Owner Spotlight: Neil Kent from Experimac of Sandy Springs, GA

 
We sat to talk with Neil Kent from Experimac of Sandy Springs, GA recently. The Sandy Springs store opened on March 4, 2015 and was the very first Experimac store to open. Neil worked really hard to learn how to develop the brand from the ground floor building a foundation for other franchisees. Experimac is a trusted tech source for Apple® product repairs and upgrades, pre-owned sales and trade-ins for iPhone® devices, iPad® tablets, iMac® computers, MacBook® laptops and more with locations across the country. Experimac also sells accessories and offers same day service for repairs and upgrades. They are often able to fix your device while you wait. Experimac offers a 90-day warranty on all repairs because we want all of our customers to experience the Experimac difference.

Coming from previous business ownership experiences, Neil Kent knows that hard work is necessary and says, “I love what I do.” He is dedicated to making his business successful and works about 11 hours a day, 8am to 7pm, 6 days a week. He went on to explain that he gets about 5 calls a week from potential franchisees asking if he would do this again and his response, “Absolutely!”.

Neil has lived in the Marietta area for just over 11 years, Sandy Springs borders on Marietta and therefore, only 5 miles from home. The idea to open the Experimac store in Sandy Springs was actually an idea that came from Ray Titus, CEO of United Franchise Group (UFG). Neil loves to point out to customers is that when you buy pre-owned products from Experimac of Sandy Springs, not only are you going to save a lot of money, you get to put your hands on the product right here in the store, you get to test them out and take a look at them. If there’s an issue, you don’t have to box it up and ship it. You come in and you talk to nice people who really want to take care of you. Helping the customers and ensuring they are satisfied with their products and service received is very important to Neil. Here’s more of what Neil had to share:

EXPERIMAC: Had you run your own business before?
NEIL: Yes, I had worked consulting for Event Management for a long time, probably 10-15 years. Additionally, I have owned a candle and incense distributorship. I got involved through some family, at the time, I invested in the business and ended up taking over. At this point, I work double time with my Experimac store.

EXPERIMAC: What would you say has been the most interesting or exciting part of having your Experimac this last year? And the most challenging aspect of it?
NEIL: The most interesting . . . you have no idea who is going to walk in the door next. The challenges that we face are the same challenges that any business would face, getting people to know to know that we’re here. For us, it’s two-fold. Getting people to know that we’re here and then getting them to understand that we’re not a cell phone repair store. The focus of our business is the selling of the beautiful pre-owned Macs and these other Apple products, but that we also offer repair services and when you talk to people they just get the impression that you’re the same old cell phone repair store that you see anywhere. So, that’s the hard part of it.

EXPERIMAC: And Experimac is a new brand, in general, so it’s a challenge to position yourself as the pre-owned Mac or Apple store, right?
NEIL: Yeah, we talk about ourselves as the ‘Smart Shopper’s Alternative,’ a phrase that one of the other franchisee’s came up with that I love. You don’t have to park 2 miles away at the mall. You don’t have to make an appointment with us. You’ll literally save anywhere from $400 to $1,000 buying from us instead of a brand new Apple product. And a lot of times, you’re getting a product, that I often think, is better than some of the new products that are out. If you equate it to the car market, everyone wants those classic cars. There’s still this wonderful market for them because they just don’t build them like that anymore. Computers are basically the same. There’s some software trickery that computer companies are playing, Apple included, with things called Turbo Boost where they take a slow processor and using some software magic, they try to make it appear faster but it’s not exactly what it’s claimed to be. We offer processors that really are what those processors are, there’s no software trickery involved and also the flexibility to upgrade products is really key. If you buy a product today that offers 4 GB RAM, that’s all it will ever have but if you needed 8 GB for some reason, you need to buy another computer. When you buy a 2012 model, you can upgrade it from 4 GB to 8 GB to 16 GB and so on. You can do it at your leisure and you can put any hard drive that you want in. So there are a few pluses to these pre-owned devices and it’s very much like those classic cars where you’re going back to something that was made very, very well.

EXPERIMAC: What kind of feedback have you gotten from customers?
NEIL: If you look at the reviews for our store, there’s about 130 reviews and 129 of those are 5-star reviews. The approach we’re able take with people, as much of a geek as I am and as much as I like shopping online, there really is nothing like going into a business where the people are smart, intelligent, enthusiastic and love what they do. That’s a really contagious thing for people. When you talk to someone who really loves something, you’re going to get a lot more excited and interested in it than you are when you just click on a link.

EXPERIMAC: How involved are you with the local Sandy Springs community?
NEIL: Yes, certainly, our local Chamber of Commerce and some of the local networking groups as well.

EXPERIMAC: Have you participated in any local events to promote the Experimac brand?
NEIL: Well, through my band, we did a lot of events with the city of Sandy Springs. We’d introduce the band, this is who we are, etc. If, by chance, my store was a sponsor of the event, we’d get a shout out from that. We do what we can to support the local police departments when they do their events and local nights out and that type of thing. We’re invited to those events and I really appreciate what they do. We’ve been broken into twice so how many times would it be if we didn’t have a police department nearby. The work they do is really, really important. We show them a lot of support. We also do a lot of work with schools and right now it’s a big push with ‘Back to School,’ we have a lot of ideas of things we can do with the schools that would benefit them as well as us.

EXPERIMAC: What would you say are the top 3 skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
NEIL: In this particular business, the key thing that you need to know more than anything else is marketing. That’s your #1 driver. The second thing I think is patience. People come in and a lot of times when they find us, they’ve been to 2 other stores and have gotten the run-around to find that people don’t want to work on their products because they’re too old. When they get to you, they’re both frustrated and relieved. You need to understand that their frustration is not with you and that they need a little extra kindness and sympathy as you go through the process with them. They need assurance that you’re thrilled to take care of their devices and that you’re really good at it. And, they need to know that they’ll have their computer, phone or whatever it is, back today. The other is two-fold. First, you should expect to work some pretty long hours. And lastly, you should be financially prepared that it really takes a while to get your business started and in a month, you’re not going to be able to never see your store again and assume that everything’s going to be perfect. There’s a great opportunity here. And you’re going to make money but it’s going to take a lot more work than people are generally expecting.

EXPERIMAC: What has been the most surprising thing? Is this what you expected? Has everything gone the way you expected it to?
NEIL: As far as surprising things, I would say that everything I expected was absolutely wrong. I have no clue how to schedule for traffic flow. Every time that I thought we would be amazingly busy, that these would be our peak hours, we are dead. And times when you think, why in the world would anyone be here, that’s when there’s 5 people in the store.

Neil Kent is clearly a hardworking man who is dedicated and passionate about what he does. He really seems to have endured the struggles of opening a business pretty well and is enjoying the work he gets to do with the people of Sandy Springs and the surrounding cities when they visit his store for repairs, upgrades, and purchases of pre-owned Apple products. Putting in the long hours and trying to understand the quirks of any business seem to be par for the course and getting to work close to home in a community where you enjoy working with local schools and supporting the local police department seems to bring Neil the satisfaction he was looking for as a business owner.  Keep Experimac of Sandy Springs, GA in mind for your next computer or device repair, upgrade, trade-in or purchase. We’re confident you’ll have a 5-star review of your own to write after working with Neil and his team.