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Chicago Tribune: Down to Business: If your phone or tablet takes a dive or a swim, these guys might be able to save it

The Chicago Tribune local affiliate Naperville Sun interviewed Ubreakifix

The Chicago Tribune‘s local affiliate Naperville Sun wrote a great article about one of our partners, Ubreakifix

Erik Nigro manages Ubreakifix, located in downtown Naperville, where almost anything with a power button can be repaired. (Steve Metsch/Naperville Sun)

Business: Ubreakifix

Address: 118 S. Webster St., Naperville

Phone/website: 331-472-4292;

Manager: Erik Nigro.

Years in business: Eight in Naperville.

What does your business do? “We repair pretty much anything with a power button, as the company likes to put it. I’d say we specialize in smart electronics, like phones, computers, laptops, game consoles and TVs,” Nigro, 28, said.

How’s business? “Good. We were the 15th store in the chain when we opened. We now have 468 locations, last I checked.”

What do you see most often? “The most common is a broken screen on a phone. Following that, a lot of people like to take swims with their phone. Or, more accurately, their phones like to take swims without the people. Pools. Toilets.”

And what if your phone does take a plunge? “Open air drying is one of the best things you can do. Don’t put your wet phone or electronics in rice. Rice is actually bad for them. There’s been multiple studies that show it harms your phone. It decreases the chance your phone is salvageable by 10 percent, which is not insignificant when you have a 50-50 chance.”

What’s the best part of doing business in Naperville? “The location, hands down, is really nice. It’s central to where most people are heading to get stuff done. There’s the Apple store nearby. We’re pretty good friends with the Verizon and AT&T locations. We get a lot of foot traffic, too.”

Any challenges? “There’s definitely some competition out there. I’d say we probably stand out because we are authorized repair centers for Samsung and Google. And, our distribution network for parts makes sure you can get the parts quickly.”

Ever wonder what the inside of a cell phone looks like? Ubreakifx in Naperville repairs these daily. (Steve Metsch/Naperville Sun)

Do you have a busy time of year? “Summer definitely. We get a lot of people coming in. Swimming is more common. I tell people to pat down their pockets before jumping into the water.”

Is there a slow time? “Winter. People don’t like to come out in the cold.”

What do you like best about this business? “For most people coming in, they’ve had a not-so-good experience. We take that and, ideally, turn it around for them.”

What’s the worst part? “We do have longer hours than most stores, but that’s not too bad. The biggest thing is when we can’t fix a device. That stinks for both parties. But if we can’t fix it, we try to help guide people into other options, whether that’s replacing the device or leading them to someone who can fix it. We work with a company called DriveSavers that specializes in data recovery. I’ve seen them pull data off a hard drive that has melted in a fire. They are phenomenal.”

What’s your business philosophy? “Our main concern is your happiness. We focus on the quality of our repairs, but, at the end of the day, our goal is you leaving the story happy.”

How has the business changed? “We’ve started partnering with some of these larger companies. For example, it wasn’t easy getting replacement parts for Samsung. Now, because we are partners, we can get pretty much every part for every Samsung phone out there.”

Do you like your job? “Yes. it’s fun. And we have a really good staff here.”

Any tips for phone care? “Having a phone in the bathroom when you take a shower is a really common way for us to see a liquid-damaged device eventually. Waterproof phones are designed for liquid water. Vaporized water can pass through the mesh as easily as air can.”

What’s misconceptions people have about your business? “A lot of people think we are a mom-and-pop shop and don’t necessarily know what we are doing. We have a 90-day warranty, so if you get your phone fixed here, take a trip to Florida, something goes wrong, you can walk into any Ubreakifix location and they’ll fix it for you.”

Do you have any favorite stories? “One day, someone brought in their kid’s electric scooter. We were able to get that up and running. It involved a little bit of soldering. Something had disconnected internally.

“Another time, we had one guy lose a phone in a snowbank for six months. He brought it and we were able to get it up and running. That was probably the most drastic one. A rubber gasket had kept most of the water out.”

Any future plans? “I’ll soon be managing our store in Montgomery. I’ve taken over primary ownership of that location. But I’ll be here for a while.”

What advice would you give someone starting a business? “I’d say if you’re starting solo, ask advice of people who’ve been running a business. Ask what to look out for. They can help guide you.”

Steve Metsch is a freelance reporter for the Naperville Sun.

Read more:

Mike Cobb, Director of Engineering and CISO
As Director of Engineering, Mike Cobb manages the day-to-day operations of the Engineering Department, including the physical and logical recoveries of rotational media, SSDs, smart devices and flash media. He also oversees the R&D efforts for past, present, and future storage technologies. Mike encourages growth and ensures that each of the departments and their engineers continues to gain knowledge in their field. Each DriveSavers engineer has been trained to ensure the successful and complete recovery of data is their top priority.

As Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), Mike oversees cybersecurity at DriveSavers, including maintaining and updating security certifications such as SOC 2 Type II compliance, coordinating company security policy, and employee cybersecurity education.

Mike joined DriveSavers in 1994 and has a B.S. degree in Computer Science from the University of California, Riverside.

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