In business, every product created opens up opportunity for more businesses to operate. If a person opens a hospital then naturally some opportunity seekers will open medical supply centres, pharmacies, cafes, and any other services and products that the hospital may require from them. This is exacltly what Alex Fourie did when Steve Jobs’ Apple gadgets became available in South Africa.
Though he is a serial entrepreneur, even Fourie admits he was surprised by the growth of iFix, a company that specialises in repairing Apple products.
It started when as a student he tried to get his iPod repaired, only to be told it could not be done and that he’d have to get a new one. He refused to buy that and decided to fix it himself. “I ordered a part and watched a YouTube video on how to fix it.”
Friends heard about it and were soon asking him to fix their devices. He then placed an advertisement in a Cape Town newspaper and the demand became so great he employed a friend who’d studied engineering to help out. What started out in a Stellenbosch University dorm in 2007 has grown into a chain of six stores nationwide.
“But it was not all plain sailing”, he says. For one, iFix operates without the endorsement of Core, Apple’s local distributor. Fourie says he has tried through various channels to get Core’s and Apple’s blessing, but “they don’t like me”.
It also took years to build relationships with European suppliers of parts.
To reduce its dependence on Apple, Fourie says, iFix has expanded into selling phone accessories and repairing Samsung devices and is also looking at some kind of warranty or insurance product.
Fourie also launched RiCharge, a maker of cellphone charging stations, in 2011. It now exports to nine countries. Apart from being a promising business in its own right, RiCharge’s exports provide a rand hedge for iFix, which as an importer of parts is vulnerable to currency fluctuation.
Alex is not just focused on fixing people’s toys, I mean gadgets lol, his iFix have teamed up with the beautiful folks at iPads For Lion Hearts to help in providing iPads for kids with Autism. Kids with Autism need to be stimulated in the correct manner and the iPad is the perfect tool to facilitate that. iPadsForLionHearts does just that by sourcing used iPads and facilitating the iPad with apps that are highly helpful to helping children with Autism.
Even innovation needs maintenance and Alex is doing that, he came out ninth on the Forbes magazine’s most promising individuals.