By Daniel Katz
When Shannon Conheady was a teenager he started a successful small business taking old, broken cellphones and selling them to customers on the online classifieds store Kijiji. In university, he started a marketing business and student home-repair company.
His disdain for authority, Conheady said, is what fuels his entrepreneurial spirit and motivates him to take risks.
“I’ve always wanted to do my own thing,” says Conheady. “As soon as I realized I didn’t have to work for somebody else, I wanted to take control of my own life.”
In September 2014, Conheady had to take his car into the automotive department of a major retailer for service. The mechanic was going to charge him $4,000 to fix the trouble. When Conheady called his regular mechanic, the price was quoted at $1,000 – a vast difference.
“I’ve been screwed so many times by the big car places,” says Conheady. “They just bank off their brand name and don’t provide the best quality service. After this experience, I wondered how many other people had the same problem.”
He decided there was a need to pre-screen mechanics for quality and to find the best estimate for a job without calling a myriad of different repair shops. Borrowing on the model of travel-based cost comparison sites, he developed the idea for RepairQuote.ca. Started in October 2014, the website was designed with fellow student, web developer and co-owner Jordan Amos. Using reviews and algorithms to let customers know the average price of a particular service or repair, RepairQuote.ca gives standardized quotes from many repair shops in the city of Ottawa. The website, which is the first of its kind in Canada, is free to use and is aimed at getting consumers satisfactory service for a good price from reputable garages.
“Our target market is people who are looking for the cheapest auto repair,” says Conheady. “We give the customer the average price of a particular service, and through reviews, the customer finds out about certain perks like if there’s free wireless Internet or coffee at the garage.”
The website is still in the beta testing phase, but Conheady and Amos are hoping to have it ready by the end of February 2015.
“The site is still under heavy development but we’re just finishing up the features and we’re already testing with the shops,” says Amos. “We’re hoping to open it up soon.”
Customers can find a variety of garages on the site that offer a number of services such as oil changes, tire rotations, and fluid flushes, and website members will receive discounts on services from the featured garages. Shawn Nadeau, owner of Sky’s Way Garage, one of the auto repair shops that is featured on the site, says he thought the website was a great idea.
“It’s good advertising for us,” says Nadeau. “We pay a fee to be part of the website, and if it brings in more customers then it’s worth it.”
RepairQuote.ca recently placed sixth in the Queen’s Entrepreneur’s Competition, a business plan competition where students from all over the world compete to take home the $25,000 grand prize. The QEC took place on Jan. 24 and 25, with the top 15 applicants participating.
“It’s motivating to see people who have done what we want to do,” says Conheady. “It was great to get feedback and make connections. We got the opportunity to be mentored by some of the judges and we were able to see that it’s possible to be successful.”
When the website is launched, Conheady says he believes the site has the power to grow to the national level.
“The reaction from consumers has been great and we’ve been asked how it’s possible that no one has done this before. We want to just keep building our network and get as many shops and users on board as possible, with the long-term goal of doing something really disruptive in the industry.”