining associations and letting people know who we are and what we do. We’ve already seen a pretty steady demand, and every week we continue to grow. Our demand exceeded our expectations in the first month of business.

1851: What are your dreams with the business? What does the future look like?

Serge: We’re not quite sure yet. We like the brand, but we want to stay local. We own the Knoxville territory with VaVia, but we have not ruled out expanding to other territories.

1851: What value do you see your business providing to Knoxville?

Serge: We are geared more towards the commercial side of the business rather than the residential, so our main focus will be on providing a service to business owners in the area. But as we roll out our marketing, we are also seeing a large number of residential customers popping up.

1851: What advice would you have for others looking at buying a franchise?

Serge: Do your homework before you purchase a franchise, and really understand the business and obstacles you're going to face along the way.

1851: What do you do in your personal time?

Linda: In the summertime, we get out on the lake and fish, and we do a lot of sports during the school months. We have two kids who are both into baseball and softball, and Serge is a coach, so we keep busy.