The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Currents

April 18, 2010

Geeks2u looks to expand

Black and yellow vans are company’s most successful marketing tool

MANKATO — Pete Meixl is working toward two goals: to never see snow and to never fix another computer. That’s ironic, because Meixl is the hometown guy who started up Geeks2u, the on-site computer repair service in Mankato.

Still he is closing in on his goals. Meixl’s start-up business is so well established that he no longer repairs computers himself. He has a crew of five to six guys — or specialists — who get computers running smoothly across Southern Minnesota and the Twin Cities.

“The whole point is that one day I’ll never have to fix a computer,” said the 36-year-old Meixl of Mankato.

As for the snow-free life — Meixl loaded his two dogs in his van and took off for places south for two months this winter. He was searching for a second Geeks2u locale.

“I want to open a shop down South where it’s warm and people are nice,” said Meixl.

He got island fever in Key West, Fla., celebrated Mardi Gras in New Orleans, picked up a stray dog in Corpus Christi, Texas, and slept in his van for $3 a night on a beach in South Padre Island, Texas.

As usual, Meixl answered The Geek Line. He scheduled on-site repairs while regional manager Wes Gilbert dispatched specialists and supervised the shop and employees. They communicated through text messages and cell phones.

With his sense of humor and life plans, Meixl may seem like a slacker. In truth, he is an entrepreneur who knows computers, customer service and marketing.

Early days

Meixl spent his 20s job hopping. He’s been a cook, truck driver, garbage man, car salesman, and licensed hair cutter. He traveled the country to open health and fitness centers and hold grand opening sales. He rented out jet skis and sailboats on the beach.

In 2003, he returned to Mankato and discovered an aptitude for computer repair. First, he fixed his own computer and then his buddies’ computers. When he fixed his friend’s mom’s computer, she paid him $50. Then it clicked.

“I thought, ‘Huh, maybe I could make some money doing this,’” said Meixl.

So Meixl put the money toward an ad in Home Magazine. Six months later, a friend was working with him part time. A year later, he leased the shop on Cherry Street and fixed two extra computers a month to pay for it.

The shop turned out to be a good investment, because almost half of the local business comes from walk-ins, said Meixl.

This spring, Geeks2u is moving to Madison Avenue and Riverfront Drive. They needed more work space and better parking for people carrying in computers.

Geeks2u sends specialists to homes and offices. For about five years, Geeks2u has been keeping 60 to 100 computers running for the South Central Service Cooperative in North Mankato.

“They’ve been our troubleshooters. I depend on Geeks2u, because they are available when I need them,” said Glenn Morris, a director at the cooperative. “They meet our unique needs and they have a quick turnaround.”

Smart Marketing

The black and yellow Geeks2u vans are billboards in motion and the company’s most successful marketing tool.

The first van was missing its front end after a run-in with a deer. So Meixl and a friend got the van running, painted it black with spray paint, and added yellow graphics. Then they took a look.

“We laughed and laughed,” said Meixl.

Today the company has three running vans.

Meixl also trademarked the name Geeks2u. Originally, he called the company Rent-a-Geek until he learned that name was already trademarked. Meixl could have paid $15,000 for the rights, but he said no thanks.

“I can make stuff up all day for less than $15,000,” said Meixl.

Meixl said hiring Gilbert helped make the operation run more efficiently. That’s important when you promise and deliver on same-day service and fixing most problems in an hour.

Meixl is open to input and if you have a good idea, he’ll implement it on the spot, said Gilbert.

“All in all, I wouldn’t trade him for any boss I’ve ever had,” said Gilbert.

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