Giving Back to the Community

Giving Back to the Community

I wrote this originally for an intern journalist for “Makin It Marketing” who when trying to condense my response to a few paragraphs suggested I add a few more on my end and turn it into a blog, so here that is! Meagan’s Article is here:

The prompt was Please write a brief description about your business. Do you do any community service as part of your business model? Has your business created jobs or contributed to building the economy in central MA? Why should people consider shopping your services this holiday season? By people supporting your business, how will that help you this holiday season? Anything else you’d like to add.

Hamilton Computer repairs was founded June 1st 2012, at 67 Hamilton street in Worcester. I opened this business after working for a few other repair shops because I realized that customers didn’t want to pay hourly for technical labor. They didn’t like uncertainty and there was a demand for up-front pricing in the computer repair market. In 2014, I opened a shop in West Boylston and in 2018 I closed both my Hamilton and West Boylston Street shops and consolidated to 379 Park Ave where we were for four years. Hamilton Computer Repairs is now located at 458 Park Ave in Worcester, across the street from Peppercorns. We love our new location because it has parking, signage, and a great landlord. It’s also much larger, and we now have a kitchenette with more functional utilities than the bathroom at our last shop. I employ a neurodiverse workforce, putting people-people at the front with customers and computer-people in the back so everyone is able to thrive in their own environment doing what they are best at. Currently, I employ five people, and have a few regular contractors handling the smaller things like weekend phone calls and running errands for the shop.

We have a relationship with Worcester Technical High school, and last year I hired one of our interns as soon as she graduated. She actually just left my shop, to go do IT in Brooklyn and it’s wonderful to be a place people can build their resume between high school and their career.

My business gives back to its community in a few different ways. Mostly, through our intern training program – teens come to us through their school, and leave with skillsets to refurbish laptops and build computers. We also offer free e-waste drop off, so if families need to get rid of their old electronics they don’t have to pay to have it removed. This is of course part of the self perpetuating cycle – people donate their computers, it becomes intern practice, the community gets practiced computer technicians who are more familiar with hardware than most IT specialists ever will be, and affordable refurbished laptops.

The most impactful way I have given back to my community is fighting for Right to Repair. Right to Repair is the movement to legally mandate manufacturers to provide service manuals and access to replacement parts so that consumers are able to maintain and upgrade their own devices without paying the manufacturer more money. It’s the fight to make it so consumers have the option to repair instead of replace, something that has been stripped from us as society has become complacent with two year replacement cycles and “protection plans”. My stance on those is that if the only reason we are paying for it is because of problems they created, it’s not a protection plan it’s a protection racket.

I testified at the state house when the legislation was introduced, detailing the transition towards planned obsolescence that my business has observed over the past decade. At that time, I brought in two laptops and showed how one could have the battery removed with a quarter (So it was user accessible) but the newer one had proprietary screws and was glued in. We also worked with MASSPIRG for a press release in front of Google’s headquarter in Lexington, announcing a study they did on the Chromebook Churn and this resulted a few months later in Google extending their support for Chromebooks from 8 years to 10, which means that all of the schools and 3rd world countries with Chromebooks that were useless because they couldn’t be updated will get an additional 2 years of use out of the hardware they’ve purchased before having to replace it. This keeps Chromebooks out of landfills and allows the machines to be used more longterm.

In partnership with OneTreePlanted, we plant a tree for every computer repaired. We also donate regularly to Worcester Fridges, Pathways For Change, and donate laptops to local organizations and activists to help them get up and running. I would like to in the future offer a “technician a day” package, just send one of my techs to a nonprofit for a day to work on all their machines – but we don’t even offer small business repair currently and it would not be sustainable. Maybe once we are offering home visits again.

This past October was notably slow for many small businesses in Worcester, and it does seem to be an economy thing, not just the holidays. Our November was extra difficult, as we just scaled our workforce based on growth experienced in September and that may have been a back to school rush. December is typically part of our slower season, since a lot of our customers are students who go home during it, people are spending on gifts instead of maintenance, and it’s colder to less people are going out. Shopping at my small business will help me give better Christmas bonuses to my employees, feed my cats, and kickstart our new year – if things go well, we’ll be getting sweatshirts and maybe beanies. Let us know if you want one!

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