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Thriving in Tech: How Three Women Built Success in a Male-Dominated Industry

Eden Morrison, owner, standing in her cell phone repair store.

The cell phone repair industry may still be male-dominated, but women are making their mark. We talked to three women who built successful multi-location repair businesses to learn how they got started, their experiences as women in tech, and celebrate the progress they've seen in the industry as part of International Women's Day.

You'll hear from Eden Morrison (pictured above) who is the owner of three CPR: Cell Phone Repair locations. She has worked in repair for ten years, this November, and isn't even 30 years-old. She is a proud mother of a four year-old son who, as you'll learn later, grew up right along with her stores.

Karen Litteken manages three stores for her sister's thriving cell phone repair businesses in the Midwest. As a young girl, she was interested in how things worked and ended up becoming an electrician. When her sister opened her first store, although, Litteken came aboard to help.

Lastly, you'll learn how Sandra Nunley ended up as a co-owner of two repair stores, even though she wasn't too interested in tech at the beginning. She has much appreciation for it now, and encourages her daughters to pursue anything they are passionate about, whether that be soldering, becoming president, or even helping in the kitchen.

How did you get into repair? What interests led to it?

Eden Morrison: I worked for an independent Cricket store when I was 18 years-old and customers would come in all the time wanting us to repair their devices. That wasn’t a service we offered and no one in the area, except for one small shop, was repairing devices at the time.

When I moved on from that job, I began managing a refurbishing company that sold TVs, computers, so on, and we needed to do something else. That’s when I thought “why don’t we repair phones?” no one else in town is doing it.

I started YouTubing and learned how to fix phones that way. Then we hired someone that had iPhone repair experience and he taught me a bit more. Back then, mail-in repair was how people got their phones fixed. They would ship their phone to us and we’d repair it. Our new hire had been one of the techs that specialized in this and we only grew from there.

We literally took the company from refurbishing electronics to repairing phones in one year.

Karen Litteken: I have always been mechanically inclined and worked as an electrician for awhile. My mom always reminds me of a time when, as a young kid, I took an old clock apart just to see how it worked.

When my sister opened her first cell phone repair store, I joined the team.

Sandra Nunley: I had 10 years in management, have a BA in Accounting, and minored in Operations Management and Supply Chain Management. I was actually kind of scared of the tech side of it.

My husband had started this venture and opened his first brick and mortar just as we started dating and as I was finishing up my degree. I wanted to help him with the management part of the business. With that, I had to learn the tech side and I realized it isn't that hard.

I don't do repairs because I am not good with handling tools, but I can tell you what is involved in most repairs and can even diagnose a phone from symptoms most of the time.

Tell us about your journey as an entrepreneur in the cell phone repair space.

Morrison: I took over full operation of the company in 2017. We were the second conversion store to CPR and I was eight months pregnant when I flew to Ohio for new owners training. Then I opened our second store in June 2017, just two months after having my son. I actually went back to work two weeks after giving birth! Then a year later, I opened the third location.

I have been in repair for 10 years this November, have a four year-old son, and still working. I still have time for friends and vacation.

Nunley: It was a tough decision to open a repair store because we have a lot of people depending on us. We have four kids at home. I had a 9-5 job but was doing this on the side with Loren, my husband, and it just became too much to do it all. We took the leap and I don't regret it in any way. It is way more rewarding.

How many people work at your store? Are any of them women?

Morrison: I have three women on staff. My main manager came from Starbucks, but she was interested in tech. The other two were interested in tech and they love it now.

Litteken: I help manage three stores and physically work in two of them. There are currently 10 employees total, not including myself, and the store owner. Of them, there are two other women besides myself. One is a newly hired salesperson and the other is an experienced technician.

Nunley: All of our sales staff are female. We have a total of eight employees at our Corinth store including Loren and me. We have a 50/50 male/female split.

One of our ladies is part-time and is also a teacher. Our women all do check-in and check-out, plus they all sell phones and accessories. They are warm and inviting and help put our customers at ease when they are going through the tough situation of fixing their broken electronics. Usually, our sales staff do anything that doesn't require part swaps, such as software updates, restores, data retrieval, or fixing settings issues.

We have two employees at our Savannah store that just opened last month. We have a lady running the front-of-house and she has worked with us for four-and-a-half years now. Then we have a male tech there, too. They split all the managing duties and excel in their own ways.

Were you always interested in tech?

