University student sees big profits repairing electronics

Casey Profita runs his own gaming and phone repair business.

University senior Nick Wiebusch  and junior Ben Kenote  each clean and repair a PlayStation  3 on Friday.  Both are employees at Gophermods, a game console and iPhone repair business started by a University student.

University senior Nick Wiebusch and junior Ben Kenote each clean and repair a PlayStation 3 on Friday. Both are employees at Gophermods, a game console and iPhone repair business started by a University student.

Carly Schramm

Early last year, Casey Profita was looking for another way to help pay for college. He decided to turn his pastime of buying, fixing and reselling video game consoles into a full-time business. Profita, an economics and Asian languages and literatures major at the University of Minnesota, started Gophermods, LLC, a student-run gaming and cell phone repair business that was initially online-based. In January, Gophermods expanded and now has a store located at the University Technology Enterprise Center in Dinkytown. âÄúIt grew so much, we finally needed our own repair shop,âÄù Profita said. Profita made $26,000 in profit for 2009, and business has been growing. He said he expects to make a net profit of $96,000 in 2010. Less than a year ago, Profita had no idea how to fix the game consoles himself, but he spent his entire summer learning from a local gaming repair business in his hometown of Salem, Wis. When the business went under, Profita saw an opportunity to buy all the equipment and consoles and essentially pick up where the small-town business left off. In May 2009, Profita created Gophermods online and worked hard during the summer and fall semesters fixing gaming consoles that came in from all over the country. But with business booming, Profita needed more help to meet the demand. In January he opened up a store in UTEC, hired five part-time employees, redesigned the website and expanded GophermodsâÄô services. Gophermods now offers a 24-hour turn-around and what Profita claims is the lowest pricing for Apple iPhone repairs in the country. âÄúWhen we started, our competitors really werenâÄôt offering customer service that was up to par.âÄù Profita funded Gophermods from the leftover profits he had from a small business he ran in high school. Although he has not done much local marketing, he has been seeing the benefits of word-of-mouth advertising. Also, many local cell phone stores and video game shops refer their customers to Gophermods if they have problems, Profita said. While business is gradually growing in the area, Gophermods is well-known online, receiving the most mail-ins from California, New York, Florida, Texas and the Midwestern region, Profita said. Paul Zheng, a part-time employee and University senior studying human resources and industrial relations, said the store receives about 15 mail-ins and six walk-in customers a day. PlayStation 3 gaming systems with general hardware failures and cracked iPhone screens are the two most common repairs Gophermods employees need to make, Profita said. Employees go through a specialized training process by first practicing on âÄújunk consolesâÄù and then advancing to one-on-one training with Profita, Nicholas Wiebusch, an employee and nonprofit management and public relations senior, said. âÄúAs you build experience, you are bound to get to a point where youâÄôre allowed to work on a console without Casey,âÄù Wiebusch said. With only one unsatisfied customer on record, Profita said he plans to run Gophermods long-term and has plans to move to a bigger location within the next month because of its growing popularity. Looking to branch out into other areas, Profita said he also wants to repair computers and BlackBerry phones, possibly setting up a contract with AT&T. âÄúThereâÄôs definitely room for growth. [Profita] canâÄôt stick with PS3s forever,âÄù Zheng said.