Broken cell phone leads to new repair business

by Len Lear
Posted 5/2/24

In 2019, Surera Ward's nephew seemed to break his cell phone on a regular basis.  Thus a new business was born.

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Broken cell phone leads to new repair business


In 2019, Surera Ward's nephew seemed to break his cell phone on a regular basis. 

“Every three or four months his screen was broken,” Ward told us last week, “and we were paying $125 to $200 each time for his iPhone to be fixed. I thought to myself that fixing this phone could not be that hard. I watched YouTube videos for hours and eventually fixed his phone after a few attempts.”

After witnessing that success, Ward’s nephew began to tell his friends at Methacton High School in Montgomery County that his aunt could fix iPhones and save them money. Soon, Ward had several new young customers. Within three months, she signed up for a cell phone repair online training program, and a new business was born.

Ward, of Mt. Airy, is the CEO and founder of Girls Fix It, LLC, which she calls a technology solutions company specializing in cell phones, tablets, smartwatches, game consoles and computers. 

Surera (pronounced “Shore-ah”) is part of the fastest-moving technology industry trend: consumer electronic repair and maintenance. Before starting Girls Fix It, she spent 20 years in the corporate sector, leading software development teams for Fortune 500 companies as an IT business analyst\project manager. She also holds an MBA from Bloomsburg University, earned in 2018.

Ward taught herself to program in the 1990s when she worked in software development. 

“Growing up,” she said, “I always liked to take things apart and fix them, like when a tape got stuck in the VCR machine. I got good at fixing.”  At 19, Ward started a software development company in Delaware, Infinity Software Systems. After four years, she transitioned to teaching in schools in Wilmington and New Castle. Currently, Girls Fix It offers training to senior citizens, and Ward also does business consulting for Cellbotics, an electronic device repair training firm based in Atlanta.

But a major problem for Ward and others like her is the planned obsolescence that one also finds in the auto industry. After all, if a product works perfectly for many years, why buy a new one?

Ward is finding, for example, that once she and her two assistants have conducted a repair on a customer's phone, the device will “often throw up error messages hard-coded in by manufacturers to discourage users from going to third-party experts.”

And a practice known as “parts pairing,” which ties individual parts to the devices they're shipped with using unique serial numbers, has made it harder to repair them.

But consumers and small independent repair experts like Ward are fighting back. According to a recent WHYY report, a “Right to Repair” movement is gaining traction around the country. “Four states have passed laws that require manufacturers to make it easier for consumers to repair their devices – a cracked screen, broken phone camera or broken laptop,” according to the story. “There’s legislation in New Jersey, Delaware and a bill in the Pennsylvania Senate, and another in the House. Advocates of these laws say they will save consumers money, save the planet from tons of e-waste and will support small local businesses.” 

Ward insists, “The 'Right to Repair' movement is for consumers and small businesses to have access to parts and schematics that they need. The manufacturers deliberately make the products hard to repair. Parts are often unavailable; schematics are often not accessible, and they create error messages. It's getting harder and harder to repair different devices. Any Apple iPhone 10 phone or better is very hard to repair. Legislation could help, but it would not fully resolve the issue.”

Ward's business was based in North Wales for three years, but one year ago she moved her residence and business to Mt. Airy. According to one of her customers, Sara Joffe, of Mt. Airy, “I had a great experience with Girls Fix It. Surera came to my house, listened to me describe the problem I’d had for months, took my laptop out to her car, and within 20 minutes it was fixed. Highly recommended!”

Another customer, Kathy Warren, of New Jersey, said, “Girls Fix It was a lifesaver! I keep many important documents on a USB, which somehow became damaged and would not function. The Geek Squad could not fix it ... I sent it via mail to Girls Fix It, and they fixed my problem and mailed the repaired USB back to me within one week.”

Ward's family, who live in Trenton, “appreciate and support me,” she said, “but when they know you your whole life, they just expect good work from you. When Jesus healed people, his family probably said, 'Well, that's just Jesus.'”

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