Monday, March 19 , 2018, 6:45 am | Fair 39º



Make It Work Founder Pulls the Plug on Struggling Computer Support Company

Owner Eric Greenspan says declining revenue and a lack of new customers forced him to call it quits after 11 years in business

Make It Work Inc., based in Santa Barbara, closed up shop for good Monday morning after repairing computers for more than 11 years.

The computer support company sent out technicians to homes and small businesses to fix “anything that hums, beeps or clicks, from computers to iPods to home theaters.”

Before 2008, Make It Work experienced five years of growth and doubling revenue, founder and CEO Eric Greenspan told Noozhawk on Monday. But, he added, yields have been declining since 2008, the company hasn’t raised enough capital and it had difficulty acquiring new customers.

“I don’t regret anything because it was quite a ride, but I’m sorry for the people who got hurt by it, including my employees, customers, shareholders and my family,” Greenspan said. “It’s easy to sit here and be a Monday morning quarterback, but the state it has left me in personally and the effect it has had on my family make it hard to argue that it was worth it. It’s quite devastating; we put 11 years of hard work into this, and I have a kid going to college and another one about to get out of diapers — it’s painful.”

Make It Work recently announced a new fixed-price business model, began partnerships with retailers such as Costco and was about to launch a new deal with Amazon and Costco’s online division but they didn’t materialize fast enough, Greenspan said, adding that the company was consistently “under-financed and bootstrapped” because venture capitalists weren’t interested in a service-based business.

Greenspan said the company couldn’t pay its lease payments on its location above The Habit Burger Grill in La Cumbre Plaza, and the next step was repossessing Make It Work’s red Mini Coopers. He said about 34 employees are out of work.

“But what we’ve heard so far is that 95 percent of the customers have responded with, ‘Where will I go now?’ Comments from the Facebook page have been extraordinary,” Greenspan said. “People know we built a remarkable company that had a significant following, but without proper funding, price point and no new customers flowing in like before 2008, you can’t maintain a business.”

Hallie Avolio of Latitude 34˚ Technologies said the industry is changing. While she was surprised to hear Make It Work was finished, she said that when someone loses his or her data, there’s not much incentive to repair an old computer when new machines are more affordable.

“A lot of it depends on the cost of the equipment,” said Avolio, adding that an average computer lifespan is three to five years. “If the cost of a computer comes down and it’s much more commoditized where you can go to Costco to buy a cheap machine with a year warranty, then maybe these types of companies aren’t that necessary for home machines.”

Greenspan said that most of the company’s revenue came from installations and configurations for residential machines. But is there a future for home-based computer repair services?

“I believe with proper financing a company like ours could be very successful,” he said. “Services aren’t very appealing to big financers so getting that capital is difficult, but the key is in strategic partnerships, and that’s the direction we were heading.”

TechEase used to focus half of its business on the residential market, according to co-founder Evan Asher. He decided to move the company’s direction toward small businesses because of better margins and more demand.

“If I was confident in the residential-based business, we would’ve taken the company in a different direction,” said Asher, adding that his company will honor Make It Work customers who purchased prepaid hourly packages.

He said another factor is that Make It Work, and many other similar businesses, are entirely mobile.

“We offer the option for clients to drop their computers off at our location, which allows us to work more efficiently on them,” Asher said. “We’ve found this translates into a more viable business model, as we can work on multiple computers at once, and aren’t spending time in transit.”

Greenspan said it doesn’t help a company such as Make It Work when hard drives are moving to solid-state, operating systems are self-healing and Mac users can find free advice from their local Apple store.

The company was busiest when Windows XP was transitioning to Windows Vista, according to Greenspan. He said it’s a challenge as prices drop for new machines and people can easily back up information on the cloud.

“Today, you can switch devices and be back online in no time,” Greenspan said. “When everything is up in the cloud you wouldn’t miss a beat. We face significant challenges by the solid-state nature of the hardware and inexpensiveness of today’s devices.”

Greenspan won’t reboot another computer support company after an 11-year run with Make It Work, but he said he hasn’t called it quits. He’s not sure what his next venture will be, but he offered advice to entrepreneurs looking to start a business.

“I can tell you this much: You’ve got to have a really strong iron stomach to stand up to the challenges you face as an entrepreneur,” Greenspan said. “You have to somehow protect your personal life and personal nest egg. I did not do that. I threw everything into this company, and it sucked me dry.”

Noozhawk staff writer Alex Kacik can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @NoozhawkBiz, @noozhawk and @NoozhawkNews. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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