He could be earning wads of money in Europe as an Apple computer whiz, but father of three young boys Alex Jeschkus is happier working in a converted chiller out the back of his Hawke's Bay property.
Surrounded by fine tools and stacks of iPhones, iPods and other Apple products in various states of repair, the 47-year-old Bavarian has become the go-to guy for those with cracked screens or other faults.
He spent a few years tutoring programming in Auckland after arriving in New Zealand with his then girlfriend 16 years ago, then another few years working as an Apple technician for various companies.
Two years ago he started his own company, madmacman.com.
"Apple had started what it called modularity, which is essentially replacing large parts instead of repairing what is often small problems. With Apple products anything that is damaged in an accident is void of warranty. I saw a niche there. I knew I could repair for a fraction of the price," Jeschkus said.
Much of his work comes from insurance companies that are keen to repair a product rather than replace it.
"Insurance companies and clients like that I warrant my jobs. When I fix it, it will last. The alternative is to replace a part at a much greater cost," he said.
There are others offering to repair Apple products, particularly cracked screens, but many of these people were not qualified, he said.
"I've got a pile of phones that people have brought me after sending them to someone to be fixed. They have chips broken by unprofessional opening. I am liable for all my work."
Today his website is flat out with queries from potential clients, and couriers come and go from his property with a stream of broken products one way and repaired the other.
Jeschkus said he loved computers from a young age. "I loved the Atari and Commodore. I knew from about age 6 that that's what I wanted to do, but my father thought there was no future in it so I was sent off to be an apprentice boilermaker."
After three years working at BMW plants he took a three-year degree in computing and found work with IBM as a security system analyst.
"I was what they call an 'ethical hacker'. I tested networks to see if they were secure. It was a very intense job, 15-16 hours a day. Good if you want money, but not if you want to be happy."
In the early 90s he took a pay drop and went to work as an Apple technician, whose products he felt were far superior.
"To me a PC is just a piece of plastic with no engineering value whatsoever. With an Apple," he says, pointing to an open monitor on his desk, "everything is engineered. It's quality engineering, and their gear is built to last."
In the mid-90s he opted for a radical change. He dropped computers and flew to Khartoum, Sudan, to become a freelance Reuters photographer. He spent three years, and nearly all his savings, covering wars in Sudan, Somalia, Chad and Eritrea.
"I was young, free, had no-one depending on me . . . It wasn't something you do for money. It was a life-changing experience. It stays with you. I thought I'd kark it in Africa, to be honest."
He and partner Jamie Te Wake moved to Haumoana, near Hastings, five years ago, mainly for the surfing. Their boys, aged 14 weeks, 2 and 5, are his priority.
"I spend the days with my boys. Once it gets cooler I'll come in here and work until late, usually 11pm. I value a job by the time I work on it. Time is not recoverable. If I spend two hours on a job it's two hours I didn't have with my boys. I can't buy that back. So I work efficiently and quickly."
Clients usually get their repaired products back within a day or two, he said.
He gets through 100 to 150 jobs a week. He also works on school networks, and builds websites for clients in New Zealand, Germany, Italy and France.
Jeschkus has never advertised, but has had great success through word of mouth and the website, which has more than 7500 likes and the same number of tweets.
He plans to continue on the same track, possibly taking more work on and maybe hiring a few people to help with simple jobs.
"I think we could double the work without raising a sweat. I think we're doing all right. I like our hickory old company."
- The Dominion Post
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