uBreakiFix

Ubreak

One byte at a time: uBreakiFix is rapidly growing

to become one of the nation’s leading electronics repair franchises.

By Jim Harris

It’s hard to overstate the importance of the smartphone in most people’s lives. For many, the device is a one-stop shop for communication, entertainment and even business. Damaging it can be more than just an inconvenience – it can impact one’s connections to others and the world at large.

Unfortunately, because of their small size and intricate nature, smartphones can easily be damaged, most commonly as a result of being dropped. When this happens, the most common reaction for many people is to go to their cellular carrier or the phone’s manufacturer for help. This is what Justin Wetherill did when he dropped his two-month old iPhone 3GS in 2009. His experience trying to get the phone repaired is, sadly, a common one. “I paid $199 for the phone, which is the same amount the Apple store wanted to fix it,” he says.

Instead of paying for the repair or just buying a new phone, Wetherill, a self-professed “tech geek” who at the time was working as a database designer, decided to fix it himself using parts he ordered online. “I broke it even worse,” he says.UbreakIfix Fact Box

Although Wetherill’s initial efforts to repair his phone were unsuccessful, the experience gave him an idea. Wetherill and David Reiff, a college friend and fellow tech enthusiast, purchased several damaged iPhones and parts and self-trained themselves on how to fix them. “I realized that if I was having a problem fixing a device, others probably were as well,” he adds.

The two would transition their tinkering into an actual business when they opened an eBay store offering mail-order iPhone glass repairs at a flat rate of $79.99. Demand grew to the point where Wetherill and Reiff – with the assistance of another friend, Eddie Trujillo – moved the business from Wetherill’s bedroom into a storefront in Orlando, Fla.

Over the next few years, the business – named uBreakiFix – would open 47 locations in Florida owned and managed by Wetherill, Reiff and Trujillo.

uBreakiFix repairs not only smartphones, but also tablets, computers, game consoles, toys and other electronics. Locations offer free diagnostic services as well as upfront pricing. Repairs are typically completed within two hours. “We’re very transparent to our customers,” Wetherill says. “Our goal here is to make something that would typically ruin your day – broken technology – not so bad.”

The company offers a price match guarantee on its services. If a customer brings in a local competitor’s published price for the same repair, uBreakiFix will match and beat the price by $5, it says.

Return on Investment

The company first began franchising in 2013, but kicked its efforts “into hyperdrive” after the arrival of Vice President of Franchising Todd Evans in 2014, Wetherill says.

Evans joined the company after initially approaching uBreakiFix about starting his own franchise. Evans previously worked as vice president of franchising for Aaron’s, a national lease-to-own furniture, electronics and appliances retailer. Aaron’s grew from 26 to 2,200 stores nationwide during Evans’ 23 years with the brand, he says.

“What really led me to this business was the cash-on-cash return on investment franchisees see here, which is very attractive for an electronics business,” Evans says, noting a uBreakiFix franchise costs roughly $125,000 to open and the average company site has an annual revenue of $677,972 and an average annual pre-tax profit of $126,209.

“Many of our stores far below our average revenues still make money,” he says. “The margins are forgiving in this business so if you work the model as designed, you can make a profit, even if your store is underperforming compared to our other franchise locations.”

In addition, Evans sees uBreakiFix as a leader in a growing industry of smartphone and electronics repair providers. “This company is a textbook ‘find a need and fill it’ business,” he says. “The whole world is moving toward mobile and cloud technology, and the very nature of mobile devices is that they break. There’s not really a nationally trusted brand focusing on the mobile device repair aftermarket,” he adds.

“This is truly an industry that is in its infancy,” Evans says. “What Justin [Wetherill], David [Reiff] and Eddie [Trujillo] are doing is moving quickly to fill a void in the marketplace with a trusted brand name that can do repairs quickly and at an affordable price.”

Helping Franchisees

The entrepreneurial nature of uBreakiFix’s founders was a selling point for Evans and another reason he sought the company out. “They are incredibly bright, talented, focused and hardworking individuals who truly have the dirt of the business under their fingernails,” he says. “They’ve grown this business from [Wetherill]’s bedroom to 275 stores by being focused on unit-level operations. They are doing everything they can to make the stores work as efficiently as they can.”

uBreakiFix in November 2016 marked the sale of more than 500 total units across the United States and Canada. The brand anticipates 425 total sites to be up and running before the end of 2017.

Each franchise location is within a protected territory of at least 100,000 people. The corporate organization is very hands-on with new franchisees, assisting them with finding a location as well as furnishing their new stores.

uBreakiFix uses 3-D modeling to help franchisees “see what their store will look like before the first hammer is swung,” Evans says.

All new franchisees attend a three-week training session in Orlando, Fla., that includes two weeks of technical training and one week of operational training. Franchisees receive three weeks of on-site assistance after a new store opens. “We want to set our franchisees up for success from the beginning,” Wetherill adds.

uBreakiFix provides ongoing training and technical assistance to its franchisees through an online portal. The portal includes more than 10,000 written guides and videos with step-by-step instructions on how to repair “everything from a Roomba to the latest iPhone,” he adds. The portal also includes a knowledge base where employees can share information.

Future Opportunities

The online portal helps the company overcome one of its greatest challenges – the ever-changing nature of electronics products. In addition to regularly providing updating information about new products to stores, uBreakiFix also engages its supply chain to make parts for new phones available to franchises.

“The TV repair shops of the 1990s or the computer repair shops of the early 2000s could have become ubiquitous if they were willing to evolve and change,” Wetherill says. “We’ve built systems that ensure our stores are equipped to adapt to change and remain relevant.”

The company is also working to change consumers’ perceptions regarding whether to repairing or replace their personal electronics. “We want people to know that repair is, in fact, an option,” Evans says. “We live in such a disposable society that when something breaks, the first thing someone thinks about is replacement versus repair.

“There’s something noble about repair – if my lawnmower breaks down and I can diagnose the issue and fix it, I feel closer to it than I would if I just replaced it,” he adds. “We want consumers to know that repair is an option, and it’s more affordable than replacement.”

In addition to changing the minds of consumers, uBreakiFix is also changing the perceptions of carriers and manufacturers. “There hasn’t really been a reliable option that OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] felt comfortable referring their customers to,” Wetherill says. “We are marketing to those carriers and hope to provide an option to their customers who can’t afford to upgrade or fix their device. We want to make sure our brand is in front of customers in their hour of need.”

uBreakiFix is also reaching out to the makers of the products it repairs. “Our large footprint is bringing us to the attention of larger companies,” Wetherill says, noting the company recently became the official walk-in repair partner for Google’s Pixel smartphone. “As we get bigger, will be able to earn opportunities like this much more frequently.”

Within the next five years, Wetherill hopes to have more than 1,000 uBreakiFix locations open. “We hope that as our footprint grows, manufacturers will use us as a means of local support for their customers,” he adds.

 

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