At age 18, Gene Thornton learned that less than one percent of U.S. citizens serve in the Armed Forces. Led by a desire to serve something greater than himself, Gene decided to join that one percent and enlist in the U.S. Air Force.
Serving as an intel analyst and airman for six years, Gene spent the majority of his time at Air Mobility Command Headquarters at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. For Gene, the transition from military to civilian life wasn’t easy—as is the case for so many American veterans.
“There are many challenges when leaving the service,” Gene said. “But the best thing about the transition is that no matter what obstacles lie ahead, the military has trained you to improvise with what you have, overcome adversity, and adapt to every situation,” said Gene.
On the brink of homelessness, Gene got connected to uBreakiFix through a friend of a friend. He started as an entry-level store technician and eventually worked his way up to management before finally opening his own franchise location in Stuart, Fla. in 2016.
“I found myself at a standstill in life and very nearly became homeless,” he recalls. “When I reached out to the uBreakiFix community, it changed everything. I was once again part of something bigger than myself, surrounded by a team of people who shared my values for service and integrity.”
Gene affectionately calls uBreakiFix Stuart his “baby,” and is currently laying the groundwork to open additional stores in the area. Like many veterans who work with uBreakiFix, Gene appreciates the ability to lead his own business in his own community, while still benefiting from corporate support and a close-knit company culture.
Founded in 2009, uBreakiFix services anything with a power button, including smartphones, game consoles, tablets, computers, drones, hoverboards, and everything in between. The franchise operates more than 460 locations across North America and has partnerships with leading technology companies like Google and Samsung. At the store level, uBreakiFix provides on-the-job training and ongoing corporate support. Though tech expertise is not required to franchise with uBreakiFix, Gene enjoys getting to work with his hands.
“You’d be surprised at how many people come in and think their broken phone is a lost cause,” Gene said. “It’s really gratifying to take a negative situation and turn it into something positive, either due to the quality of the repair, the speed with which it was finished, or even just the kindness and candor of a technician who truly wants to help get your day back on track.”
In Stuart, the community is grateful to have a veteran-owned business, and Gene is grateful to them—and to the military background that helped condition him for life’s challenges and set him up for success.
“The military paved a road for me that wasn’t always the smoothest, and certainly wasn’t the easiest,” said Gene. “But I cannot deny that it made me stronger. I am eternally thankful for the hardships that made me who I am today and for uBreakiFix for helping me find myself along the way.”
uBreakiFix offers 20 percent off of its franchise fee for U.S. veterans and was recently named one of Entrepreneur’s Top Franchises for Veterans. Veterans looking for new opportunities can visit ubreakifix.com/franchising.