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University of Minnesota
June 9, 2010
Casey Profita, coffee at the ready, says that on a good day Gophermods can repair 30 to 40 video game consoles. "My goal is to always keep everyone happy and have zero complaints," he says.
Photo: Patrick O'Leary
U student rides entrepreneurial spirit to commercial success
By Rick Moore
Every day is like the middle of finals week for Casey Profita.
When school’s in session, he devotes the time necessary to stay afloat as a double major in Asian languages and literature and economics. Most of the rest of the day he’s dedicated to making his burgeoning business Gophermods a success. So he goes to bed at about midnight and gets up at 5 a.m. to start all over again.
“Lots of coffee, lots of 5-hour Energy,” Profita says, smiling. “My brain’s always on, it feels like, so there’s no down time where I’m procrastinating. I know I have to be doing something. Otherwise, I’ll be behind.
As real as it gets
“I’ve never had a real job; I’ve always run my own businesses,” says Profita. “Not being the boss was never in my plan. I don’t want to work for anyone.”
The 21-year-old Profita employs five people at Gophermods, a business that fixes video game consoles and iPhones out of a 500-square-foot space in the UTEC building just off campus. Profita has always tinkered with things, and he picked up the technical know-how from an acquaintance back home in Salem, Wisconsin. He launched a website for Gophermods in March 2009 and worked at home in the early days, converting his bedroom into a workshop.
Profita distinguishes Gophermods by offering a 24-hour turnaround for repairs, competitive pricing, and impeccable customer service. To date, there’s been only one negative review, and most of his business comes via mail order from states like California, Texas, Florida, and New York.
He projects $500,000 in revenues for 2010.
Connecting course work with commerce
Profita began buying products from China and reselling them on eBay at an early age, and that spawned the desire to major in Asian languages and literature.
“I realize if I pay attention in class it’s going to translate well in business, because I’m working with my suppliers (for Gophermods) and getting great deals that my competitors can’t get because they probably don’t know how to communicate with [Chinese business contacts],” Profita says. “They really need to get to know you before they want to work with you. It’s called guanxi. And you need to have good guanxi with them. Otherwise, they’re going to give you some lousy service and not the greatest prices.”
Although Profita admits that it’s tough for him to give up the reins on anything, he did take a week of vacation in May. But that’s just a dusty tail on his entrepreneurial comet.
He’s pondering a new home for Gophermods in the UTEC building that would be triple the size of his current space. He wants to work more with smart phones and computers, and he’s also eager to get cracking on a new, separate business venture. Plus, summer classes start in a couple of weeks (he claimed a 3.5 GPA this spring), and he’d still like to pack in a trip to China for networking sometime this summer. So the next figurative midnight is just around the corner.
“I know I don’t want to just be focusing on Gophermods,” Profita says. “I just don’t want to sink down into one area. I want to get multiple things going.”
He may need to find a better fix than 5-hour Energy.