Entrepreneurial Teenagers Earning Upwards of $20K Over Their Summer Breaks to Fix Broken iPhones

A new report by The Wall Street Journal this week has taken a look into entrepreneurial teenagers and the lucrative business of summertime iPhone repairs. One 16-year-old in Nantucket, Massachusetts interviewed for the article, Grayson Shaw, cited a nearly $24,000 income for iPhone repairs made in the summer of 2016, when he fixed as many as nine iPhones every day.

Shaw has been repairing iPhones since he was 12, and this summer plans to set up his small business at a table outside of a local ice cream parlor. His repairs include fixing broken screens, microphones, and various other parts of both iPhones and iPads. Shaw's rates include a $189.99 repair cost to fix a broken screen on an iPhone 7 Plus.

Image of Joseph Kokenge taken by Sarah Desforges via WSJ
On Nantucket, Mr. Shaw is the “go-to guy,” says Peter Bordes, executive chairman of a software company, oneQube, who got his phone fixed by Mr. Shaw last summer after a tip from a friend’s teenage daughter.

“She said go to this place, and you’ll find him in this store,” Mr. Bordes says. “It’s like a mafia; they know who to go to.” The repair, he says, was “flawless.”
In Lafayette, Louisiana 18-year-old Joseph Kokenge quit his job at a local bowling alley, which his father manages, after discovering how much money he could make fixing broken iPhones. He began learning how to repair Apple's smartphones watching his father repair a cracked iPhone 3GS, and then browsed YouTube how-to videos for more information.

On average, Kokenge has charged $50 to fix the screens of iPhone 5 devices, and $200 for an iPhone 7 Plus, and he works on his repairs at a local coffee shop.
When a friend asked if his father could fix an iPhone 5, the teen watched YouTube how-to videos and repaired it himself. He soon earned a reputation at school, he says: “If a phone was broken, they knew to go to me.”

Word spread and parents, too, approached him. By senior year, he had quit his job at the bowling alley his father manages. “I told him that my time was worth more than $7.50 an hour,” he says. “He was proud that I was making more money on my own.”
Although AppleCare+ significantly reduces the cost of repairs, out-of-warranty repairs for screen damage made directly from Apple currently cost between $129 (iPhone 5 family) and $149 (iPhone 7 Plus). If any other damage is made to the device, the price jumps to between $269 and $349 for the same devices.

Related Roundup: iPhone 7


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16 months ago
Other than one short summer job she has coming up, my 18-year-old daughter is content to just sit around and watch Netflix. I think she's holding out for a management position.
Rating: 15 Votes
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16 months ago
So $50 more than apple for a non-apple display and a voided warranty. Not to mention the calibration and testing mesures Apple goes through on each repair.
Rating: 12 Votes
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16 months ago

One 16-year-old in Nantucket, Massachusetts interviewed for the article cited a nearly $24,000 income for iPhone repairs made in the summer of 2016, off of fixes he performed for devices like the iPhone 7 Plus at $189.99 per cracked screen.


So he already repaired iPhone 7 Plus devices in the summer of 2016? Yeah, right...
Rating: 4 Votes
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16 months ago
These upstanding teenagers surely file a tax return for 2016 and claimed all those proceeds, not to mention got a business license, right? Their state franchise tax board will be interested in collecting sales tax on his sales, too. We're not talking a lemonade stand here...
Rating: 2 Votes
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16 months ago
Now I feel kind of like a chump having made seven cents per TV Guide I hand delivered. :(
Rating: 2 Votes
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16 months ago
The margins are too low to make it into a real business. He would be better off cutting lawns. When your margins stick around 20 percent, you are better off finding something else, especially when the tax man comes for his share in California.
Rating: 2 Votes
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16 months ago
Good to see. Free enterprise at work is a bit like weeds finding the crack to grow in a road, if there is an opportunity someone will find a way to profit from it. His only problem is lack of diversity in his business. He needs to get right on that.
Rating: 1 Votes
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16 months ago

These upstanding teenagers surely file a tax return for 2016 and claimed all those proceeds, not to mention got a business license, right? Their state franchise tax board will be interested in collecting sales tax on his sales, too. We're not talking a lemonade stand here...


Your avatar doesn't match your comment.
Rating: 1 Votes
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16 months ago

Whilst I understand where you're coming from my sentiment is that you should never feel bad in retrospect about honest work you did and got paid for fairly.


Agreed. To put it in context, I was pulling down about a dollar a week selling TV Guide, and you could buy a candy bar for a dime back then, so I was rolling in dough. :D
Rating: 1 Votes
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16 months ago

But then there is reality, where we legitimate business owners (even teeny ones) are required to pay federal and state taxes, disability (x2), social security (x2), unemployement, and sales taxes, etc., leaving very little left. I wish I could keep everything I make, untaxed, like these kids seem to do.


I'm sorry you're having such a hard time being self employed, but since I'm also self employed and I've been dealing with what you're talking about, there's a few misconceptions that I thought should be straightened out.

You're not actually paying 2x on those things. You're paying the employer share and the employee share because you are both the employee and the employer. If you were working for someone else, you only THINK you're paying half, but if your employer is paying the other half, it's still affecting your paycheck. If your employer didn't have to pay that half, that money could very well end up in your bank account. If you didn't account for having to cover the employer part of your self employment tax and you charged too little, you'll need to adjust your rates. It's a learning experience. Everyone makes this mistake, but if you're savvy, you've figured out how to charge proper rates by your third year.

Self employed people don't pay unemployment taxes... at least not in any common situation. Self employment tax is not unemployment tax. It's Social Security and Medicare. In some states there are sales taxes on repairs, but if you're doing it right, that should be charged to the customer anyway.

Unless you're selling physical goods, you're not likely to face sales tax anyway and you're just dealing with income tax. With income tax, your taxes are actually pretty low if you didn't make much. I've been there.

At any rate, do we really know that none of those kids are not filing? I sure hope they're doing the right thing and are being good citizens, but we shouldn't assume one way or another.
Rating: 1 Votes
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