When Good Electronics Go Bad
Deric Cahill wants to be your personal IT department. People have all kinds of electronic devices these days, and in a decade of working for in sales and service for companies like CenturyLink, CompUSA, and Verizon, he’s found that consumers often have trouble getting help when something goes wrong.
“I noticed a revolving door of clients who needed more technical assistance than they could receive in a store,” he says. “So I set out on a quest to be that better assistance for customers.”
That led to the creation of his Fort Myers–based company Zimni, which offers in-home or -office help with everything from problematic printers to crashed computers. “I want to change the way people experience tech support,” he says
Once he knew what he wanted to do and why, Cahill started researching the tech-support options already out there, finding that they often varied in price and quality. He saw room for a different, more personalized model.
For advice on starting a business, he listened to a series of podcasts called Stanford Startups—hosted by Stanford University—where he got tips and advice on everything from accounting to legal matters. Using just $200 of his own money, he ordered business cards and built a website to market his idea. The company’s name came from playing around with catchy, cool-sounding words.
In addition to all of the on-the-job training he’s received over the past 10 years, he’s also in the process of getting his A+ and Network+ certifications from the Computing Technology Industry Association.
Cahill quit his job at Verizon in August of 2015 to launch Zimni (Meetzimni.com). “Being on a shoestring budget, I started going to stores where potential clients would be—Verizon, Best Buy—and giving business cards to store representatives and letting them know the benefits of sending clients to Zimni,” he says. “I handed out thousands of cards. And slowly but surely the calls started coming in.”
Zimni charges $79 an hour for its services and now works with about 50 clients a month. In December, Cahill formed a partnership with five Southwest Florida locations of Verizon Wireless retailer Cellular Sales, which he followed with a similar arrangement with five area locations of uBreakiFix. Both have been important referral sources.
He’s tried out Facebook and Google advertising but hasn’t done much else in the way of marketing. “I’m still in startup mode,” he says, “so I’m not spending what I don’t have to spend.”
Zimni has been completely self-funded to this point, but Cahill has started exploring the idea of seeking capital. He’s also the only employee right now but is preparing to hire an additional tech-support specialist to help with client service calls. The company’s service area stretches from Punta Gorda to Naples, but Cahill is considering an expansion north up to the Tampa area, through additional partnerships with Cellular Sales and other retailers.
“There are huge misconceptions out there that you need all this money or a sweet office to start a business,” he says. “I’m very interested to see how far I can take this. My focus is on primarily making sure the experience is good for customers, and the most awesome part has been that everyone’s been satisfied with what I’ve done—and called me back for multiple visits.”