Two years ago, Daniel Luna borrowed one hundred and fifty dollars from his older brother, Michael, to pay for his vehicle registration and smog check in order to drive out to San Jose, Ca from Stockton, Ca. Daniel's registration had been expired for months and he was as broke as could be. His plan was to earn a little bit of money over a week or two by tethering cell phones with his buddy Jeremy Prader who repaired computers. On the first day, they had no idea where to start. Jeremy recommended that they tie cardboard signs to the poles of stop signs that read “Cheap Computer Repair”. Daniel asked Jeremy where they would get the cardboard. This is the story of how Cheap Squad began.
They drove all around San Jose looking for random scraps of cardboard. It took several days for both Daniel and Jeremy, to locate areas within San Jose where they could get free cardboard to advertise their business on. Finally, they found that the best places were located in the dumpsters behind the Safeway on Race Street and the dumpsters in Santana Row. They bought markers from the dollar tree and zip ties to fasten their homemade signs to stop signs. Together, they put up over three hundred cardboard signs around town. In the next two weeks, the two of them received over four hundred phone calls. As one can imagine, this was extremely overwhelming. They decided that while Jeremy was out fixing computers, Daniel would answer the phones and make appointments. Google Calendar was used by Daniel to make appointments. Once an appointment was made, Jeremy would log into Google Calendar with his smart phone. This allowed Jeremy to stay updated with his upcoming appointments without having to directly contact Daniel.
They were in the full swing of things, running a small mobile computer repair business from Jeremy’s Apartment. They continued posting cardboard signs for about a month straight until the Head of San Jose’s City Code called. They were informed that they could be fined per sign and advised to take all the signs down immediately. Before making any changes in their means of advertisement, Daniel researched the Head of San Jose’s City Code to verify that the man was who he said he was. After, Daniel called to apologized and explained to the city employee that they were just two broke kids trying to earn a little money. Because they had a business license, the city employee advised Daniel and Jeremy to go to a meeting for new business owners to learn about San Jose’s city rules and regulations regarding businesses.
Daniel and Jeremy removed all of their signs, leaving them at square one. After the signs were all down, they went days without calls. They saved a little money and decided they would get a second story suite off 2nd Street in Downtown San Jose. They shared a 450 square foot office with a mortgage banker named John Knowles. In their first month at the new office, they did less than ten deals. They were working seventy to eighty hours per week and didn’t take a day off for over six months. They decided that the next logical step was to post on craigslist. Daniel posted once an hour in the computer services, computer sales, game console sales, and any other electronics category. Daniel wanted people to be able to scroll down and see the CHEAP SQUAD in every header in CAPS. Daniel's older brother, a New York business owner, gave them the idea. His brother explained that they would become branded on craigslist and that people would naturally start to recognize the Cheap Squad going through days of post and seeing their posts every hour. Daniel followed the routine strictly and posted nearly thirty times a day. They generated hundreds of deals over a couple months span and dominated the craigslist repairs section for San Jose. Craigslist did not like their over posting, and to this day their company name, website, and phone number are automatically blocked from posting any Cheap Squad related services in the Computer Repairs Services section. After Craigslist, their number of customers dropped significantly again. They went from around one hundred and fifty deals a month to around seventy.
During the whole process, they focused all of their efforts trying to deliver the best customer service they possibly could. They knew that all the tactics they were using would not last forever, and that every customer interaction was important for the longevity of the company. Often, they would take losses on deals, just to make sure their customers were happy. Their business depended on customer referrals. They focused on trying start developing reviews on Yelp and building an online presence. Their customers started to deliver great feedback for the company. Yelp started to deliver great returns and helped their company survive another downturn.
In November of 2011 The Cheap Squad relocated to store front location at 25 N 2nd St. in Downtown San Jose, Ca. The company started to refocus on expanding its efforts in Information Technology (IT) services for small to medium size businesses. The Cheap Squad hired Server/ IT experts and emphasized expanding their services to other businesses at a price that was below the industry standard. Currently, The Cheap Squad services more the forty businesses and still growing.
Today, our company has six W2 employees and two contracted workers. The Cheap Squad is still focusing all of its efforts and delivering the best computer repair, IT services, and customer service that they can possibly deliver. It is important for us to share our story when the economy is still struggling to recover. We want people to know that America is still the land of opportunity and that with a little hard work, luck, and dedication there is still the opportunity to build a successful business!
When we started The Cheap Squad, we wanted to have social impact locally and nationally on the way computer and electronics repair are performed. We never wanted our customers to feel used, abused, or swindled. Our goal was for our customers to understand the process from start to finish. We try to explain what is being done, how it’s completed, and why the repair is necessary.We, as a team, have created a goal to change the way electronic repair companies do business with their customers. We would like to make this change locally, then nationally. Our plan is to standardized these four key features across the computer repair industry:
1. We offer a free diagnosis fee. This is typically unheard of in the computer repair business. We believe that customer’s should now what the cost of each repair is upfront without having to pay. If your repair is not financially beneficial, then we let our customers know before spending unnecessary money.
2. We have a no fix, no charge policy. Not every device is repairable. Even if we spend the time to attempt a repair, we will not charge you unless we actually fix your item. Every repair in an opportunity to gain knowledge. Therefore, if an item is not fixable and we spend time, we are gaining valuable knowledge for the future.
3. We offer a free 90 day warranty on all of our hardware repairs. We take pride in the quality of craftsmanship we perform. We take time and make sure every repair we do is a quality repair. If you have any problems at all, don’t hesitate to bring it in, our warranty covers the problem and we will handle it immediately.
4. We charge flat rate for all of our services. $80 dollar flat rate for software issues and $100 dollar flat rate for hardware. Pricing never changes and you know the price of the repair upfront. You don’t have to worry about those unnecessary hourly fees. Unfortunately, for the customer there is no way for them to actually track the time it takes to repair an item. This is where many repair shops make that extra buck off their customers.