In & Out makes up for human error
In & Out Smart Repair costs about $85,000 on average to get started with a store.
In this age of exploding phones and shattered screens, a massive amount of investment is flowing into smartphone and electronic device repair to compensate for the ever-destructive human influence. No matter how amazing or expensive the latest devices may be, they’re still no match for a toddler’s slippery grasp, a dog’s wagging tail or the swirling waters of a toilet.
When that “oh crap” moment happens, there’s a growing franchise industry springing up to give accident-prone talkers and texters the option of repairing their devices, rather than shelling out the cash for a new device or paying deductibles (and related fees) for device insurance plans.
John Mike Heroman is the 31-year-old founder and CEO of In & Out Smart Repair, a Hayman, Louisiana-based electronics repair franchise started in 2012. His company, now up to 68 units and 27 franchisees, is one of many fast-growing franchised players in the electronics repair space including CPR, Staymobile, iDropped and uBreakiFix.
Heroman, with a personality that suits his bold name, is a strong believer in the power of mentorship and good fortune after, as he describes it, he stumbled into the industry before he was entirely sure it wasn’t already overrun with bigger, stronger, better-capitalized players.
After clearing out his savings and borrowing money from his father to start the first location, he quickly saw the money-making potential. At the time, Heroman’s mentor told him, “Son, you may live the rest of your life and never have an opportunity like this.” It was all the confirmation he needed to dive in deeper.
Because his first five locations were quickly profitable, Heroman was able to access capital to continue a slow and steady approach, but not enough to grow fast enough to seize the opportunity he felt was possible in electronics repairs. That led him to franchising, which he viewed as the key to fast, large-scale expansion.
John Mike Heroman is the founder and CEO of In & Out Smart Repair.
Even as he plotted In & Out’s next moves, he was still looking over his shoulder for larger competitors with overpowering resources. “I knew we had something special,” Heroman said, but he figured if he visited nearby large cities he would “ride around and see nothing but phone repair shops—I just didn’t think our idea was that much of a foreign concept.”
It turns out, both he and his mentor were on to something. Now, two years into franchising and with an array of competitors, Heroman feels there is more than enough market share and growth potential for the taking. “We see a ton of opportunity in this space,” he said of the competition. “There’s enough market for all of us to be able to get whatever it is that we’re chasing.”
With an average start-up cost of $85,000, Heroman says In & Out is much easier to scale up than restaurant concepts, which tend to be more expensive and more demanding of the owner’s attention. As so many new restaurant brands expand, he said the company is particularly focused on swaying potential franchisees who may be considering a much larger investment.
Expecting to be near 80 units at the start of 2017, Heroman predicts a wave of consolidation in the category and said, for his own company, such a decision would rest solely on whether it was in the best interest of the entire organization.
For In & Out’s existing franchisees, the company has diversified away from screen repairs that comprise approximately 55 percent of an average unit’s revenue. New services have included accessories like more durable tempered glass screen covers, a buy/sell/trade program to resell refurbished equipment and the addition of water resistance to phones.
As consumer electronics become increasingly complex, saying nothing of the relationship between manufacturers and service providers, Heroman acknowledged that fundamentals in the industry could shift. That said, he exuded confidence that manufacturers and service providers have compelling reasons to stay out of the repair business—leaving a massive category open for continued expansion in the coming years.