Bro­ken de­vice? No prob­lem!

When he solved his own prob­lem, Alex Fourie also stum­bled upon a mas­sive busi­ness op­por­tu­nity.

Finweek English Edition - - ON THE MONEY -

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

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