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Posted: October 01, 2011

Small biz: BuyMyTronics broadens scope, expands down under

Mike Taylor

Brett Mosley has come a long way from five years ago when his business, BuyMyTronics.com, was chronicled in this magazine as a Tech Startup of the Month.

"Back then it was just me driving around Denver picking up people's iPods," says Mosley, who would pay anywhere from $5 to $200 for broken gadgets, then fix and sell them on craigslist. "I'd do very well. Obviously when you're a small business and operating out of your apartment and it's a one-person show, you can operate way different."

Different, that is, than a firm with eight employees - 15 counting subcontractors - and annual revenues of about $2 million, which is what Denver-based BuyMyTronics has grown to.

Recently Mosley, who despite his business experience is still just 29, reached into the wholesale market. Instead of fixing and selling iPods, iPhones, Blackberrys and other gadgets one or two at a time, he's doing it in batches of 30 to 50 gadgets at a time.

Earlier this year he landed an agreement with about 80 Verizon authorized dealers in the Midwest to purchase the phones turned in by customers for credit when they buy new phones. He then resells them either to wholesalers in China or on the East Coast, or on eBay and Amazon.com.

"I figure by the end of the year we'll have a few hundred stores using our platform," he says. "We're in talks with a lot of carriers. It works perfectly with our model because we specialize in used and broken electronics."

For gadgets beyond repair, Mosley sells to recyclers in Canada and Belgium. E-waste and landfill contamination have come under increased scrutiny, but Mosley says, "We're very cautious about the vendors we pick. It's not a profit center. It's just the right thing to do."

The notion of giving gadgets a second life started when Mosley was a 24-year-old working as a risk analyst for a mortgage firm, and he broke his $300 iPod. "I was like, ‘Whoa, this doesn't make any sense - you just put it away in a drawer or something and get a new one?'" Mosley recalls thinking. "What if you could fix these and resell them?"

What if? Mosley posted an ad on craigslist seeking used and broken gadgets. Before long he was buying and fixing about 500 electronic items a month out of his apartment and reselling them on craigslist.

In the company's early days, Mosley fixed gadgets himself with the help of two technicians. Now he subcontracts the repair work out to a Thornton-based company. BuyMyTronics was recognized in this magazine's June issue as one of 50 Colorado Companies to Watch, a program honoring up-and-coming enterprises.

By the sound of it, BuyMyTronics is recession-resistant, maybe even recession-enhanced.

"The economy, to be truly honest, does not affect us at all," he says. "Everybody has to have a gadget. Everybody has to have a phone. But not everybody can afford the fanciest and shiniest stuff. There's so much growth to do, I really don't see a slowdown in the short or long term."

Along with the arrangements he's made with authorized phone dealers in the U.S., he's also seeking to replicate the business model in Australia with help from a business partner in Sydney.

"The plan is to grow that and possibly add a few more offices around the world," he says.

Mosley says by far the most popular item that BuyMyTronics takes in and resells these days is the 3G, eight-gigabyte iPhone, followed by the eight-gigabyte iPod Touch. "And then some Blackberrys and stuff like that."

Mosley grew up in Hawaii and attended the University of San Diego where he earned a degree in business with an emphasis on finance, marketing and real estate. He didn't have any experience in electronics when he struck out on his own and launched BuyMyTronics (originally named BuyMyBrokeniPod.com).

"I find that anybody with common sense and a very low ego can do well in this business environment at any stage in the economy," he says. The keys: "Doing what you say you're going to do and thinking long-term and not short-term on anything."
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Mike Taylor is the managing editor of ColoradoBiz. He writes about small-business money issues and how startups are launched. Email him at mtaylor@cobizmag.com.

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