New business resources help Pequot Lakes business get off to strong start
Geek2Go offers repair and tech support to an area with few options.
PEQUOT LAKES — In spite of economic challenges suffered globally by many businesses, Minnesota reported a surge in small businesses. Among them was Laura Moser's Geek2Go in Pequot Lakes.
Moser, a former employee of TDS, found herself at a crossroads in March 2021. While trying to figure out what she wanted to do next, she decided to use her tech background in the meantime.
"I decided to post an ad for computer repair," Moser said. "That's what my strong suit was. That's what I had experience in - mostly computer repair and just in general tech support, helping people with maybe streaming devices or their phones, like internet or software issues on their phones, and just general tech support questions and things like that in in their home. And I had posted an ad and I said I do on-site repairs - call if you need anything. I got a lot of strong feedback from the community."
The feedback opened her eyes to the need for support in her local community. Not only did people need tech support, some of them needed very personal, sometimes in-person tech support the likes of which were not even provided by her former employer.
"That was very encouraging," Moser said. "You could say it gave me the confidence I needed to pursue the idea of creating a computer repair business."
She already had a great deal of technical knowledge, but now inspired to start a full-blown business, Moser put her nose to the grindstone and studied as much as she could to learn about additional techniques and skills she might need for repairing computers and devices, as well as how to run a business.
"I talked to a lot of industry professionals around the nation," Moser said. "I connected with various different shop owners online and reached out to them and had some good phone conversations on what services they offer and all kinds of other questions."
She worked to build a client base while learning more about her business. She replaced batteries and phone screens and performed general repairs and maintenance for computers. In May 2021, she kicked it up a notch and found a storefront on Main Street in Pequot Lakes. She continued growing her knowledge base and services.
Eventually, Moser reached out to various organizations and programs designed to help entrepreneurs, including the Women's Business Alliance, Small Business Development Centers and Department of Employment and Economic Development in September 2021. She found support for the growth of her business. She received a Small Business Administration loan, split into two projects, that helped her to expand even more.
She used the loan to buy inventory for the shop, store improvement, tools and training.
On Thursday, April 28, Moser got the chance to show the people who helped her what their assistance made possible. Present were Pequot Lakes Mayor Tyler Gardner, City Clerk Angie Duus, state Sen. Carrie Ruud, Brian Lehman with the Brainerd Lakes Chamber, Pam Johnson with the Small Business Development Center, Business Developer Jennifer Ford with the Entrepreneur Fund, Commissioner Steve Grove with DEED, and Director Sandy Voigt of the Women's Business Alliance.
Moser showed off her cellphone and tablet repair station. Of those tools, a hot air station and more were purchased with her SBA loans. The loans also paid for various device repair classes in Atlanta, Georgia, over the fall and additional micro-soldering classes over the winter.
"I've been learning over the last couple of months how to repair these components and these chips and how to read the schematics," Moser said.
With these classes, Moser said she can often work on phones and other devices in the case of water damage or other issues. She said in some cases she can now remove shorts, remove corrosion, repair components and replace chips on a very small scale.
Training also connected Moser to others. She's now part of professional online communities that work together to troubleshoot, identify and fix problems.
"I learned a lot, met a lot of great industry professionals," Moser said. "I networked with a lot of great people that gave me a lot of information and helped boost my confidence in my own repairs."
Moser's business offers services that are difficult to find outside of a more populous city. She prides herself on the level of personalized service she offers. In some cases that might include going to customers' homes to physically set up their internet devices or helping a customer call their cellphone provider to set up a plan.
She provides everything from tech support to data recovery from water damaged devices. In some cases, if she doesn't have the resources to fix an item, she has connections to individuals who can. Now, when most technical assistance is hours away and often impersonal, Moser says her approach is different from a lot of the bigger providers.
"I don't know too many shops that will sit down and give that kind of customer service with that kind of patience," Moser said. "That's something I offer that I don't think a lot of shops offer. It's just one-on-one time that I have. I take time for the customer if they have questions. I can come to them, they can stop in and ask me quick questions. I'm happy to answer those."
Moser also provides longer term customer service. Businesses often have what are called managed service providers. These providers are outside consultants who offer tech support to various businesses.
"If a company doesn't want to staff their own IT department, they hire a third party department to provide IT support and set up computers and provide all the stuff they need," Moser said.
With the growth of working from home, that service has grown to include a new model of MSP, where providers are responding to home offices instead of large office buildings. It's still not entirely common with MSP providers, but it's one service that Moser provides. These services are provided on an annual subscription basis. The business maintains a contract with Moser, and she responds to calls on an as-needed basis.
Moser said the fact that she repairs computers, cellphones and other devices in all the same location is fairly uncommon, as many of the businesses that fix computers don't necessarily fix other devices, and vice versa. Having both once again sets her apart.
In just a year, Moser's business and its offerings have grown significantly. She now has an employee in her shop to help her provide customers with the services they need when she's out on a call. She also has training and certifications she didn't start with. To top it off, she's always getting more and more education and some day her repair services could include more than just phones, tablets and computers.
Travis Grimler is a staff writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal weekly newspaper in Pequot Lakes/Pine River. He may be reached at 218-855-5853 or email@example.com.