Broken device? No problem!
When he solved his own problem, Alex Fourie also stumbled upon a massive business opportunity.
most of us, when our cherished iPhone, iPod or iPad gives up the ghost, we either investigate the possibility of getting a new device – or find some enterprising techie to fix it. Similarly, when Alex Fourie’s iPod broke back in 2007, he also looked – unsuccessfully – for someone to fix it quickly. Instead of giving up, however, he trawled the internet for information, and ended up repairing it himself.
This experience led to the founding of iFix, with Fourie soon becoming Cape Town’s go-to guy if you had any trouble with your Apple device. From there, it took just six months to move to business premises and hire the first technician in order to satisfy the word-of-mouth demand. This included an innovative drop-off arrangement with the legendary Mabu Vinyl record store in the City Bowl. Within the next two years, iFix opened branches in Johannesburg and Pretoria.
In 2010, the first walk-in stores were opened in Cape Town, where the iFix team expanded and breathed life into more than 10 000 Apple devices. Today, iFix has nearly 200 employees and has notched up its first half million repairs. There are more than 25 stores nationwide and 15 more are planned for this year, making it South Africa’s market leader in smart device repairs. Interestingly, iFix has expanded from specialising in repairing Apple devices to include Samsung and Huawei devices.
Fourie, a 29-year-old serial entrepreneur, was nominated by Forbes magazine as one of the Top 30 Young entrepreneurs in Africa last year, and also featured on the Mail & Guardian’s Top 40 under-40 young South Africans list.
We caught up with the young founder of iFix to find out what makes him (and his fast-growing company) tick.
What did you do prior to starting iFix?
I’ve always been an entrepreneur. Although I was studying at the time I started iFix, I was always involved with projects and setting up my own businesses.
What motivated you to turn it into a business?
There were a lot of people that needed the same problem to be solved, so I started by helping them and it turned into a business.
How did you get funding to get started?
I started with zero funding. I think I used R 1 000 to buy parts. That’s it.
What have been the three biggest difficulties you’ve had to overcome?
Managing growth is quite hard. Most companies outgrow themselves and their abilities. Keeping the culture of a small company while not being one anymore has also been tricky.
Biggest lesson learnt?
Competition is healthy in any industry. We try and focus on ensuring that our service is superior in order to maintain market share. iFix has an innovative walk-in walkout philosophy, and provides coffee and beer bars for customers needing 1-hour repairs. The in-store experience includes shopping for the latest ranges of device accessories. iFix also recently launched i2, which is an affordable and safe solution to getting a quality ‘pre-loved’ device.
What is the best business advice you’ve ever received?
Focus on your core business and do it really well. Don’t try and be a jack of all trades.
What was unexpected?
The life of an entrepreneur is full of unexpected surprises…
How do you stay motivated?
Waking up early definitely helps. I firmly believe that if you love what you do motivation usually isn’t an issue.
What are your non-work habits that help you with your work-life balance?
My best piece of advice would be for people to join the 5am club. It really makes a substantial difference.
What is your three-year goal for your company?
We’d like to continue challenging ourselves and offering awesome service and products to our clients. It’s quite clear that many South Africans do become attached to their devices, and do value the cost-savings of repairs and services.
How do you manage negative sentiment and comments/ complaints on social media?
Alex Fourie Founder of iFix