Since childhood, Mark Pauley has been fascinated with taking things apart and putting them back together. He just liked to fix things.
“I was always trying to figure out how things worked. Especially when cordless phones came out for the home, I was very interested in figuring out how that worked,” he said. “Like how does this work without a cord?”
Pauley, 42, is the owner and founder of PhoneAxiom Express Device Repair, a locally owned business that repairs most electronics and focuses on phones, tablets, computers, game systems, wearables and TVs. It also sells electronics and unbreakable screens with a one-year warranty against glass damage.
Headquartered in the town of Bedford on South Bridge Street, PhoneAxiom Express Device Repair has locations on Wards Ferry Road in Lynchburg and Towne Square Boulevard in Roanoke.
The business began as an accident after Pauley tried his hand at opening a mobile marketing business about five years ago.
“I was more passionate about [repairing devices] than I was the marketing stuff, so it kind of happened haphazardly and an accidental business was born,” he said.
Debbie Musselman was the very first customer Pauley ever had. Her phone started to malfunction a few years ago, and she saw a sign for his business on the side of the road.
Pauley hadn’t even officially opened his business yet but welcomed Musselman inside and fixed her phone right away. She has been a loyal customer ever since and said she knows she can trust Pauley to be honest with her and fix her phone every time at a decent price.
“I think we are so completely dependent on our devices, especially our phones,” she said. “I have panicked if it’s not working because I use mine for work and everything is on it and I’m guessing a large part of the community also has work stuff on their phone.”
Before PhoneAxiom was born, Pauley worked at the corporate level for Jiffy Lube doing business development and operations and helped build the company’s mobile app for iPhone and Android.
With a family and children in the mix, the constant traveling for the job wasn’t working for Pauley anymore, so he started looking for another job.
He made the decision to start his own company, withdrew his 401(k) balance and sank every penny he had into starting a business five and a half years ago.
It was a marketing business called Axiom Marketing, doing branding and app development for websites. The websites he built were designed for mobile phones and text-message marketing and, though he had a few good contracts, he wasn’t happy doing what he was doing. That business only lasted four months.
He said so many customers came into his business asking him to fix their devices, he realized there was a need for a different kind of service. He opened his first retail store in 2015 on Timberlake Road and after a year or so, he moved to Wards Ferry Road, which he said is more convenient for college students and the general retail public.
Dena Amos, administrative assistant with the Bedford Area Chamber of Commerce, said Pauley’s business brings marketing savvy and innovation to Bedford the town hasn’t seen in a while.
“He’s extremely successful and hard-working and he’s keeping it local to Bedford and the surrounding areas,” she said. “He’s extremely dedicated to what he’s doing and is very successful at it.”
Pauley has found his business to be successful but not without challenges.
“There are several companies like Apple specifically battling back against small repair shops,” he said. “There’s a big movement called ‘the right to repair’ right now and it’s basically fighting corporate entities that try to say you can’t fix your device yourself as a consumer, nor can you take it to a third-party repair shop and have it repaired.”
Over the past year or two, Pauley said policy has lightened up a bit and independent repair companies can apply for a contract to offer Apple products.
Pauley created AxiomArmor, the accessory side of PhoneAxiom, to provide screens to protect devices from cracking or breaking as well as charging cables and cases.
Pauley sold tempered glass for a while but found that customers continued coming back to the store after they had dropped their phones, the screens cracked and they needed to buy new phones.
“And they’re mad because they keep on buying these things and they keep cracking,” he said.
Pauley didn’t invent the silicon dioxide screen protector product, but it is packaged for his business. The product is poured and hardened so it makes the screen a harder piece of glass.
Technology changes daily, so Pauley and his nine-employee team are constantly working to keep up.
“When a new phone comes out, I’ve always got it in my mailbox that day because I’ve got to take my own device apart and figure out how to make sure everything is where I think it’s going to be,” he said. “I want to mess my own phone up if I’m going to mess something up.”
Ultimately, Pauley said if his team can’t fix a device, it isn’t going to get fixed.
“We’re known to fix what shouldn’t be able to be fixed,” he said.