News Column

Couple Find Brisk Business in Smartphone, Tech Repair

Nov. 20, 2012

Chris Quintana

Samsung Continuum
Samsung Continuum

Brandi and Shane Clay deal in speedy cellphone and iPod repair, which has led to equally impressive expansion.

The couple started their tech repair business, Synergy Tech, about a year ago in Taos, and by April, they had expanded into Santa Fe.

"You guys just didn't have any resource that was doing it right," Brandi Clay said in her store at 1919 Fifth St. "And most people can't even be without their phone for a few hours."

Their small building gives no indication of the tech and business savvy nature of the husband-and-wife team. They've already started a property management business and a commercial building company, and Shane also sells custom-made furniture on the side.

The Synergy Tech venture kicked off when Brandi Clay broke her HTC Incredible smartphone. She sought out the dealer for repair, but they wanted her to buy a new phone without the contract subsidy.

So she asked her husband to take a stab at it. That incident ignited his curiosity, and he eventually went to a tech-repair school in Gilbert, Ariz.

People aren't used to repairing their electronics, Brandi Clay said. They just replace the broken objects. For example, Shane Clay said that a customer once brought in an iPad with a shattered screen and asked, "Can you even do anything with this?"

Shane explained that he could, so long as the components inside were fine. He replaces screens as a person might replace a broken LCD monitor. Repair, Brandi Clay said, keeps technology out of the landfill longer as well.

As an added benefit, Apple has used similar technology and parts since the introduction of the iPhone, and prices to repair the smartphone are finally going down. Combine the steady familiarization they have gained over the years, and the Clays say an iPhone repair should take about 45 minutes.

That service requires two factors: stocked materials and skilled techs. It's easy to order screens or tech components, but more difficult to find people who can tinker with electronics. In fact, Shane Clay said it might be the hardest part of the business. And given that a new iPhone can cost up to $850, it makes sense that the duo would screen and train employees carefully to avoid costly replacements.

The two cautioned that a sizable chunk of their business comes from people who have attempted home repair and inadvertently destroyed their device. They said some YouTube videos show successful repairs, but they may leave out crucial information.

"It's almost as though they give you just enough rope to hang yourself," Shane Clay said.

Brandi Clay estimated about 90 percent of Synergy Tech's business deals with Apple repairs; Android, Windows phones, and gaming systems such as the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 make up the remaining business. That variety presents another challenge in the tech business.

Each company makes its electronics slightly different, which not only means different repair techniques but different replacement materials as well. And because techs might be less familiar with a Motorola Razr Maxx than an iPhone 4S, it will take a longer time to fix. And it will cost more.

"Every week they release a new phone," he said. "But about three-fourths of new phones use similar technology."

And that means it's easier to learn how to repair those new phones and systems such as the iPhone 5 or the Nintendo Wii U, a gaming system released Sunday. Additionally, similar technologies mean similar problems, as with the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, both of which are prone to disc-read errors.

Regardless, the two see their business continuing to grow, and they have their sights set on Albuquerque or Rio Rancho as the site for their next expansion.

"These industry has a strong demand," Brandi Clay said.



Source: (c)2012 The Santa Fe New Mexican (Santa Fe, N.M.) Distributed by MCT Information Services