What did three engineering students from Colombia, Belgium and India have in common back in their days at Wichita State University?
“You could find us in the nerd lab,” Anish Gupta says.
Not really, Gupta adds, but the trio did share a desire to someday own a business.
Now they do. Gupta, Gilles Mouzon and Monica Aguirre work as engineers for large employers. In their spare time, they started Blazing Electronics, which buys and resells used iPads, iPhones and other smartphones.
The idea for the company came from Mouzon's hobby of fixing phones for friends.
“I'm an engineer, and I like to take things apart and put them back together,” Mouzon said.
Mouzon came to WSU from Belgium for what he thought would be one year of working on his English and a master's degree. Instead, he stayed long enough to get his doctorate and a job as an industrial engineer with CNH.
Aguirre is a Colombia native who moved to Wichita with her family before her last semester of high school. She's an electrical engineer with Spirit.
Gupta, who is from India, is a project engineer at Learjet.
Their company does all its business online, although the partners would like to have a physical location in the future. They spent several months building a website and using search engine optimization tools to try to position Blazing in front of anybody looking on the Internet for a place to sell their phones.
On the site, potential sellers are asked to describe the condition of their phone and then are offered a price for it. Blazing pays for shipping the device. If it matches the seller’s description upon arrival, Blazing pays the seller. If not, it makes a counter offer.
“Ninety-five percent of the time, it’s pretty correct what they say” about the phone's condition, Mouzon said.
Few of the phones arrive not working. Those that aren’t operable usually require nothing more than a new screen or battery.
Blazing sells most of its phones through other retailers, but does sell some itself through eBay.
Gupta said the name of the company comes from fact that “we want to pay people fast” for their phones, within 24 hours if possible.
Aguirre handles marketing for Blazing. Gupta is in charge of the website, and Mouzon makes the offers and counter offers to sellers.
The three have no plans to quit their engineering jobs, but say the company's growing phone purchases and sales make them optimistic.
“We're busy at work but you like to create your own business,” Aguirre said.
“We can see the curve,” Mouzon said. “I think we're headed in the right direction.”