When Nicholas Merry was taking a Grade 11 entrepreneurship class at his Cole Harbour, N.S., high school, part of the curriculum included writing a business plan.
For Merry, the obvious choice was to do it on a landscaping business as he’d always mowed lawns and shovelled snow, but a friend suggested he focus his efforts on that other business he had.
Since his junior high years, Merry had been fixing the screens on friends’ phones when they broke. He learned through trial and trial error and wasn’t exactly well compensated for it.
“My method of payment would usually be buying me something from Tim Hortons or Subway, or a convenience store,” said Merry, now 24. “I never thought of it as a moneymaker, it was just something cool to do for friends.”
That early venture has since morphed into Geebo Device Repair, which does general electronics repairs, as well as sales of electronics and accessories. The business has five locations in the Halifax area and one in Cape Breton.
A born entrepreneur, Merry used to scour the Bargain Hunter to find phones that he could repair and resell, as well as any other items he thought he could turn into profit, namely gaming consoles.
After putting together his business plan, Merry spent his $5,000 in life savings to buy parts so that he’d have the necessary supplies to fix the most common phones, primarily BlackBerrys and iPhones.
In 2000, while still in high school, Merry set up shop inside his parents’ Eastern Passage home, using a folding table in the living room to carry out repairs.
After enrolling at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Merry continued tinkering in his own apartment — and even at an on-campus Tim Hortons — while he studied science. He hoped to become a cardiologist some one day.
In his second semester, Merry switched to business. But that wasn’t for him either.
“I felt everything I was learning, I already knew and it was frustrating because I’m paying for it,” said Merry.
He dropped out of school in his second year and set up his first official storefront in late 2013 — in a basement suite at his grandmother’s home in Dartmouth.
Merry, then 19, offered 24/7 support and placed ads on Kijiji to get the word out. Bar-hoppers who had broken their screens would take a cab to Merry’s for late-night repairs.
‘A lot of ups and downs’
After building up the business for about two years, Merry opened a traditional storefront in Dartmouth and expanded from there, although there is no longer a location at his grandmother’s place.
The rapid ascent of the company hasn’t been completely smooth.
“We’ve actually had a lot of ups and downs,” said Merry. “It seems like everything’s going smoothly because we’re opening up a lot of locations.”
A tough 2018
Last March, the company’s Queen Street location suffered smoke and water damage after a fire in the unit above. Three weeks later, a flood hit the company’s Clayton Park location when a sprinkler head broke during renovations at a neighbouring store.
On a sour note to end the year, two people broke into the company’s Lady Hammond Road location and stole about 25 devices, mostly phones and iPads. About half of the devices were recovered.
These setbacks make Merry question whether it’s worth it to run his business.
“I think I just realize there’s not a lot I can do, other than just grind it out,” said Merry, who typically puts in 14-hour days.
Mike Lalonde has used Geebo’s services a few times and did so based on the recommendations of some friends.
“He’s an impressive young man that has a good head on his shoulders and isn’t afraid of hard work,” said Lalonde.
Merry said the company’s plans are to open more locations in Nova Scotia. He’s finishing up a franchise package with the hopes to have franchised locations in the other Atlantic provinces.