Film Stars May/June 2022

June 8th, 2022 by Nathan Hobbs

The American Dream

Sergey Yakobchak Finds Freedom with Film

Ukraine is a country under siege this spring, but destruction hasn’t always enveloped its borders. The city of Chernivtsi housed Sergey Yakobchak during his first 21 years of life. The Chernivtsi native then moved to New York State in 2011. American companies weren’t willing to open their pockets for someone who couldn’t speak English, but open-mindedness and gated opportunities unlatched new doors.

Push to Start

“I was a janitor; I cleaned up a grocery store for a year,” says Yakobchak, who arrived in the U.S. with a dentistry degree. “It was the only job I could get. But when I got a job as a valet, I learned English. I was working with other guys, and they taught me. I never had experience with cars, but that’s when I started liking them. You would park an expensive, exotic car and say, ‘Wow, this is awesome.’”

Sitting in, briefly shuttling, and parking supercars sparked a fire inside Yakobchak, and a hometown friend fanned it further. Roman Varvus, owner of Exclusive Vinyl in Albertson, N.Y., started slinging vinyl wraps and the former valet and janitor wanted in.

“He taught me how to do vinyl wraps, and I opened a shop in Michigan,” says Yakobchak, who dubs Varvus as one of the “main characters” in his journey. “I had another shop back then—I completely failed. I was paying bills, but I wasn’t making much money. I wasn’t happy with the business, so I had to close the shop after a year.”

Yakobchak then worked as an installer at several shops, reflecting on how he had run his short-lived business. His father, mother, and brother had moved to America four years prior, and he was eager to find his footing.

“I was trying to undercut prices and get any job into the shop,” he says. “People could talk me down on the price of any job; I was too worried to lose the work, and I had to pay the bills.”

A New Wave

“It failed, so I’m going to do everything opposite. I’m not going to make the same mistakes twice.”

Those words comprised Yakobchak’s renewed mindset when he founded New Layer Customs of Troy, Mich., three years after his stalled launch. He previously bid for projects by steadily slashing prices until his opposition backed out. But Yakobchak’s current strategy extends beyond adjusted pricing.

“You don’t want to do it all,” says Yakobchak, a member of the Window Film Pros Facebook group. “Someone would stop by with this old vehicle and tell me they have a small budget. I used to take it, but this is a bad practice. Those cheap cars only move you backwards; parts will break, and there’s rust. When I opened the shop, I decided to only work on premium exotics. If I can’t get it in, I won’t get anything in.”

New Layer Customs, an automotive film dealer, has a no-exception policy where cars older than a decade are rejected for service. Yakobchak’s tactics are aggressive, but they’ve spooled up his company’s success. The business had $250,000 in sales in 2019, $400,000 in 2020, and $600,000 in 2021. 65% of Yakobchak sales stem from paint protection film (PPF), with vinyl wraps generating 25% and tint and ceramic coatings drumming up the remaining 10%.

“If I get a 2010 Bugatti, that would be my one exception,” he explains. “That guy is not looking for a deal. But newer cars are easier overall and produce more profit.”

Yakobchak’s customer base, which primarily consists of repeat customers, is also accustomed to unorthodox service hours. “They can call me on Christmas, and I will answer,” he says. “If they need me to pick up the car or meet me on my birthday, I will be at the shop. I don’t think this is good advice, but it works for me. I had a client that would drop off the car and fly on business to China in a different time zone. It doesn’t matter when he calls or texts me—I will be there.”

Employers discounted Yakobchak’s lack of assimilation from the jump, motivating him to climb higher.

“I feel like it was too easy—maybe it’s me being an immigrant,” he says. “I see how much people pay me to put stickers on cars, and I feel it’s going to go away. I worry that it might be gone one day, so I do everything not to lose clients and jobs.”

Brothers in Arms

Yakobchak handles PPF installations and customer relations within the company’s walls, which rest 24 miles from Detroit. His wife Olesia assists with PPF and office work, while his brother Mike applies window tint and vinyl wrap. Vlad Yarmolyuk, the business’ newest addition, currently prepares installs and recently completed Avery Dennison’s Supreme Wrapping Film Class.

Yakobchak’s new life is in Michigan, but several family members reside in a birthplace now experiencing a tragic loss of life. “My grandma, cousins, and wife’s mom still live there,” he says. “When the news broke, I couldn’t focus or work. I would stay on my phone all day reading the news, looking to my friends and family.”

Ukraine is home to several noteworthy film shops, including Autovinyl ZP, South Art Tuning Workshop, and the Lab13 Detailing Workshop. Yakobchak walked the streets of Kyiv less than one year ago. “It’s all high-end, premium cars, and there is a big [film] scene in Ukraine.”

Yakobchak made $1,300 each month working as a janitor when he arrived in the U.S. Today, he’s living out his version of the American dream.

“You move here, speak no English, and then a few years later, you’re making bank by putting stickers on cars. I’m not even a doctor or lawyer—this is too good to be true,” he says.

Chris Collier is the assistant editor for Window Film magazine.

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