Startup Story: Time is Money for this Watchmaker

(Paid) Inside a wristwatch

(Paid) Inside a wristwatchOne thing that small business owner Francis Zape has learned is that fashion trends may come and go, but classic timepieces never go out of style. At least that’s what he’s experienced in his line of work repairing wristwatches. In December of 2015, Zape formally established ZWatchmaker, LLC. Although Zape’s business is only newly established, he’s no stranger to the industry after having worked with his father who taught him the ins and outs. Now, the entrepreneur has settled into a store in a mall in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“I work strictly on wristwatches. I fix fine timepieces. Some of my duties are replacing broken parts and batteries, restoring the look of the watch, polishing it, and making it look brand new. I only touch the watches that are out of warranty,” he explains.

Although Zape is off to a good start with his small business, he believes his work ethic and attention to detail will be what brings him continued success. In a world where everything is hurried, perfectionism pays.

“I don’t want to sound cliche, but hard work is what brings me success. I can only do so much with my hands, my eyes, and my time. The quality of the work and the consistency of the work is important to me. At the end of the day, it has to be perfect,” Zape elaborates.

It makes sense that Zape’s favorite aspect of small business ownership is working with a variety of luxury watches under the microscope.

“Most people only get to see these watches in the magazines, but I get to work with them. There’s a big science behind it.”

In modern times, it has become more fashionable for people to buy cheaper, throwaway watches instead of investing in timeless, higher-quality pieces. This reality has only benefited the growth of ZWatchmaker. Because of the old-school nature of his business, Zape isn’t really mindful of his regional competitors as they are few and far between.

“There are watchmakers outside of the region, but I have an edge because my physical presence is here, so I am easily available to them. I am the only one in town who is certified, and there aren’t even a lot of certified watchmakers in this century. So when potential clients need a watchmaker and they ask around, my name comes up,” he says.

Because he’s what he calls a “dying breed,” Zape gets by quite well through just word-of-mouth advertising, and most of his watch-wearing customers are men.

Challenges of Small Business Ownership

One of the biggest challenges that Zape encounters on the job is something typical for many small business owners — which is convincing clients to pay for quality and not just convenience.

“Sometimes customers will want to pay less for the service, but they don’t know what they’re going to get if they go for the cheapest option. They don’t know if real parts are being used. If you’re investing $10,000 in a watch, you don’t want to go to the cheapest place to get it fixed. This is not just a piece of fine jewelry, but a status symbol.”

Tips for Small Business Owners

Zape insists that the foundation for a small business to build on is education. He emphasizes that the learning never stops and should grow alongside the experience gained.

“Things change every year. I am always training myself to become better at what I do. Seize any opportunity to learn,” he enthuses.

He also urges small business owners not to take advantage of their customers, particularly if they are not knowledgeable about what their needs are and are seeking a professional’s expertise.

Experience as a 1-800Accountant Client

Francis Zape of ZWatchmaker, LLC is a satisfied client of 1-800Accountant.

“I like the fact that I can set up an appointment and have a meeting within that week,” he says.

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