My latest MakintheBacon interview features Regina Dean Reed. Regina currently owns a mobile computer repair business in Mississippi called ComputerMediConsultant and has owned it for 11.5 years. Some of the things we chatted about were how much she enjoys tinkering with things and how she strongly advises to have all your ducks in a row if possible before you make the jump.
Growing up were you always into computers and technology in general? Were you always fiddling around with computers?
When I was little ,there weren’t any computers. We were still using black and white TVs. I always felt there was something else, something better, something bigger you can do. I remember I used to have favourite shows I watched and I would record them with the cassette player because we didn’t have VCRs at the time. So I would tell people I really created the VCR, I just didn’t know it (laughs). But I would record the sound so I could hear the show later. I just always liked seeing what I could do. I’m one of those people that’ll see what’ll happen. If I do this what’ll happen. I broke a lot of stuff (laughs). Breaking stuff was kind my thing or if it was broken, I would try to fix it. So I was a tinkerer.
Are you considered the resident tech whiz in your family?
They’ll call, they’ll say, “ Uh my computer is doing this. What do you think it is? Could you fix it?” For my family, I fix it for free, but I charge for parts. I say, now I have to pay for these parts. So, I’ll do that. So yeah, I’m the resident techie (laughs).
Given that technology has enabled us to connect with people around the world, automate tasks and made our lives a lot easier, do you think technology has made us more lazy and impatient? How do you feel about the way technology has brought us to today?
It has and I’m going to tell you what happened to me. It happened to me, I said it wouldn’t but it did. Once I got an iPhone and I got my iPhone wet. And I thought I’m not going to make it without my phone. What am I going to do? My whole life in my hand. I have a camera on it, my timer is on it, my scheduler is on it. So yes, we have gotten lazy. Instead of writing it on a piece of a paper and going and looking at the clock. I don’t even wear a watch. I have a cell phone. There’s no need for it. Why am I wearing this watch?Without my phone, I don’t know what time it is.
It has made us lazy. I don’t know anybody’s number. They’re all in the phone. I don’t even know my husband’s cell phone. You start thinking of all the stuff a phone carries. So yes, it has made us lazy, very lazy.
I noticed there is a bit of overlap between when your business started and your last job. Did you find it difficult building your business on the side while you worked full-time?
The funny part about it, I started my business because of my last job. Instead of doing my job, people were asking me to fix their computers. So I would stop, work on a computer and work on my job. And I thought, I better do something else. I’m spending more time working on their computers than doing what I’m here for. I was the quality manager. So I did it for as long as I could.
What happened was my boss, my manager decided that I need you all to come in on Saturday. Well, that was the only time where I could go to three customers. Once he changed me over to working on Saturdays, I couldn’t do what I needed to do, so I quit. I probably would have kept doing it a little while longer. Because of the security of the regular paycheque.
Jumping is exactly how it feels like. Jumping right out of a plane. I finally just jumped in 2005.
Would you recommend doing it on the side to aspiring entrepreneurs?
I would say yes. Make sure you know how to market your business before you leave your regular job. Because you need to know you’re going to have clients. Even now, I’m still having to market more because I have slow times and I’m having to market to fill in those blanks.
It’s kind of funny now that I look back. I’m thinking that was really was a jump because I had a few clients, but I didn’t probably have enough to jump at that time, but I jumped because I was afraid I was going to lose an opportunity. I thought that if I don’t quit now, I’m not going to quit. I recommend that you have all of your ducks in a row. Make sure that you have a good, solid clientele before you leave that regular paying job. Unless you have a good husband like mine that will let you (laughs).
Have a cushion, if I didn’t have his support, I wouldn’t be able to do it.
You mentioned that you have slow times. Does that vary? Does it come in cycles during certain months or seasons of the year?
Seasons of the year and the great thing about where I live is, because we’re in Mississipi, we don’t get a real winter. But when it gets cold or when people can’t really get outside and it’s raining ,they’ll get on their computers. I used to always count on the summer months for work in August. The children are at home putting viruses on their parents’ computers while they’re at work.
I know that June is going to be dead every year because people are graduating and they’re not in the house. The weather is pretty good. May and June are tricky. Those are the slowest months. Sometimes around Christmas, it’s a little slow. But January, they’re going to have new computers they want that they either want to have set up or they’re going to mess up some old one.
What’s interesting is that I don’t have a lot of customers but the jobs are usually big enough where I don’t need a whole of people But when I do work, it’s good.
In terms of an entrepreneur, it takes a certain type of personality and skillset. Did you always feel you were a self-starter and that you always had the business mindset?
I’ve always felt like if I had to work on a job and go and sit in somebody’s office, I felt like I was in jail. There was always just a feeling that I needed to be out doing something else. I didn’t like sitting somewhere for 8 hours. I just don’t like the idea of doing the same thing every day. I knew I needed something that would challenge me and that was different. When you’re on business, it’s always different. There’s always something. That’s what I love the most about it. It’s always a challenge for me.
Is there a specific social media channel you found has helped you in terms of your business?
This is the interesting part of the social media marketing. I’m having to believe it’s kind of like planting a garden. Right now, I’m putting the seeds in the ground. So I haven’t seen the fruit of my labour yet but I’m working at it. I figure if I keep doing it, I will get the following that I’m looking for. Out of all of them, Instagram. You get more traction. It’s just like word instant. I’ll post a picture and instantly you get 25 likes. Makes you feel good.
I think it’s more of just getting out there and doing it for awhile. I expect this to probably take off in maybe, it might take 2 or 3 years for me to actually get the group I’m looking for, but people are noticing. Right now I’m just putting seeds in different areas and trying to find what’s going to work for me to get those people to actually call me.
Is there anything you particularly don’t like about your business?
