By Peter Saunders
When Justin Wetherill’s Apple iPhone broke in early 2009, his difficulties getting it fixed for a reasonable price inspired a new business opportunity in offering the much-needed service to the broader public.
“Getting my phone fixed by Apple would have cost the same as buying a new one,” he says. “I tried fixing it myself, which only made things worse. I figured other people had to be in the same situations, so I learned how to do iPhone repairs and started offering the service online.”
A friend suggested a bricks-and-mortar approach would be more successful, as most people would not want to send their broken phones in by mail. So, Wetherill opened a store called uBreakiFix in Orlando, Fla., in August 2009. Within two months, it had outperformed all previous sales for his online enterprise. Demand continued to be so high, the business expanded to 47 corporate-owned locations before it even started franchising in 2013.
“That gave us time to create systems and processes,” says Wetherill. “We developed a proprietary point-of-sale (POS) system, for example, and metrics to grade our stores and their stock conditions.”
Today, uBreakiFix is an international system of more than 275 franchises, which provide same-day repairs for smartphones of all kinds (the company was recently named Google’s exclusive walk-in repair partner for Pixel phones in Canada and the U.S.), tablet computers and even drones and hoverboards.
The first Canadian location opened in Montreal. In 2016, Wetherill announced a massive Canadian expansion effort through a 22-store partnership deal with UBIFNorth, majority-owned by G3 Capital. The first store under this agreement (pictured above) opened on Toronto’s Avenue Road in January of that year, followed by another at Rutherford Plaza in nearby Vaughan, Ont., in the fall. The complete rollout is expected to take two years.
“Most of our franchisees are multi-unit, with two to four stores,” he says. “Some even have 20. The need for local electronics repair stores is only growing. No one’s willing to manufacture a thicker, uglier or less useful smartphone to help make it more durable, so they’re no stronger today than when mine broke years ago!”