Jeffrey Hein, a 29-year-old Grass Valley business owner and resident, could be fairly described as a serial entrepreneur. He started a property management company at the age of 19. After that, he ran a circus, among other things. His parents are also members of the local business community.
Hein says he has four active business ventures at present. His latest, The Cell Phone Guru, has seen a steady flow of customers since a soft opening late last year.
“As soon as we put up the banner a month and a half ago, it was a pretty consistent stream. I have two full-time employees, and we’re pretty much all working around the clock,” Hein said. “It’s fairly simple. We buy, sell and repair cell phones. And we provide non-contract cell phone plans.”
They also sell batteries through a partnership with Batteries for Less.
Hein says that most cell phone users sign up for long-term contracts through major wireless providers like Verizon, AT&T or Sprint.
“We provide service through the same networks, but we don’t ask for a contract,” he said.
“We mostly provide pre-paid monthly plans, usually at half the cost of what customers are paying through their contract plans.”
The Cell Phone Guru is an authorized dealer of PagePlus Wireless and H2O Wireless, “virtual operators” of AT&T and Verizon. Hein says these firms set up relationships with bigger telecom networks to get wholesale rates on airtime, then The Cell Phone Guru does business through them.
This business model allows Hein to provide cellular service to his clients at a lower price point than they could get by doing business directly with a major telecom provider, he said.
Hein has found that there’s also a lucrative market for repair services.
“Now that smart phones are getting so essential and also more expensive, people want them repaired,” he said.
Repairing a phone’s damaged components, rather than replacing the phone, can save the customer money, according to Hein.
It also prolongs the device’s usability.
Hines said this presents social and environmental benefits that have a global impact by reducing e-waste as well as the demand for columbite-tantalite, more commonly known as coltan.
Coltan is a rare mineral vital to the production of cell phones, laptops and even guidance systems for smart-bombs.
Much of the world’s supply comes from Africa’s Congo region, where warring factions are fighting a long and bloody conflict over control of coltan mining operations.
“That was a big catalyst for getting this started. I read the National Geographic article on where the materials are coming from to manufacture these devices,” Hein said. “There’s some horrific things happening.”
Hein has also established partnerships with Women of Worth and the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Coalition — organizations that provide abused women with discarded but still-functioning cell phones that can be used to dial 911 in the event of an emergency.
The Cell Phone Guru is located at 136 Idaho-Maryland Road in Grass Valley. They can be reached online at http://thecellphone guru.com or by phone at 530-802-0767.
To contact Staff Writer Dave Brooksher, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4230.
“As soon as we put up the banner a month and a half ago, it was a pretty consistent stream. I have two full-time employees, and we’re pretty much all working around the clock.”
The Cell Phone Guru owner and founder