I don’t like the accounting part. I don’t like having to track money and keep up with budgets. I hate doing that, but you know it has to be done. I’ll be honest, I haven’t been saving anything, I’ve been putting it back all in the business. But this year, I’m actually saving some. So I’m having to work with a budget. And it’s really been challenging me. Because a lot of things that I’ll buy, now I’m going do I need that. If I don’t need, I just don’t buy it.
What are your business expenses?
Well if somebody calls and they need say, a hard drive. Hard drives are maybe $40 or $50 a piece. But if you buy 2 or 3, then that’s $150 that I maybe could have used for something else that came up. The hard drives are there getting older and older. When I started out, 80 GB was big. Now you’re looking at 3 TB. So I had to stop buying so many parts and holding them, trying to think well I want to have that part so if they need it, I got the part. I’m having to think, Ok, I’ll wait till somebody calls and actually need the part and then I’ll order the part. And just let them know it’ll take a week for me to get that part and they’ll usually wait.
Your university program, when you were taking your courses, was it a male dominated one and did you ever experience sexism in your career?
It’s funny. I went into it because I was taking my computer to this guy in a local town, not too far from us, and every time I’d go in, he’d look at it , he’d say you need to just get another computer and I didn’t believe a word he was saying. So I thought I’m going to learn how to do this myself. And that’s really how it started, tinkering with computers. There were three women in my class that graduated. It was funny because the guys would look at you funny, but they had to respect you when you were making A’s right beside them.
When you first launched your business, were there any huge setbacks you encountered and if so, how did you work through them?
When I first started, it’s almost like you’re on vacation because all of a sudden, you don’t have to get up and go anywhere. I remember going to the kitchen and baking a cake. And I thought, normally I don’t have time to do this and I’m going to bake me a cake. And I baked a cake and I ate a lot of cake. And I thought,ok, this is not good. I’m going to gain a lot of weight cause you know, you got all this time. But then reality hits and it’s time to pay bills and you go hmmm..how am I going to pay this? My dad was a big support before I married my husband because he actually paid the house for two, three years.
At the beginning, you’re like oh, I’m making all this money. But I wasn’t making as much as I really needed. Don’t jump out there until your business is making as much as your job is making because you got to know you’re going to be supported by it so you don’t have to struggle. I was blessed that I didn’t have to struggle but if it wasn’t for him, I was going to take out a loan, which was what I thought about doing to make sure the house was paid.
Have you ever thought about expanding your services to offering an introduction to computers or maintaining/caring for your computer to adults, older adults or children?
I actually had a little student years ago that I taught how to type. I was just teaching basic typing. I would love to get into the teaching arena, I just don’t know where to get in at . There are so many free classes offering for that. So when you want to charge people, then they’re like oh I don’t know about that. So then you go they don’t really want that class, that bad. It’s not something they really need. It’s kind of tricky. I haven’t found the niche yet. But I’d love to train in person.
You’ve been running a mobile computer repair service for 11.5 years, what would you say is the most valuable/important lesson you’ve learned?
When I first started, it used to be where people would call and you’d get these emails, oh we’re going to help you get all these calls. Your phone’s going to ring off the hook. Don’t believe any of them. None of them are true. They come out of the woodwork trying to sell you something or sell you some idea and all they’re trying to do is get that sale. And I learned that the hard way. I paid a lot of money doing that thinking if I do this, then I’m going to get the calls.
My advice would be to market yourself as much yourself as you can because these people will promise you the world. Marketing is a slow process. It takes time to get people. The reason I do the YouTube also is so people can watch it and get a feel for who I am. So that once you see my marketing, then you go I know who that is. You kind of feel the person out. You only deal with people you feel comfortable with anyway.
I did learn there’s a lot of people out there just trying to make money, trying to scam you so you do have to be aware of them. You find your market slowly. You meet people and let them get to know you and they’ll call you for work.
Have there ever been times where you’ve felt unmotivated and almost want to go back to the security and stability of a 9 to 5? What keeps you motivated?
If there is an interesting job in my newspaper and they do show up, I will apply. I’m going to go ahead and apply. If they call me great. If they don’t, I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing. I only look for stuff that I think I want to do. I’m not taking a job I know I’m going to hate. They have to be an IT job, something with computers, something that I really enjoy.
After I do that and get it out of my system, I’ll go back to marketing my own business and people will start calling and I’ll forget all about it.
What are some of the common mistakes that people make when it comes to caring/maintaining for your computer?
If something happens to it (your data), it’s gone. This new virus, this lockkey, it locks your computer. And then they tell you, ok if you want your computer unlocked, call us at this number and send us a cheque for $2000-$3000 and we’ll send you the key. That’s the main thing first, back-up your data. A lot of people don’t have anti-virus. They don’t keep it updated. Whether it’s Norton or McAfee. AVG is my favourite. I like AVG better than any anti-virus out there, whether you use the free one or the paid one, they’re both really good. But keep them updated.
Those are the two main things. Because with those you’re either going to lose all your data or your computer’s going to be full of everything because just going online you’re going to pick up something. Keep your anti-virus up to date, run your scanners and back-up your data.
What advice would you give to girls and women who are interested in pursuing a degree in technology or computer science or pursuing a career and they feel intimidated by it?
Somebody told me this, a long time ago, they said, If you do what you love, you won’t work a day in your life and that’s a fact. If they like it, don’t let anybody tell you can’t do it. Don’t feel intimidated because there’s a bunch of men in the class. All of y’all are in there to learn. And just do what makes you feel good about you. If they (young women) enjoy working on computers and enjoy tinkering and building stuff, don’t worry about what other people think.
Like ComputerMediConsultant on Facebook.
Follow ComputerMediConsultant on Twitter.
Follow ComputerMediConsultant on Instagram.