Entrepreneurial duo making their mark in world of electronic repair
When he was 16, Kyle Jagassar was a high school student moonlighting as an entrepreneur.
Now at the age of 24 he’s an eight-year veteran in the electronic device repair business with a growing chain of Mobile Tech Lab stores.
At a young age he’s already savvy enough to have a deep understanding of the upgrade the repair industry ecosystem requires and is brave enough to try to address it.
As well as starting a wholesale business to supply his and his competitors’ stores, he and his business partner Daniel Okagbare, established the first certified technician training program in the country and built a software division with specialty software just for the retail repair sector.
“We want to be the Spotify of the electronic device repair business,” Jagassar said.
This year they have opened three new Mobile Tech Lab locations in high traffic retail locations. With stores in Brandon and Thompson there are now nine in the province. Its first out-of-province location in Lloydminster, Sask. will open soon.
Retail electronic device repair shops are not new. There are massive franchise operations like uBreakiFix with more than 800 locations in the U.S. and Canada and the Canadian telco, Telus, bought the 79-location chain, Mobile Klinik, in 2020 with the hopes of expanding it into ever smaller communities.
While they are still small and young — Okagbare is 28 — the two talk like industry veterans who are out to solve what ails the industry.
“It’s taken a few years to get to this point, but what we’re trying to do is provide end-to-end lifecycle management for your electronic devices,” he said.
That means in addition to repair, Mobile Tech Lab locations also provide trade-ins (with inventory aggregated from scores of other dealers just like Mobile Tech Lab), warranty and insurance protection as well as activation assistance.
The stores offer a curated assortment of accessories, something else that repair stores used to have a hard time accessing. Now their DeviceList division offers wholesale purchase of a variety of chargers, cases and other accessories to other repair shops.
Okagbare says they want to be a presence in the market just like Shoppers Drug Mart or McDonald’s is in theirs.
“We don’t aim to offer the widest selection of products,” he said. “Instead, we try to carry a reliable selection of the essentials and staples for our customers’ day to day tech needs.”
That also helps explain their rationale to continue opening additional stores.
“It is getting to the point now with tech that if you are driving to work and your phone does not charge you need to get it fixed right away and you will want to go to the nearest place possible,” Okagbare said.
But for all of the market demand — not to mention sustainability issues and the growing cultural aversion to discarding old electronics — the electronics repair business had been somewhat disorganized for years.
For instance the certified technician training program that Mobile Tech Lab now offers — called WISE, Wireless Industry Service Excellence — was only first available in the fall of 2019 .
The three-day technician course delivered out its Linden Ridge location, is the only place in Canada that offers such training for technicians, including those who work in competing stores. (Mobile Klinik is also a partner with WISE but only makes the training available to its own employees.)
Michelle James, the vice-president of strategic industry programs at Washington-based CTIA — the Wireless Industry Association, which developed the WISE certification program, said an indication of the pace of growth the sector is experiencing is that even though 17,000 technicians have been certified since the end of 2019, there are still 20,000 technician jobs that need to be filled.
James said CTIA has about a dozen partnerships like the one they have with Jagassar and Okagbare.
“They have been really great to work with,” she said. “They’ve got lots of energy and they take their business very seriously. They had the same idea we did that we needed to raise the bar for customer expectation in this industry.”
CTIA recently forged its first connection with a post-secondary institution — Metropolitan Community College in Omaha, Neb. — who now offer the WISE program. Jagassar is talking with working with MITT (the Manitoba Institute of Trades and Technology).
It is ironic that Jagassar’s business would be talking to a college about a partnership, since he himself did not attend post-secondary school.
That has not stopped the young entrepreneur from being a regular presenter at Scott MacAulay’s entrepreneurship classes at RRC Polytechnic.
“He comes in to talk to my students and blows them away,” MacAulay said. “He was supposed to come to RRC but he was making so much money and doing so well he couldn’t take the time off.”
MacAulay said if there is a norm for entrepreneurs it is that they graduate from post-secondary school and then work for four or five years to get sector expertise, life experience and maybe access some equity before they start their own business.
But there is another route like the one Jagassar took.
“Banks won’t talk to you until you have two years of cash flow experience,” MacAulay said. “Or you can begin with a zero-dollar startup like Kyle did. Something basic like cell phone repairs.”
But to make that a sustainable business, MacAulay said, you have to have a growth mindset. And that’s exactly what Jagassar and Okagbare have.
“We want to have stores across the country,” Jagassar said.
But they are not in a hurry. They are taking it slow because another feature to their business is an obsession with customer service.
Mobile Tech Lab provides a life-time warranty on the repairs that they do.
And if their customers need to come back to get a device repaired again, they want to be sure that Mobile Tech Lab is still around to provide that service.