AP NEWS

Small Business of the Year: Broken iPhone launched business

April 6, 2019

BOURBONNAIS — Dwayne VadeBonCouer had no idea what good fortune a cracked screen on his brand new iPhone 4 would bring.

“That’s where the idea started. The broken phone on the floor,” the 37-year-old VadeBonCouer explained.

The broken phone led to the U.S. Air Force veteran to fix his own iPhone, then those of family and friends, ultimately beginning his own small business, iFix, in 2011.

The Bourbonnais-based business has grown considerably since, and has been named Small Business of the Year by the Daily Journal as part of the newspaper’s annual Progress Awards.

He was in his Kankakee home. He had his sleek new phone in the front pocket of his pants. He stood up from the chair and the phone flung from the pocket.

“If I hadn’t worn those pants on that day, I may still be in engineering,” noted VadeBonCouer, a 1999 graduate of Kankakee High School.

He attempted to catch the phone, but obviously failed. It crashed onto the brick floor.

Then, a structural design engineer with EN Engineering of Woodridge, VadeBonCouer was not one to just go out and buy a new phone. He began searching how to repair the device.

Once he completed a few repairs, word began to spread. He found himself getting requests for more repairs.

“I started thinking this could make me a few extra dollars a week. Maybe $50 or $60.”

What followed shocked not only Dwayne but his wife, Brittany, as well.

VadeBonCouer established a repair shop in his home. Business only continued to grow. They thought of expanding. They settled on a mobile repair service and purchased a van.

Business continued to grow. The couple opened their small iFix store at 588 William Latham Drive, Suite 9, in November 2016.

Business only continues to grow. The couple maintains the mobile repair service and also has repair contracts with such entities as the Kankakee School District, CSL Behring and the Kankakee Police Department.

“This started as a way to make a little extra cash, then it just took off,” he said.

“There was just a market for this,” he said. He started a Facebook page in 2013. “It just spiraled from there. Within six or seven months of creating the page, we were gaining lot of business. We began to say to one another ‘We have something here.’”

Owning his own business always was the goal for VadeBonCouer.

“I just hadn’t found what it was I wanted to do. I’ve learned you find it when you least expect it,” he said.

Business was growing so quickly, Dwayne taught Brittany how to complete repairs. She had been working in restaurants.

“She was scared. I get it. She learned. We trained and trained. She has done an awesome job,” he said.

Brittany, 34, a 2002 graduate of Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School, said starting and maintaining a small business has truly been a learning experience.

“The first thing I told Dwayne was there sure are a lot of small pieces in those phones. I got a lot more comfortable as time went on. I’m not a mechanical person,” she said. “At first, I didn’t know what I was doing.

“I worked with kids. I worked at restaurants. Now, I’m comfortable. I love learning new things.”

While there are those who view an iPhone as just another device, VadeBonCouer knows it is far more than that.

“People’s lives are on these devices. These are important. They are filled with photos, phone numbers, bank accounts.”

The iFix business services about 300 iPhones, iPads, iPods, Apple watches and Android phones per month. This past December, Dwayne and Brittany repaired about 400 devices, their busiest month thus far.

“These devices aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. This is a multibillion dollar industry,” he said.

The couple is making plans of adding a second location. They noted they are investigating a 1,500-square-foot location in Manteno.

Recently, the couple held a tutorial session in downtown Kankakee. The class was held for people needing help is learning how to work the device. The class brought in 15 eager learners.

The couple said they want to continue to reach out and help the community. They want to do their part to make Kankakee County a better place.

They noted they are overwhelmed with being honored by the Daily Journal.

“This is amazing. We never thought of this happening to us. I’ve lived by the seat of my pants, and I’ve never asked to be recognized, but this feels amazing. ... We are just doing what we have always wanted to do: helping others and becoming a part of our community.”