The 29-year-old CEO of UbreakiFix tells his story to IFA’s @OurFranchise about how franchising allowed a great idea to expand into a 300-unit business empire in a short period of time.
By Justin Wetherill
It was 2009, in the shadow of a global economic crisis, and I was a recent college graduate who was lucky to have a job. Yet at 21 years old, my entrepreneurial spirit yearned to escape the confines of a cubicle — I just didn’t know when or how to make the leap.
That summer, I made a careless mistake that I never dreamed would lead to hundreds of franchises and deals with some of the largest players in the mobile space. I dropped my smartphone, shattering the screen. I was shocked to find that replacing the part would cost more than what I originally paid for the device. I began searching for an alternative repair or replacement solution. Finding no verifiably trustworthy service online, I took matters into my own hands.
After some trial and a lot of error, I finally repaired the phone with the help of my childhood friend, David Reiff. The experience provided an aha moment for me: If I had trouble repairing my device as a tech-savvy millennial, countless others were likely facing the same issue. To better understand the market, David and I launched a service offer on eBay to test demand. Orders flooded in, and we continued to juggle full-time jobs while repairing phones at night and on our lunch breaks.
A short time later, the side project went full-time with the opening of the first uBreakiFix brick-and-mortar location at the advice of our friend, Eddie Trujillo. Our first Orlando store quickly outpaced the online market, and within four months, we expanded to four Florida locations. We were onto something…
After opening 47 corporate stores, we began franchising in 2013. Demand for our services continued to grow exponentially as technology has become increasingly integrated into day-to-day life. The franchising model emerged as a solution to keep pace with demand, allowing us to grow faster and further than we could corporately. As we learned more, we realized that our biggest challenge would be ensuring consistency across stores. The business model challenged us to improve and innovate to safeguard the quality and customer experience that defines our brand. We made heavy investments in infrastructure, with special attention to internal systems and processes. We developed a Portal system, which is home to step-by-step guides and videos on how to repair “anything with a power button,” while also serving as the online community for employees to share best practices and lessons learned. Portal also houses all store performance metrics referenced by owners and corporate.
Early on, it became apparent that many prospective franchisees might not be completely comfortable with technology or repair, so we developed a sophisticated training program to equip franchisees with all the right skills. Three weeks of training in Orlando followed by another three weeks of in-store support helps ensure franchisees have the confidence needed to deliver high-quality service and an industry-leading customer experience. We also help our franchisees raise awareness in their communities by providing marketing resources, including public relations, social media, design and digital initiatives. It is critical to educate the communities we serve about the benefits of repair and the role uBreakiFix can play.
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Since those early days of franchising in 2013, uBreakiFix has grown to nearly 300 locations across the U.S. and Canada. The rapid franchise growth has allowed us to reach millions of new customers, grow our corporate support team, gain recognition and build partnerships with major industry players. In October, uBreakiFix partnered with Google to become the exclusive walk-in repair partner for its Pixel phone. Without franchising, we would have never been on the radar of an industry giant like Google, nor would we have had the footprint to support the partnership. The franchise model has allowed uBreakiFix to amplify and diversify its business in ways that a corporate model could not.
We’re a product of our people and work hard to promote trust and create systems for shared success. Each individual story contributes to our company’s collective heartbeat. Every community is different, so it is rewarding to see franchisees integrate our brand and culture into the many places they call home, through partnerships with local schools, nonprofits and businesses. At the corporate level, uBreakiFix invests in a variety of initiatives in Orlando and most recently, hosted a high school shadowing program to encourage curiosity and cultivate innovation within the next generation.
Read more from Justin Wetherill: Three Ways to Cultivate and Preserve Company Culture
Not only does the franchise business model allow our brand to make a large impact across markets, but our franchisees can fulfill their entrepreneurial dreams by providing a service they are passionate about and growing a team that they trust.
Leadership is measured not by personal progress, but rather by the success of those around us. This business model has exceeded our greatest expectations, allowing us to reach milestones and achieve goals that make us proud to be a part of uBreakiFix.
Click here to learn more about uBreakiFix.
Justin Wetherill is Co-founder and CEO of Orlando, Fla.-based UBreakiFix.