For years, cellphone repair has been a “behind-the-curtain type of thing,” Hamid Bakhtiari says.
“You’d give someone your phone, they’d go in a back room and do some magic,” said Bakhtiari, who owns the MobileComm cellphone repair business with his older brother, Milad.
The Bakhtiaris are putting the process front and center in their newest MobileComm location, in the form of a “repair bar” where people can see employees work on the devices.
“I like to equate it to an open kitchen,” Milad Bakhtiari said.
The Bakhtiaris’ newest store, at 21st and Maize, is their fifth in the Wichita area. With a bigger, brighter, retail-friendly look, it’s also the one they hope will be a model for a franchise operation.
“We’re going for a national look and feel,” Hamid said.
MobileComm also repairs tablets and iPods, sells cases and other cellphone accessories and is a dealer for prepaid Cricket and T-Mobile plans.
The brothers grew up in Wichita, always figuring they would own their own business but taking slightly different routes to get there.
Hamid studied finance and Spanish at Wichita State University, repairing friends’ computers and taking part in DECA and Youth Entrepreneurs of Kansas. Milad started at WSU before finishing his degree in finance and economics at the University of Kansas.
Milad started MobileComm in 2005 as primarily a business selling wireless service plans. Hamid joined him about a year later. Thanks to Hamid’s technical expertise and other factors, the business evolved into more of a “quick service repair” operation.
As cellphones have grown more expensive, owners are more likely to repair than replace them, and those owners’ increasing reliance on the devices means they want the phone back in service quickly.
The Bakhtiaris say they can do most repairs within an hour. They’re currently offering a $59.95, one-hour replacement on screens for iPhone 4 and 4S, which are the most common repairs. They currently employ 20 people.
The brothers have made several more moves in hopes of developing MobileComm into a franchise operation, the most visible of which is a TV commercial featuring an animated superhero called MobileComm Man, who saves a damsel who’s in distress because of a broken cellphone. The business’ brochure is a comic book takeoff featuring the same characters.
After completing legal work, the brothers hope to launch their franchise idea and spread beyond Wichita.
“We just need to standardize and replicate now,” Milad said.