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When was the last time you went anywhere without your smartphone? Whether you’re team Apple or Android, one thing is certain: smartphones have become an integral part of our day-to-day lives. From checking email and organizing appointments to connecting with friends and capturing moments, we are intimately involved with our phones—so much so, that many of us even sleep within arm’s reach of them.
Our dependence on these devices is never more tangibly felt than when they break. Most of us have had the gut-wrenching experience of dropping a smartphone on concrete and cringing to find a once-pristine screen replaced with a spider web of shattered glass.
uBreakiFix Founder Justin Wetherill knows this feeling all too well. Ten years ago, he shattered his iPhone screen while leaving his grandmother’s house. The screen repair options he found online seemed neither affordable nor reliable, and the only alternative was to pony up a few hundred bucks to replace the whole device.
Wetherill’s solution was simple: he would fix it himself. After all, he was a tech-savvy 21-year-old and had always been good with his hands. What could go wrong? Well, a lot, actually. In fact, he broke it even worse—but the ordeal inspired the concept for what is now a 500-store, $163MM tech repair franchise called uBreakiFix. Talk about a big break.
“Even though I completely ruined my phone, I remember very clearly this eureka moment when I realized that if I was having this problem, there must be millions of phone users out there struggling with the exact same thing,” Wetherill said. “The repair options I found online didn’t elicit any sense of trust or credibility, and the only other option was to buy a brand new phone, which felt completely unnecessary.”
After that experience, Wetherill partnered with college friend David Reiff to learn the business of repair, starting with how to actually fix the devices. They bought broken phones online to practice different repairs before launching uBreakiFix as an eBay service. Shortly thereafter, they opened the first uBreakiFix brick-and-mortar store in Orlando, Florida, at the advice of another friend, Eddie Trujillo. He had the right idea—within two months, the single, local storefront had outpaced the online business, which serviced the entire county. Having proven demand for their concept, the trio began recruiting a small team of close friends to help grow the business and spent the next four years opening 47 corporate stores before starting to franchise in 2013.
Ten years and more than 5 million repairs later, Wetherill and team prepare to welcome the 500th uBreakiFix store in Tulsa, Oklahoma. As fate would have it, the store opens in the same month as the brand’s 10th anniversary.
“It’s humbling,” Wetherill said of the tandem milestones. “There are so many people who have contributed to our success, including the franchisees who share our vision with new communities, the partners who trust us as an extension of their team, and the customers whose support and feedback fuels our continual growth and innovation.”
In case the franchise growth alone isn’t testament enough to the ingenuity of the uBreakiFix concept, the third-party repair brand has been endorsed by some of the tech industry’s biggest players over the past few years. In 2016, uBreakiFix announced a partnership with Google to become the exclusive walk-in repair partner for its flagship smartphone, the Google Pixel. Eighteen months later, uBreakiFix was also named an authorized service provider for Samsung’s Galaxy devices. The brand specializes in more than just phones, though.
“While smartphones do represent the bulk of our repairs, we actually offer repair service on anything with a power button,” Wetherill said. “We service other personal tech devices like tablets and computers, plus recreational devices like game consoles, drones and hoverboards—we really run the gamut. We’ve repaired light-up Christmas sweaters, vintage arcade games, lamps, you name it. Many of the fundamentals are the same, so if it has an ‘on’ switch, we’ll certainly take a look.”
As dependence on personal tech grows, so does competition within the tech repair industry. Wetherill doesn’t worry about his competitors, though, citing customer service as a key differentiator and one that he feels will ensure uBreakiFix’s longevity. As uBreakiFix heads into a new decade, Wetherill says the brand’s strategy will remain the same.
“We’re a customer service company first and a tech repair service second,” Wetherill said. “Serving people is often much more difficult than servicing their devices. I believe you can teach anyone to repair a phone, but you can’t necessarily teach the interpersonal skills required for exceptional service. That’s what we hire for, and that’s what sets our experience apart. We provide the highest caliber of technical service—if we didn’t, we wouldn’t be backed by brands like Google and Samsung—but we also provide an unmatched, personal experience. It’s about so much more than fixing someone’s phone. We’re responsible for getting their day back on track, and we don’t take that responsibility lightly.”
To hear the interview with Justin Wetherill, on The CEO Show go to The CEO Show
April 5, 2019 at 12:33PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs