Small Business & Startups and Technology

Sales pro pivots to ‘home technology handyman’

Local entrepreneur offers smart home technology installation and consultation services.

November 1, 2019
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Smart Home Solutions
Amazon Alexa is one of the smart hubs Smart Home Solutions recommends purchasing because it can control multiple products and services. Courtesy iStock

Smart Home Solutions was born when a local salesman discovered he had a knack for helping people.

Chris DeYoung, a former software sales consultant with Tooling Software Technology in Wyoming, and his wife, Melanie DeYoung, an attorney, about two years ago began “tinkering” with smart home technology for their place in Cascade Township.

They set up a system to control their doorbell, thermostat, appliances, garage door and more using smartphone apps, and before long, they were hooked on the convenience and peace of mind afforded by being able to operate everything without being physically present.

For instance, Ring, the video doorbell system owned by Amazon, allows the couple to see, hear and speak to visitors remotely.

“We had a delivery that came, and we weren’t home, and it was a piece of technology that was expensive,” Melanie DeYoung said. “We didn’t want him to just leave the package on our front door, so we told the delivery driver, ‘Hey, we’re going to put up our garage door,’ did that through our phone in our remote app, he put the package in the garage, and after he left, we shut the door.”

Another technology the DeYoungs have come to rely on is ecobee, a thermostat control system that uses motion sensors to adjust the temperature based on the rooms that are being used, saving money on heating and cooling, eliminating hot and cold spots, and reducing energy use. The app lets users monitor the temperature from afar, a feature the DeYoungs say is especially handy for Michigan winters, when it’s important to prevent pipes from freezing and bursting.

“Once you have some of these technologies in your life, you realize, ‘I don’t ever want to go without this again because it is so convenient,’” Melanie DeYoung said.

Chris DeYoung began helping the couple’s parents set up similar voice-activated systems to simplify daily tasks in the home.

He soon saw a market for helping aging adults, low-tech individuals or busy professionals run their homes using smart technology.

The DeYoungs registered Smart Home Solutions as a business in February and began serving clients over the past several months in the greater Grand Rapids area.

Chris DeYoung operates the business full time and is the sole technician and consultant, while Melanie DeYoung handles marketing and communications alongside her day job.

About 3,000 different smart home technologies currently are available to consumers, which can be overwhelming for clients, Chris DeYoung said.

This includes everything from smart locks to lawn sprinklers with sensors that forecast when it will be raining to video surveillance for homebound individuals with medical issues to TV streaming dashboards that allow people to “cut the cord.”

People also can sync their smart appliances into a smart hub and operate and monitor them using their phone, tablet or voice commands.

Typically, Chris DeYoung recommends smart hubs that can control multiple products and services, such as Amazon Alexa, Google Home Hub and Apple HomeKit.

Once potential customers call him, Chris DeYoung helps them identify their goals and preferences, then he will create a custom smart home proposal. After making any requested adjustments to the client’s plan, he will install the devices, troubleshoot their operations and teach them how to operate everything.

A monthly subscription plan also is available for clients who may need ongoing support with their devices. Prices will vary depending on what is needed, but Melanie DeYoung said the monthly plans usually are in the $20-$40 range. A la carte services also are available for those who just have occasional questions.

“I want people to think of me as their home technology handyman,” Chris DeYoung said, adding that he is available to help with any home technology questions, even for items he didn’t install.

“If your wireless printer won’t print, if you have Wi-Fi dead spots and you are dreading calling Comcast to sort out the issue — give me a call instead. I’ll troubleshoot the issues and get you squared away.

“The reason why I started the business was to help people, to be that person you can reach out to who is approachable, not the typical IT person who you’re afraid to talk to or call because they’re going to make you feel inadequate when you’re asking questions. I’m here to help with all aspects. No question is a dumb question.”

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