After more than a decade in business, Santa Barbara-based tech support firm Make It Work parked its fleet of red Mini Coopers for good on June 25.
Eric David Greenspan, who co-founded the company in 2001, said that the slumping economy along with user-friendly smartphones and tablets took their toll on the company, which sends technicians on tech support house calls throughout Southern California.
Make It Work raised additional money, changed its pricing structure and even structured a partnership with Costco to offer support services for all the technology gear sold there – but none of that could buck up sales in time to satisfy the company’s vendors.
“We ran out of money. We fought until the very last moment. We squeezed every last drop of blood out of it,” Greenspan told the Business Times. “Revenues were falling, and we tried so hard, but we couldn’t raise any more capital.”
Greenspan said the company cut down to the bare essentials, but the fatal blow was when it could not negotiate a deal to keep insurance coverage on its fleet of Mini Coopers. The cars themselves were leased and will be returned, Greenspan said.
“The [chief operating officer] and I have not taken a paycheck. I’m living on fumes, and the company is living on fumes,” Greenspan said. “We couldn’t drive the cars without insurance. We had no choice.”
Greenspan said tech support services, especially those offered at clients’ homes, were becoming tougher to sell, especially as user-friendly devices such as Apple’s iPad became popular among consumers looking for computer-like functionality with less hassle.
“Our No. 1 challenge was customer acquisition. In the early days, radio was very effective, but we didn’t have the capital to carry it through,” Greenspan said. “We switched gears. We went after a strategic partner, and we landed the big fish – we got Costco. I would not call it a failure in any way, shape or form. It was something that was working, but we just didn’t get there.”
Make It Work will lay off all 34 of its employees. Greenspan said the company is trying to connect customers with the company’s 25 technicians so they can continue to use the same people for services if they wish.
“There will be 25 little Make It Works all over” if the strategy succeeds, Greenspan said. “We’re struggling with how to make our last payroll. We’re selling off equipment so we can pay employees.”
Greenspan said Make It Work doesn’t have the resources to honor pre-paid service contracts in place before the company shut its doors.
“What happened to people who had Circuit City gift cards?” Greenspan said. “In Santa Barbara, our biggest competitor has already offered to take over our customer base and honor our support agreements. If we can make that work we will. We’ll try to do that in all the counties.”
Greenspan said that losing his company is painful, especially when most of its customers still gave its services high marks.
“It’s the worst thing I’ve ever experienced in my life. I’m financially ruined,” Greenspan said. “Ninety-five percent of our customers, when we called them to tell them we were going out of business today, they were sympathetic. I hope everybody understands that we did everything we possibly could to build a great company.”