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How a hobby in junior high became a business with 6 locations

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When Nicholas Merry was taking a Grade 11 entrepreneurship class at his Cole Harbour, N.S., high school, part of the curriculum included writing a business plan.

For Merry, the obvious choice was to do it on a landscaping business as he’d always mowed lawns and shovelled snow, but a friend suggested he focus his efforts on that other business he had.

Since his junior high years, Merry had been fixing the screens on friends’ phones when they broke. He learned through trial and trial error and wasn’t exactly well compensated for it.

“My method of payment would usually be buying me something from Tim Hortons or Subway, or a convenience store,” said Merry, now 24. “I never thought of it as a moneymaker, it was just something cool to do for friends.”

That early venture has since morphed into Geebo Device Repair, which does general electronics repairs, as well as sales of electronics and accessories. The business has five locations in the Halifax area and one in Cape Breton.

Born entrepreneur

A born entrepreneur, Merry used to scour the Bargain Hunter to find phones that he could repair and resell, as well as any other items he thought he could turn into profit, namely gaming consoles.

After putting together his business plan, Merry spent his $5,000 in life savings to buy parts so that he’d have the necessary supplies to fix the most common phones, primarily BlackBerrys and iPhones.

Mike Lalonde (left) is a regular customer at Geebo Device Repair. (Robert Short/CBC)

In 2010, while still in high school, Merry set up shop inside his parents’ Eastern Passage home, using a folding table in the living room to carry out repairs.

After enrolling at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Merry continued tinkering in his own apartment — and even at an on-campus Tim Hortons — while he studied science. He hoped to become a cardiologist one day.

In his second semester, Merry switched to business. But that wasn’t for him either.

Geebo Device Repair has shifted from Nic Merry’s roots of fixing phones. The business also does general electronics repairs and sells electronics and accessories. (Robert Short/CBC)

“I felt everything I was learning, I already knew and it was frustrating because I’m paying for it,” said Merry.

He dropped out of school in his second year and set up his first official storefront in late 2013 — in a basement suite at his grandmother’s home in Dartmouth.

Merry, then 19, offered 24/7 support and placed ads on Kijiji to get the word out. Bar-hoppers who had broken their screens would take a cab to Merry’s for late-night repairs.

‘A lot of ups and downs’

After building up the business for about two years, Merry opened a traditional storefront in Dartmouth and expanded from there, although there is no longer a location at his grandmother’s place.

The rapid ascent of the company hasn’t been completely smooth.

“We’ve actually had a lot of ups and downs,” said Merry. “It seems like everything’s going smoothly because we’re opening up a lot of locations.”

A tough 2018

Last March, the company’s Queen Street location suffered smoke and water damage after a fire in the unit above. Three weeks later, a flood hit the company’s Clayton Park location when a sprinkler head broke during renovations at a neighbouring store. 

On a sour note to end the year, two people broke into the company’s Lady Hammond Road location and stole about 25 devices, mostly phones and iPads. About half of the devices were recovered.

These setbacks make Merry question whether it’s worth it to run his business.

“I think I just realize there’s not a lot I can do, other than just grind it out,” said Merry, who typically puts in 14-hour days.

Nic Merry’s first official storefront was in the basement suite at his grandmother’s home in Dartmouth, N.S. (Robert Short/CBC)

Mike Lalonde has used Geebo’s services a few times and did so based on the recommendations of some friends.

“He’s an impressive young man that has a good head on his shoulders and isn’t afraid of hard work,” said Lalonde.

Merry said the company’s plans are to open more locations in Nova Scotia. He’s finishing up a franchise package with the hopes to have franchised locations in the other Atlantic provinces.

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List of Tourist Attractions Open Now in Ottawa

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With Ontario now in Step 3 of 2021 three-step plan for reopening, museums and other indoor attractions are allowed to reopen with capacity limited to not exceed 50 per cent capacity indoors and 75 per cent capacity outdoors.

