Mar. 2—What is the market looking for?
That is the question AppleCore CEO Daniel Sandoval and Emilio Ulibarri asked each other during the earliest days of the coronavirus pandemic.
Sandoval had just brought on Ulibarri in early March as vice president of business development to increase sales of the "lightly used" Apple computers that Sandoval upgrades and customizes at his Cordova Road shop.
Then New Mexico went into lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic. People didn't seem to be buying used Apples while sheltering in place, though AppleCore saw enough Apple repair jobs to keep the business afloat.
Sandoval launched AppleCore in 2017 to sell secondhand Apple products at an affordable price. He carries MacBook Air and MacBook Pro laptops, iMacs, iPads and iPhones, typically at half the retail price or less.
While upgrading, customizing and repairing Apples, Sandoval for the past couple of years has been tinkering with creating a virus-removal key for Apple products. Then the pandemic hit and e-commerce shot off like a rocket.
How could AppleCore hitch a ride on the rocket? Sandoval asked his new hire, Ulibarri, for ideas. Selling Macs online was a nonstarter because AppleCore didn't have the volume of computers, and paying shipping charges did not make business sense.
"We researched what was selling best. It was backup devices," Ulibarri said.
The idea of product development and e-commerce appealed to Sandoval.
"We have to do something for passive income," Sandoval said. "We have to do something to make money while we sleep."
Backup hard drives were once the size of a video cassette. Now they are the size of a cellphone. Still, the storage device remains tethered to a cord, Sandoval said.
He created the AppleCore SMART Backup stick — a USB drive that automatically backs up as much as 480 gigabytes of data and downloads at 430 to 600 megabytes per second. A 1 terabyte backup stick is also available.
AppleCore released the $159 SMART Backup stick Dec. 1 on Amazon and Walmart.com, and so far 188 sticks have sold.
"No cords," Sandoval said. "Cords are a thing of the past. The ease of use is incredible. You just have to plug it in."
The e-commerce bug bit Ulibarri. What else could AppleCore sell on Amazon? Just then, Sandoval was cleaning computers with an alcohol-free concoction he blended himself for in-house use.
"We get a lot of computers in here and they are kind of nasty," Sandoval admits. "It was a eureka moment."
The in-house cleaner became the AppleCore SMART Screen System. The $19.99 kit comes with an 8-ounce spray bottle, a green cleaning cloth, a blue polishing cloth and a how-to thumb drive. Sandoval said about 500 cleaning systems have sold since Nov. 1, mostly on Amazon but also Walmart.com.
Next to market, maybe in April, will be AppleCore's Virus Removal Key that Sandoval has been working on for a couple of years, just as Apples are becoming as vulnerable to viruses and malware as PCs have been for decades.
"It's been about the past year that viruses are a thing with Apples that you have to address," Sandoval said.
Even though the Virus Removal Key was the first product Sandoval developed, it is last to market in this first batch.
"I have to make sure it does everything it needs to do at the right time," he said.
In the past year, Sandoval and Ulibarri have gone beyond Apple products with Eagle Drone Service. Ulibarri said he has become a Federal Aviation Administration-certified commercial drone pilot.
Last year, Ulibarri started doing drone videos of homes for real estate agents. Next, he wants to use the drone to photograph roofs and property lines for contractors and agriculture firms.
"With COVID, there is a need for virtual home showing, contactless service," Ulibarri said.
The AppleCore's e-commerce products are available at the Cordova Road store and in the future could become available by drone delivery to homes.
"We want to start shipping with drones," Ulibarri said.
Sandoval figures that without COVID-19, business may have inched up. But tapping the pandemic for opportunity in e-commerce has tripled revenue in the past year.
"This isn't just a computer store," Sandoval said. "This is a place where we can innovate. It's allowed me the freedom to think bigger and deeper and be calculating."