What does it take to be a trailblazer – Is it a unique idea, or just the will to execute one?
Oscar Cordova did not take the traditional path to business success. The 29-year-old Garland Texas native doesn’t have a MBA – or a college degree for that matter, but what he does have is vision and an all-consuming passion to do anything necessary to make that dream come to fruition.
Thanks to that drive over the past couple of years Cordova’s iPhone customization and repair business Avodroc has gone from a part-time venture based out of his mother’s house to a thriving storefront with three employees and a growing national reputation. Last December increasing demand led him to roll out a national Mod-by-Mail program. It allows customers from around the world to mail in their phones to be customized, and now with stars like Austin Mahone, Andy Milonakis and celebrity jeweler Ben Baller rocking – or soon to be – his custom handsets that growth looks to become exponential in 2013.
Someone building a successful company from the ground up is always an inspirational tale, in this era of stagnant job growth and rampant unemployment is a rare event. The fact that building Avodroc was Cordova’s reaction to reaching the lowest point of his life makes it a near-mythic one.
“If it wasn’t for anxiety I wouldn’t have Avodroc,” said Cordova, who was working as a valet for the Marriott hotel chain in the mid-2000s, when he was stricken by an anxiety attack that sent him into an eight-month tailspin.
“I just left work, jumped in my car and took off. I went home and couldn’t calm down. I ended up at my parent’s house and they took me to see a doctor. He said you’re fine and diagnosed me with an anxiety disorder,” he said. “I went from 24/7 party guy to a shut-in. I went into a crazy state of depression. I didn’t leave my room for about eight months. – It was probably the worst time of my life. I didn’t’ even want to come out of the house.”
To pass the time Cordova began watching videos on YouTube and stumbled on instructional video on how to jailbreak the then relatively new iPhone. Cordova, 24, figured he could do it just as well as the guys in the videos and began practicing. Soon he had a Craigslist ad and was charging $20 a job to unlock phones from his mother’s house.
“I was broke and had nothing to lose,” Cordova said. “I did it for about a year and a half. I didn’t know how to repair anything then.”
That didn’t last long. Seeking a way to expand on what he had to offer, Cordova began teaching himself how to repair phones and within a year-and-a-half he had slowly built up his clientele by word-of-mouth. That’s when Tina Mims, a marketing professor from Texas Women’s University convinced him he could do more.
“Tina told me I had a lot of potential and drove me to make the company. She was the driving force behind making the company. She helped me set it up. I eventually got an office two years ago,” he said. “Once we got the office the company just skyrocketed.”
Mims still offers her advice and help when she can, as do many other friends and family who have lent a hand to help him do everything from build his website to market his products over the years – but now the college dropout, Cordova attended the University of North Texas for one year in which he, “partied too hard and flunked out,” thinks the foundation has been set for him to lead Avodroc to new heights before moving on to his next vision.
“What inspires me is that I love my work,” he said. “ I want to see where this company can go. I don’t have a college degree to fall back on. That’s always in the back of my head. I strive to be the best 24-7 because I can’t afford to fail. Eventually I will sell it and move on to something else. My objective is to make it a franchise, but I don’t see myself doing this forever.”
Until then Cordova, with company mascot Gadget (a French Bulldog) at his side, will be turning out what he considers the best cases in the business as well as offering customers the unique ability to modify their actual phone surface with just about any image or wording thanks to a 3D-printer he acquired at the end of last year.
“A year and a half ago I owned an engraving company. An engraver doesn’t do color. I always told myself that if I could find something that could do color you would be making moves,” Cordova said. “I checked everywhere Japan, China… I couldn’t find anything. Then armed with investment capital from his mother he finally stumbled on what he was looking for closer to home. Connecticut company Direct Color Systems had exactly what he was looking for.
“It’s amazing. You can really do some cool stuff with it,” said Cordova, who didn’t want to release the specs to his particular unit to discourage competition. “We’re going to be able to make some insane mods with this. It’s next level!”
That’s where Cordova has wanted to be all along.