Neil Kent has been an Apple fanatic for 30 years, so when he heard about the opportunity to open his own Apple store, he jumped at it.
Kent opened the first Experimac franchise off Roswell Road in Sandy Springs almost two years ago. The shop specializes in all things Apple, including repairs, upgrades and sales of used machines.
“Every great thing that has ever happened in my life was somehow tied to Apple and its products,” Kent said. “That was the draw for me: I get to own my own Apple store.”
Kent grew up in Sunnyvale, CA a mile from Apple’s headquarters in Palo Alto. He said the company was behind some key moments in his life, from transitioning into white-collar work in the late 1980s while selling computer peripherals to meeting his future wife and stepson.
He worked for Apple for nearly five years before taking an event management job in San Francisco. The long commute took too much time from his family, so he followed an opportunity to Atlanta.
Once here, Kent worked with a business broker to open his own business and learned about a small computer shop in West Palm Beach, Fla., looking to franchise. The chance to work with Apple products again went against his original plan but was too tempting to reject.
“I was certain when I started my search that I did not want a franchise, and I did not want a startup,” he said. “But here I am in a franchise and the very first franchisee. So you can’t be more of a startup.”
Since he took the plunge in November 2014, Experimac has grown to five locations in Georgia and 50 across the country.
According to Kent, the business model works because Apple computers, phones and tablets are built to last. He said he regularly works on MacBooks that are 5 to 8 years old.
“All Apple devices work together so well,” he said. “Everything just syncs. The fact that every morning I hit a button and my screen comes on, it just works.”
Kent and his three employees have found success repairing and selling used Apple products. He said customers are amazed at how much they can save by buying a used MacBook or iPad instead of a new one.
With school starting up, Kent is getting ready for his busiest time of the year. Last August his shop sold out of its inventory.
“We want parents to know that we’re here for their back-to-school needs. We will literally save a family $400 to $1,000 off their computer. We think of it as the smart shopper’s alternative to the mall,” Kent said.
In the end, he said, he finds joy in helping people, and he brags about his 119 five-star reviews out of 120 on Facebook, Google and Yelp. That last review? Only four stars.
“When I have a mom come in crying because her hard drive crashed and every photo of her kid is on there,” he said, “the days when we’re able to retrieve that data for them are the days that thrill me the most.”