Morrison: I was kinda interested in tech before, but at Cricket, I would fix swimming pools, their pumps, and put liners in. I’ve always been a hands-on person instead of a behind the desk person.

It’s fun to know how to fix electronics. It’s also fun to meet people, tell them what I do, and hear their responses. A lot of times, they’ll say something like “you know how to fix phones? Or do you just run the place?” That’s actually a fun fact about me - I’m an owner and I know how to take apart any device.

Surprisingly, I got called in recently because someone wanted an iPhone 3G fixed. I was the only one on staff that knew how to fix an iPhone 3G.

Litteken: I have always been fascinated with how things work and I love to learn.

Nunley: No, I was actually terrified of tech. I didn't understand it and was always worried about tearing it up. I am still not a big techy, but now that I know more about it, I appreciate it more I take advantage of its many uses and ways it can help me in my everyday life.

Have you had any experiences in-store that you felt happened primarily because you are a woman?

Morrison: People will come in and I'll be behind the front desk and they’ll say “I’m going to talk to the tech” as they walk to the tech benches. Then I have to say “I can help you.”

It’s funny because if customers approach my staff with a question, they usually say “we’re not professionals in that area” and point straight back to me.

Litteken: Oh I have had many experiences that happen because I am a girl. I often will get customers that will ask if they can speak to a tech as if I could not possibly be a tech. I just smile politely and say "yes, how can I help you?" Usually they are impressed that I am the tech and we move on from there.

Other times I will be working with a customer and one of the male employees will step up front to put a device in the pick-up bins and the customer will start looking to the male employee for answers to their questions. Usually that ends pretty quick, because I am the senior tech, and the male techs usually turn to me for the answers.

When ladies come in, I’ve noticed they feel so much more comfortable getting help from a female staff member. I just work to treat them as I would like to be treated.

Nunley: Yes, it happens often. People do not think I know what I am doing because I am a woman. There have been many instances when someone calls, one of us girls answers, and the person on the other end of the phone immediately asks for a tech. They think we cannot answer their question.

We have trained all of our staff the basics and try to explain the details of repairs. We taught them to always ask the customer to explain the issue they are having and tell them "I will try to help you. If it is a question I cannot answer, I will get a tech on the line for you." 9/10 we can answer it without interrupting the tech. It really blows some of our customers’ minds.

What are your strengths as a woman in this field?

Litteken: I am not sure if it is because I am a woman or because of who I am personally, but I believe I bring another perspective, more patience, and more creative solutions.

Nunley: Women tend to be more organized. There are a lot of areas where organization is extremely important. Electronics are expensive and it is imperative to keep good inventory records and to make sure processes are followed.

What progress have you seen for women in the cell phone repair industry?

Morrison: Since joining CPR, I have met other female owners. We are not the normal, but it has been becoming more normal in the last five years. There are more females joining - technicians, owners, so on.

Litteken: I think the biggest progress I have seen is the overall view that the tech can be a woman. This translates both to the customer and the people that apply for jobs. We are getting more applicants that are female.

Nunley: Loren teaches micro-soldering to a lot of other shop owners. We have seen many women come through for that training and many times they do better than the guys. They seem to be more patient and delicate. Phone repair requires a touch of delicacy.

What would you say to a female who is interested in pursuing something in this industry?

Morrison: Just do it. Who cares what other people think. If you like it and love it, just do it. There’s nothing to be scared about.

Litteken: Go for it. Don't ever let anyone tell you that you can not do it just because you are female. Some of the most successful stores are run by women and some are even fully staffed by women. If you have the talent to work with the tech, then use it how you want to. Find the store that will hire you and value you for your skills. If you can not find one that will, become the store that will.

Nunley: I would say only you are holding you back. There is no reason a woman couldn't do it. It is all about the individual, not whether you are a girl or boy.

What does International Women's Day mean to you?

Morrison: It means that women can do anything that man can do, for sure. There’s no reason to be scared. Just go and do what you want to do - whatever you’re passionate about.

Litteken: A way for women to share information and support each other. It does not just have to be about jobs, but about life, too.

Nunley: I think it is a golden time to remind our young girls that the sky is the limit. Our elementary school did a career day Friday for Dr. Seuss week and my little girl said she wanted to be the president. She is one of those that will try anything. She has dabbled in electrical work and even helped my husband work on my mother's car. We do not ever tell her certain jobs are for men and some for women.

Posted in: Industry Insights