Here is a list of Ottawa attractions you can visit starting July 16th.

Do remember to wear masks and buy tickets in advance.

Parliament Hill

Parliament’s Centre Block and Peace Tower are closed for renovation.

You can join for tours of the Senate of Canada Building (2 Rideau Street), House of Commons at West Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill, and East Block at East Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill.

When: Grounds open; guided tours of Parliament are suspended through the summer of 2021.
Where: 111 Wellington Street, Downtown Ottawa

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Ottawa performer leapfrogs from gymnastics to Broadway to TV

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A new AppleTV+ series set in a magical town that’s stuck in a neverending 1940s musical includes a pair of Ottawa siblings in the cast. 

Warren Yang and his sister, Ericka Hunter, play two of the singing, dancing residents of the village portrayed in Schmigadoon!, a small-screen series that takes its cues from classic musicals like Brigadoon, Wizard of Oz and Sound of Music, and skewers them with the offbeat comedic mastery of Saturday Night Live. 

In fact, you’ll recognize many of the names from SNL, starting with executive producer Lorne Michaels, creator of the late-night, live-comedy sketch show. Schmigadoon! also stars SNL cast member Cecily Strong and comedian Keegan-Michael Key, who hosted SNL in May. They play a New York couple who get lost on a hike and stumble into a strange town where everyone sings and dances. 

For Yang, a relative newcomer to show-biz, the series marks his television debut. For Hunter, the younger of his two older sisters, it’s the latest in a career path that began with dance lessons as a child more than 30 years ago. She attended Canterbury High School, Ottawa’s arts-focused secondary school. 

“Her dream was always to perform,” said Yang, 34, in an interview. “But that was never the path I thought was an option for me.” 

While his sister studied dance, Yang did gymnastics. He was an elite gymnast throughout his youth, ultimately leaving Merivale High School at 16 to train in Montreal, finishing high school through correspondence courses. He was a member of the Canadian National Team and received a scholarship to study at Penn State, majoring in marketing. 

A few years after graduation, Yang was working at an advertising agency in Toronto when he got a call from a Manhattan number. To his astonishment, they asked if he would be interested in auditioning for a Broadway revival of Miss Saigon.

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COVID-19: uOttawa to require vaccination for students living in residence

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Vaccination will be mandatory for students who want to live in residence at the University of Ottawa this year, with proof of vaccination and at least one dose required before move-in, or within two weeks of doing so if they can’t secure a shot before arriving.

Those who can’t receive a vaccine for “health-related reasons or other grounds protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code” will be able to submit a request for accommodation through the university’s housing portal, according to information on the university’s website.

Students with one dose living in residence will also have to receive their second dose “within the timeframe recommended by Ottawa Public Health.”

People who haven’t been granted an exemption and don’t get vaccinated or submit proof of having done so by the deadlines set out by the school will have their residence agreements terminated, uOttawa warns.

“Medical and health professionals are clear that vaccination is the most (effective) means of protecting people and those around them,” reads a statement provided to this newspaper by uOttawa’s director of strategic communications, Patrick Charette.

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“It is precisely for this reason that the University of Ottawa is requiring all students living in residence for the 2021-2022 academic year to be fully vaccinated. The University recognizes that some students may require accommodations for a variety of reasons and will be treating exceptions appropriately.”

Faculty, staff and students are also strongly encouraged to get vaccinated, the statement notes.

“Ensuring a high vaccine coverage in all communities is critical to ensuring an ongoing decline in cases and ending the pandemic. This will be especially important with the return of students to post-secondary institutions in our region in the fall of 2021.”

Neither Carleton University nor Algonquin College is currently mandating vaccination for students living in residence, according to the websites for both schools. But uOttawa isn’t alone in its policy – Western University, Trent University, Durham College and Fanshawe College have all implemented similar requirements. Seneca College, in the GTA, is going even further, making vaccination mandatory for students and staff to come to campus, in-person, for the fall term.

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