Tell me about yourself and the Fone Guys… When were you first introduced to entrepreneurship, and how did you get your idea for the business?
TS: Well, I’m a Canadian-Korean who founded The Fone Guys back in early 2018, and I’m currently studying Accounting and Financial Management at the University of Waterloo.
A quick summary of what The Fone Guys does is it provides on-the-go mobile device repair service for people who simply don’t have the time to go to a physical repair shop. Basically, we provide repair services for handheld devices anywhere and anytime.
I got the idea for The Fone Guys around late December of 2017 and early January of 2018. At this time, my dad was supplying cellphone parts and other accessories to numerous cellphone repair businesses, and I was also working and learning how to fix a few handheld devices part-time at a repair store. When I was working part-time as a technician, I would often over hear a lot of customers talking about how they’re very busy and have to go do other things. I could only imagine how much time it takes them to go out of their way to drop off their device to get it repaired and then come back to pick up their device. Personally, time is something that I value highly because of how you can’t get back lost time. It’s something that’s very scarce and limited in our lives, yet many of these customers were taking quite a lot of time out of their days to just go to a repair store and get their devices fixed, which can sometimes take many hours depending on how many repairs are in queue.
At first, I didn’t have any intentions or goals set out for running my own small business. However, after taking some time and thinking about how I could make the cellphone repair experience better, less time consuming, and more convenient for customers, I came up with the foundations for The Fone Guys. I then shared the idea with my family.
I got a lot of positive feedback and support, not only because they were my family but also because there was no other mobile device repair store providing that kind of convenience for customers.
What was the greatest challenge you’ve faced since starting The Fone Guys?
TS: The greatest challenge that I’ve faced so far since starting The Fone Guys was probably the struggle I had balancing school and the business in the last few months of my senior year of high school. I wasn’t involved in many high school extracurriculars, so I did have some extra time to distribute into academics and The Fone Guys. The early stages of launching my business was very difficult and time consuming. From the paperwork involved with registering the business as a corporation, I found it difficult to balance attending classes, studying for final exams, and maintaining grades to get into university.
Soon after establishing The Fone Guys, I auditioned to pitch on Dragons’ Den and that also took a considerable amount of time to prepare for. It was a very tough few months to go through, but I was able to manage my time effectively.
You were recently featured in Dragon’s Den. How did you get to this point and what was it like?
TS: Since it was my first time launching a start-up, I had no past experience in running a business and I needed all the help and insight I could get. Once I set up The Fone Guys, I acquired my first franchisee, and operated for about 2 months to get a general idea of how sales are. Afterwards, I auditioned to pitch on Dragons’ Den Season 13 with the mindset of acquiring investments to accelerate growth, gain exposure, acquire more franchisees, and get the advice and expertise from the Dragons.
The process is pretty straight forward: you apply for auditions online, show up to where the auditions are held, do some paperwork, pitch to the producers, and wait until you get approved to pitch to the Dragons. If your business idea catches the interests of the show producers, then you’ll likely move on to pitch to the Dragons.
Personally, I am not the best at public speaking so the whole experience was very nerve-racking as I had to step far out of my comfort zone. Again, I was balancing high school, trying to maintain grades, running The Fone Guys, and also preparing for my pitch. In the end, it was all worth it though as I got into the University that I wanted, sales for The Fone Guys went up, and I also secured a deal with two of the Dragons: Jim Treliving and Michele Romanow.
What is it like being a student entrepreneur?
TS: As cliché as it may sound, it takes a lot of work to be a student entrepreneur. I find myself thinking of new ideas for new business opportunities and new processes that can help improve The Fone Guys, all while trying to be social with my peers, attending networking events, and trying to not drown in assignments and readings. As for managing and balancing all of these, in short, I don’t do it by myself. In fact, I don’t know if I could actually do it all by myself. My father is and has been very supportive since the very start, and he’s been the one helping and guiding me every step of the way.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone just starting out what would it be?
TS: One piece of advice that I can give is that running a business especially on your own won’t be easy. This is something that you’ll probably hear or see very often, but there’s no denying how true it is. Especially at the start, you’ll face many challenges, roadblocks, and even paperwork if you’re registering your business as a corporation. But being perseverant, logical, and keeping your head held high is the key to getting you through most of the problems you will face.
I also recommend seeking as much help as you can get. Even if you are confident you won’t need any, it doesn’t hurt! It can only help you by finding people who can give their own insights and experiences with starting and running a business. There’s no rule that entrepreneurs have to do everything for themselves and by themselves. For me, I got a lot of help from friends, my father, and the people my father supplied device parts to. Without them, I’m 100% certain The Fone Guys won’t be where it is at right now.
To learn more about the Fone Guys and their services, you can visit their website at https://thefoneguys.ca. To watch their pitch feature on CIBC’s Dragon’s Den visit https://www.cbc.ca/dragonsden/pitches/the-fone-guy.