Laura Barnes sits down with owner Matt Stevenson to hear about his ‘make or break’ gap year, how a 3D printer helped improve his displays and why his store is a ‘mini PC World’...
How and when did the company begin?
About 14 years ago I got into selling and repairing teachers’ and classmates’ computers during sixth form. At the end of sixth form, I told my parents I didn’t want to go to university, so after my A Levels I had a ‘make or break’ gap year – if I couldn’t get the business to go anywhere within that year I agreed that I would give up and go to university. Luckily, I got a big project and the business has gone from strength to strength.
How has the industry changed over the years?
We’ve got things that we never thought would come out – I never saw tablets coming. On top of that, software is changing all the time and devices are getting more and more powerful.
What products and services do you offer?
Pretty much everything. We repair a lot of Windows PCs and we are also a Mac specialist. We’re a shop that stocks a bit of everything, from laptops and chargers to keyboards and mice. We’re like a mini PC World. We don’t touch mobile phones though. They’re changing all the time and they don’t interest me. I’ll let phone shops have that stress.
Has your customer base changed since you first set up shop?
Not really. We’ve been in the centre of Lincoln for about nine years. The only thing that has changed has been consumers’ computer habits. They all wanted a desktop, then a laptop, then a netbook and now it’s all about tablets. Something new will come along soon and we’ll be ready to stock that. One thing that has remained the same is repairs; consumers will always need to have their tech repaired, no matter how old or new it is.
How important is an online presence for the business?
I’m too busy myself with the shop but I have a mass inventory of spares and stock, so I have employed someone who will be working on an eBay shop for me. There’s a lot of stuff in my repairs room. I think I’m up there with a lot of the bigger repairs companies. Some people like to keep it very minimal but I keep just about anything and everything.
Do you attend many industry events?
I do go to some, but others just don’t interest me. A lot of them tell you things you already know. I would like to go to the 3D printing show this year though.
What do you have in store for the company over the next couple of years?
As well as developing the eBay store we’ve started offering a 3D printing service so we’re going to really push that over the next year. We’ve invested in a Makerbot 3D printer. It’s not cheap and it can be time consuming but the end results can really pay off. We’ve already done a few prototypes for local companies, we’ve had people come in with their kids needing new Lego pieces and I’ve also 3D-printed tablet stands so I can display my products better. The stands make the place look more unique and customers have actually asked the buy them too.
Do you have any advice for new businesses?
Give the customer what they want at the right price and with the correct service. It’s a simple motto.
Year established: 2003
Number of outlets: One
Number of staff: Four
Address: 26 – 27 Guildhall Street, Stonebow Chambers, Lincoln, LN1 1TR
Telephone: 01522 533 199