They say necessity is the mother of invention.
It’s also the mother of re-invention.
When Shawn Masterson couldn’t find work in his chosen trade as a heavy equipment operator, the Nakusp resident looked for other ways to earn an independent living in a small town.
He saw that locals had no easy way to get their fridges, dishwashers and laundry machines fixed — and there was an opportunity there.
“I was working at Home Hardware, and a lot of people would come to me and say ‘there’s something wrong with this or that, I wish there was an appliance guy around’,” he recalls.
“There was a guy who used to come in. But he’d charge crazy travel fees, I guess they were reasonable for the amount of time he’s driving, but it was pretty expensive for people to come and get him in,” says Masterson. “I just figured we could use one around here.”
He says his employer had considered, but turned down, the idea of starting up a repair service, so “I ended up leaving the company, and taking it on myself,” he says.
Masterson, who says he has always been a tinkerer, took online trades courses, getting his degree in appliance repair.
“I had some experience from personal work, fixing friends stuff and fixing my own — the handyman, jack-of-no-trades kind of idea,” he says. “The courses were about six months, pretty in-depth and detailed.”
Business has been steady since he started in March 2017, with most of his work coming through word-of-mouth. He says he plans to get more serious about promoting himself this year.
“Oh I can make a living out of that, for sure. I just have to fine-tune. I’ve been taking it easy, I didn’t want to get overwhelmed,” he says. “I want to work my way into it, get my confidence up, because it’s a first-time thing for me, running a business.”
It’s the big items that keeps Masterson busiest – washers, dishwashers and fridges, and ranges – but he says he can do small equipment too. However, he doesn’t bother with home microwaves and vacuum cleaners very often — “the amount they charge for them new, it’s not worth fixing them,” he says.
“Unfortunately, but that’s the way it goes. It seems they make a lot of appliances these days so they only last a couple of years, just to get past the warranty.”
Masterson will take unfixable equipment for parts as well, and can save customers money using ‘gently-used’ parts.
Being a novice, and learning as he goes, Masterson admits being tripped up a few times. But he says he perserveres.
“I’ve had situations where I’ve mis-diagnosed because of my inexperience,” he says. “I still run into stuff I’ve not experienced yet, and it can be pretty tricky. Hopefully it won’t repeat itself and when I do, I don’t charge.
“If I make a mistake, I carry it. That way it’s fair.”
Being the only appliance repair person in town means he’s not the lonely Maytag repairman of advertising fame.
“I’m enjoying it, it’s fun, and it’s a good feeling when you can do something for somebody, save them a bunch of money or save their food from spoiling,” he says. “They might have a bunch of kids and their washer/dryer’s not working. Then you come in and boom, you’re there the same day they call.They’re pretty grateful.”