Few things in life are as frustrating as having your washing machine stop working right when you finally muster up the energy to do all of the laundry you’ve let pile up over the last few weeks. Typically, you’d have to spend time trying to find a reliable repair person, and then wait until they were actually able to make it out to your place.
Except, the waiting wouldn’t be done then. You would have next have to wait for them to order the part needed to fix the washer, and then try and get on their schedule a second time for them to actually fix it.
By this point, you’re probably walking around in an old middle school band shirt you found shoved in the back of your closet.
Oh, and don’t forget that you have to pay for the person’s services both times, which can get pretty expensive.
When Mary Nelson’s washing machine broke, she was fed up with the traditional repair system and sat down with her phone, YouTube and pure determination to fix it herself.
After five hours of researching the error code, Nelson still couldn’t figure it out. That’s when she decided to start her own company, Sanford-based Neli Virtual Appliance Repair. You can hear (and see) more about Neli for yourself when the startup presents at CED’s virtual Venture Connect summit (March 23-25).
Neli is an online platform that connects customers with technicians—virtually, of course. The technicians are able to video chat with the customer to assess the problem and, in needed, order a part to the customer’s address, all through the Neli system. Once the part comes in, the customer can chat again with the technician to be walked through how to fix the issue.
Customers can get same-day help, as well as help on the weekends and at night.
People own between five to seven appliances and they’re averaging about one breaking down per year, Nelson said. Those costs could add up quickly.
In terms of pricing, normal technicians often charge $100 or more just for their service, while a video appointment with Neli only costs $35, Nelson said.
The technicians benefit too, as they can book more appointments since they aren’t traveling, and they save money on gas and expenses as well.
In the era of the Covid-19 pandemic, this virtual service is even more important for those who can’t be exposed to people outside of their bubble.
Nelson founded the startup in 2018, and it was bootstrapped until June of 2019 when the company received a $50,000 grant from NC IDEA.
After the influx of cash, the company rebranded and saw a huge increase in customers, Nelson said.
Besides Nelson, there’s one other employee working full-time, plus all of the technicians.
One of the main ways Neli finds customers is through the website Angie’s List, where the company boasts over 500 reviews. Some technicians have also published blog articles, which also draw in customers, some of which are international. The company now has over 2,750 customers.
Before founding Neli, Nelson worked fulltime for the Army Reserves, which landed her about 45 minutes south of the Triangle in Sanford, which is closer to Fort Bragg. She decided to headquarter the company there, and has an office downtown.
Nelson’s daughter was a computer science major who graduated from UNC Asheville, so when the idea for the company came about, her daughter was able to help build the platform.
Now that the company has been around for a few years, Nelson is looking to do some serious fundraising. She’s planning to get a national marketing campaign going soon.
Neli is also in talks with another company about forming a partnership, and Nelson is excited to see the company grow in the next year.