My Name is Earl

Laid off during the pandemic, an industrious Georgia man learned the pumping industry, bought a vacuum truck and got to work in a successful new career.

My Name is Earl

Gavin Earl with his wife, Lindsay, and sons Meyer, 8, and Calvin, 3.

Interested in Business?

Get Business articles, news and videos right in your inbox! Sign up now.

Business + Get Alerts

As a water sports enthusiast, Gavin Earl had an ideal job running water activities — fishing and boat charters, kayaking trips, sailing classes — for a luxury resort on the coast of Georgia. But the resort took a hit during COVID and he was temporarily laid off. He eventually resumed his position but in the meantime, he started a business.

“I needed something to do,” he says. “One day I needed my septic tank pumped so I called for a service. The guy was actually busy so I ran the truck with him for a couple days. My intention was to see if I was interested in buying his company.”

The gentleman ended up selling to someone else, but Earl was sold on the idea. He bought a truck, got his certifications and by late 2021 Coastal Georgia Septic was open for business in Brunswick, a city of about 16,000 people. His wife Lindsay handles office work from their home, and his equipment is stored in a gated area at a friend’s car dealership, but Earl says he basically runs the business from his cellphone. He works within a 35-mile radius.

Earl pumps tanks seven days a week while continuing to work full time at the resort. He says it’s been smooth sailing so far.


Before starting his business, Earl researched septic systems, the industry and equipment. He spoke to an accountant to make sure all the paperwork was in order and that he knew how to do the taxes. The Georgia Department of Public Health provided information and answered questions. And Earl says the salesman at Phoenix Truck Center in Atlanta was helpful, delivering his purchased vacuum truck to his home.

Earl also talked to other pumpers. “I just called them up,” he says. “I asked a lot of questions. One guy in particular was really helpful. He said there’s plenty of work to go around. The companies are all supportive of each other, which is great.” He continues to use these contractors as a resource to refer work to when he comes across a job beyond his scope.

Earl’s father, Larry Earl, works with him as needed, and his 19-year-old nephew, Porter Mobley, also helps out when home from the Air Force Academy.


Services include pumping, real estate inspections, drainfield hydrojetting with a DeWalt 4400 pressure washer, and minor repairs. The company’s vacuum truck is a 2013 Freightliner M2 with a 2,500-gallon steel tank and a National Vacuum Equipment Challenger pump. Waste is taken to the Brunswick Wastewater Treatment Plant. About 70% of his community is on septic, Earl says. He pumps three or four tanks a day. His resort schedule is flexible, allowing him to break away during the day, but he also works weekends, early mornings, after work and occasionally nights for emergencies.

He says he has no problem finding tanks. “It’s pretty easy because they’re only buried about six to eight inches. It’s all sandy soil so it’s really easy to dig up and probe. And typically the tanks are around 10 feet from the house, so they’re easy to find. I don’t even use a spade shovel, I just use a flat shovel.” The main site difficulty is bamboo. “People love it here but when it’s around septic systems, you’re dealing with digging out root ball after root ball.”


Lindsay, mother of Meyer (8) and Calvin (3), also handles the company’s bookkeeping and online presence. She set up their website, Facebook and Instagram accounts several months before they opened, getting the word out in advance, and she continues to maintain them, posting content and photos from job sites.

The website provides company information but also has a heavy emphasis on customer education — how systems work, when and why tanks need to be pumped. The Earls pulled from various sources for the content, including the Georgia Department of Public Health.

In addition to online marketing, Earl mails out cards and visits local businesses. “A lot of my marketing is going to rental offices and just letting them know I’m out here,” he says. “There are some that manage maybe 300 houses and trailers. They call me a couple times a week. Some have it on their schedule for every five years, some every three.” And, thinking ahead, Earl is saving everyone’s contact information and will send reminder cards every three years to his growing customer base.


Earl says his first challenge was getting all the certifications. It wasn’t hard but took a while and involved taking five tests. Then he had to figure out what equipment to get.

“It was just a learning process,” he says. “Just making sure I had everything dialed in right. Like, I had to make sure I had enough hoses not to drive across someone’s lawn.”

Since opening, he’s faced rising diesel costs. The upside is it encouraged him to plan efficient routing and adjust prices for longer distances. He also continues to learn ways to use his time more efficiently.

“I try to keep the time spent pumping down to a minimal,” he says. “I did buy a Crust Buster (tank agitator). It pulls everything up off the bottom of the tank and breaks up the solids on top to help reduce the time spent on the job.”

Dealing with customer misuse of systems is an ongoing challenge, Earl says. “Wipes are always an issue. And putting food product inside a garbage disposal is not really good for the system either.”


Plans. Although Earl has no immediate plans to quit his resort job, he wants to grow his septic business. First, he’d like to buy another truck and expand north up the coast, then eventually add installations after he has a little more revenue. He’ll buy an excavator and flatbed trailer and rely on other companies to haul soil and rock, as needed. He may hire employees in the future but for now says he just enjoys hanging out with his dad.

Advice. “Take your time and do your research. I think the biggest mistake some people make is to rush into something and then get themselves trapped in a corner financially.”

Benefits. “I just enjoy the heck out of it,” Earl says. “It’s peaceful to be on your own. And I’m out on the road. It’s beautiful countryside. Where septics are, it’s rural, not a lot of cars. You’re surrounded by nature.”


Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.