BUSINESS SAVVY: Saving One Phone At A Time

Sep 11, 2017 0 comments
BUSINESS SAVVY: Saving One Phone At A Time

By Caitlin Maloney

Photography ByAlexa Nahas Photography

Back in 2012, Matt Gambone’s mom answered a knock at the door of her home. A stranger with a broken cell phone screen stood at her door. Matt had just graduated from Pennsylvania State University and was living at his parent’s farm while searching for a full-time job where he could put his degree in energy, business, and finance to good use. As the job search fell flat, Matt’s side gig of repairing cell phones and computers was picking up.

“One day, my mom sat me down and said, ‘You know, it’s really cool what you’re doing, but we can’t have random strangers knocking on the door at all hours of the day to get their computers and phones fixed,’” Matt laughed. “So, she helped me launch my business, MackTechs, and helped me find my first location in Skippack.”

As a child, Matt was always tinkering. He took apart vacuums, microwaves, and any other appliances he could get his hands on. As a junior in college, he started repairing friends broken computers and cell phones. While he was in college working 12 hour shifts during football weekends as a bar bouncer, Matt’s side business quickly started to grow and he realized he would essentially make the same amount of money fixing phones in just a few hours than he would working at the bar. That’s when Matt knew he had a business opportunity.

Though he originally started working with PC’s, Matt slowly migrated into the Apple product realm.

“I was unbiased back then just because a lot of electronics are based around software,” he explained. “Back in 2010-2011, Microsoft had a really good product, but as they progressed, they tried to mimic Apple and really tried to be something that they weren’t and they fell apart,” Matt said. “So, I completely dropped all support for Windows-based machines and only work with Apple now.”

In 2012, on the day of Hurricane Sandy, Matt opened his first repair location, Skippack iPhone Repair. While running his business in Skippack, Matt would often visit friends in Manayunk in his spare time.

“I was coming down here all the time and would look around and realize there were no stores like ours down here, so I knew there was a need for us here,” he said.

In August 2014, Matt opened the doors to his second location, Manayunk iPhone Repair, coincidentally on the same day as another natural disaster, a flood that filled the lower end of Main Street.

Soon after opening the Manayunk shop, Matt moved into the neighborhood with his friend, Rob Gauger. Though Rob had no experience working with phones or electronics, he starting helping Matt get the business going and was learning the ropes of electronic repairs in no time. Rob is now Matt’s right hand man and senior technician.

Besides Rob, Matt’s team of technicians also includes family members. His younger brother started working with him a few years ago and has since ventured off to start his own repair company, Trooper iPhone Repair, while Matt’s nephew currently works in the Manayunk location.

Since you can’t actually get a degree in iPhone repair, it all comes down to practice and experience, Matt joked.

“Nobody knew anything when they started. It’s just a lot of fine motor skills to be able to pick up small screws and parts,” he explained. “It’s almost like a surgeon — you have to build those muscles up.”

Before being able to actually do major repair jobs, each of Matt’s technicians start by just taking screws out of phones and putting them back in over and over.

“It’s the most mundane and awful experience, but you have to start somewhere,” Matt said.

Matt and his team handle repairs for all Apple products: iPhones, iPods, iPads, and MacBooks. The most common iPhone and iPad repair needs are cracked phone screens, broken cameras and microphones, and hardware or software updates. They also provide hard drive repairs, tune-ups and malware removal for Macs. Matt is clear to explain what service they don’t provide though.

“We don’t do repairs on catastrophic damages like water damage or crush damage. At that point, the phone is too far gone, but what we can do for you is data recovery,” he said.

Matt shared a story of a young mother whose phone got run over in a puddle. She was in tears because she had six months of pictures of her first child on her phone and wasn’t able to retrieve them. They were able to recover every last photo she took and it made her day, Matt recalled.

Besides all of these repairs and services, the shop also currently offers a full line of accessories meant to protect your devices including cases and screen covers along with long charging cables and portable chargers.

According to Matt, the majority of his clients find him online, by simply searching for “iPhone repair.”

“Because I was interested in tech in college, I learned a lot about SEO and search results, so I was able to put us on the map,” Matt said. “When you type in ‘iPhone repair’ into Google, we show up and that’s why we named the business what we did (Manayunk iPhone Repair), even though on the back end our legal name is really MackTechs.”

“We have such a broad demographic — moms who bring in their seven or eight-year-olds who, for whatever reason, have an iPhone. Then, we have people that are 75-80 years old who know more about iPhone features than I do sometimes,” Matt laughed.

As far as the business’s quick growth goes, Matt said everything just seemed to fall into place.

“When you do something right and you don’t cut corners, it always works out,” he said. “Currently, all the parts we use are manufactured in the United States. We have so few people come back with issues — not cutting corners just makes everything easier.”

Matt and his team just hit their 10,000th screen repair and that doesn't even include screens they fixed before they had a fully running tracking system in place. As for the future, Matt plans to eventually have instructional videos of simple repairs you can do at home. He also has his eyes on another location further into the city, but for now, they are working on fine tuning what they already do best.

“We want to offer all expedited services, but we don’t want to charge an additional expedited fee,” Matt explained. “We want to have ‘while you wait’ iPhone repair and Mac repair. That’s people's schedule now — they need things done right away because many people need their computers and phones to get back to work.”

Matt is also getting ready to make some renovations this fall, which will expand the services they can provide in the shop even more.

“What we have to do is make more space for more actual repairs,” he said. “We are looking to bring in more techs and expand our line of refurbished computers and phones.”

When it comes to the biggest tip Matt can give you about your iPhone, he joked and said, “They are not waterproof. I repeat, they are not waterproof.” But, in all actuality, he said the biggest thing is to make sure you’re phone is backed up.

“We have people come in all the time with their phone totally destroyed and sometimes no matter what we do, we just can't get that information back,” Matt said.

So, what’s the best part of the job? According to Matt, it’s solving an issue he and his team have never seen before.

“We are like a think tank. When we get a unique issue, we have to take everything we know and try to figure it out — it’s all trial and error. It’s like solving a big puzzle,” he said. “Nine times out of 10, when we solve one of these unique issues, we get three or four more of the same case in the same week. You can’t even believe it.”

For a majority of the unique issues that find their way to Manayunk iPhone Repair, they often start with the customer going to the Apple store and Apple telling them that they need a totally new phone. But, Matt’s team always seems to gets to the bottom of it.

“At the end of the day if we offer a good service and we are polite and we treat people like humans, our customers are going to have a great experience.”

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