Nic Merry sits in silence. His eyes focused on the motherboard of a damaged iPhone. He screws, detaches, installs, and examines each corner of the device. “Ah! It must be the flex cables,” he says. He sets his screwdriver down and curves the brim of his Colorado Avalanche cap: “The damage is not as bad as I thought… Here, I can install a new one right on the spot.”
Merry is 20 years old now, and when he opened Nic’s Mobile Repair at 17, he was the youngest phone technician in Halifax. “I knew I was the youngest,” he recalls. “It was humbling… The phone repair business wasn’t very large… There were only three of us doing this back then. I started off fixing around five or six phones a day… Now it’s upwards of 12.”
And he keeps getting busier. “I recently just spent about $100 on protein bars, as I’ve had no time for lunch breaks,” he says. “Phones today are like appendages: people can’t go very long without an arm, and they can’t go long without a phone.”
Merry tried university for a year, studying sciences at Saint Mary’s University. But not to pursue a degree, he wanted to experience university, meet people, and have a life similar to many of his peers. But his entrepreneurial passions took over.
During his time at school, he met with like-minded students in entrepreneurial societies. They shared ideas, goals, and discussed the financial value of business start-ups. He decided to put his tech savviness to use, learning how to fix a variety of phones simply through trial and error.
He played around with the devices, like learning to play an instrument by ear. When he was on the right track, he could see it come together before his eyes. “I didn’t learn the trade through tutorials or books,” Merry says. “I learned by dissecting phones and experimenting on my own.”
In a span of 24 hours, Merry dropped out of first year and opened Nic’s Mobile Repair. His parents weren’t pleased. “They are very school oriented and wished that I had followed through with a degree,” he says. “But I’m glad I took the path that I did. All entrepreneurs are risk takers… I wouldn’t change a thing. I’d like to think I’m doing well… It pays the bills. I’m actually looking into buying a house.”
His work place is rich in 1970s décor: wood panelling, harvest-gold appliances and campy earth tones dominate his office. A stone fireplace on an elevated hearth sits directly behind his desk. His cat Mittens sits atop an old wooden rocking-chair, purring, and warmly greeting customers.
Merry works out of his grandmother’s basement, at the top of Medford Street in Dartmouth. His rent? “Smokes, scratch tickets and cat food,” he smiles. “Oh and general chores around the house, of course.”
Merry has a strong foundation of advertising on social media and Kijiji. His Facebook page has over 1,000 likes and many five-star reviews.
“I think [the business is] really neat,” says Justin Collins, a past customer. “I respect it a lot. It’s a rarity to see young entrepreneurs today… almost unconventional. Seeing him do well for himself makes me want to try and start something too. Maybe not of the same magnitude, but a side venture of some sort.”