Brett and Kim Hinson moved from Texas to Charlotte in August 2009 with the goal of buying an electrical business, but the economy soured so that didn’t pan out.
They began teaching Career Readiness classes at Community College of Vermont in Burlington, and by May 2010, they decided to start their own business: Computer House Calls.
Brett, 58, makes the house calls while Kim, 59, fields the customers’ calls. Most of the couple’s clients are senior citizens who are not computer-savvy.
“A lot of what I do is education,” Brett said. “I try to teach them things so they won’t need to call me.”
Still, many clients are repeat customers, and often the Hinsons get recommended to customers’ family members.
Brett offers his clients the option of watching what he does or sitting at the keyboard themselves to follow his instructions.
“Brett is really patient,” said Kim. “He’s almost like a therapist.”
Most of the company’s work is in Chittenden County, but Brett has travelled as far as Chester. In addition to on-site work he also can provide assistance remotely for those who are farther afield.
Although the couple doesn’t have a storefront or sell computers, Brett has a supplier who is able to help him find low-cost machines for his customers if they need an upgrade. While teaching at CCV, the Hinsons were surprised by how many students didn’t have computers, so they sought out older models to give to them. They continue to solicit used computers which they donate to those unable to afford them.
In addition to helping run the computer business, Kim has continued to teach at CCV. On a break from instructing now, she is enrolled in the Vermont College of Fine Arts Writing Program where she is working on a memoir that she described as being written “in the tradition of a ‘The Odyssey’ meets ‘My Friend Flicka’ with a little ‘I Love Lucy’ thrown in to keep it truthful.”
Her moves may supply some material for the story. She was raised in Minnesota and Brett grew up in Texas. Kim had lived in Vermont on and off for the last 35 years and when it was time to truly settle down, it’s where she wanted to be.
When they moved from Texas to Vermont, they brought six horses, four chickens, two cats, one dog and 26 hermit crabs. “Brett drove them all here except for the horses,” Kim recalled.
It was her job to find a place to live in Vermont which would accommodate their menagerie. They found their spot in Charlotte. “I love it here,” Kim said. “I love the town beach.”
Today, the Hinsons share their space with two horses, 20 chickens, two cats and one dog, but the hermit crabs are gone, a casualty of the cold and issues with mold.
Brett enjoys the fact that it is only a three-mile bike ride to Shelburne Village for shopping. “It’s quiet and far enough away from the big city,” he said, “but it’s still a large enough metropolitan area to accommodate our business.”
Indeed, Charlotte has turned out to be an ideal setting for both home and a business that helps people navigate their computer woes. And while some calls pose new problems, Brett says he is satisfied to help solve familiar ones.
An example: Brett says he is amazed at how many people call him saying they have been told their lost data is irretrievable. Most of the time, he said he is able to salvage documents, in one case pulling up a senior thesis which had been deemed lost after a lightning strike.
“There’s always a way,” he said. “If somebody tells you it’s gone for good, don’t give up. You should always get a second opinion.”