Jay Sofer has an incredible story. In the nine years since starting Lockbusters out of his mother’s garage, he’s helped thousands of New Yorkers in need and become a bit of a local celebrity (thanks in part to his well-placed puppy photos). He saw that there was a need for better customer service and transparency in the NYC locksmith industry. So he made that the core ethos of his business. The result? He’s become the most reviewed locksmith in NYC on Yelp and is getting ready to franchise his business. We sat down with Jay to hear more about his journey…
Why did you decide to start your business? Tell us your backstory!
Funny thing, I had no intention of starting a business. I became a business owner as a result of difficult circumstances. 2008 was the worst year of the recession. That year I lost my job, my apartment, and had to drop out of school. Fortunately, my wonderful mother took me in, along with other family members that had fallen on tough times… all while caring for her elderly mother. I began to generate my own work out of necessity, never thinking it would amount to much. Honestly, I just wanted to buy my own groceries. Clients and friends later led me to Yelp and helped start my free page. Within six months I became the highest rated business in my field and haven’t looked back since.
Why do you love doing business here in New York?
New York City is my home. Lockbusters was born in a garage in Jackson Heights, Queens. My Filipino family got their start in the United States in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Now, I’m able to serve all of my NYC neighbors in every borough. This is a crazy, fast-paced city and I love the daily grind of keeping up with it. I get to meet and serve the most ambitious, driven people here that continue to motivate me daily.
What’s the most helpful piece of customer feedback you’ve received?
One of my clients wrote a review saying that he would trust me to babysit his kids! That made me laugh and smile. He endorsed everything I wanted to communicate in starting Lockbusters which was trustworthiness and transparency. To trust a mechanic is a rare thing and I’m so grateful my clients have put their trust in me for close to nine years.
What’s your advice for other business owners or someone who wants to start a small business?
Jump in there! Platforms like Yelp make it easier than ever to compete in the free market. In my experience, the Yelp community is incredibly supportive of new businesses. New ideas can thrive better and faster than ever with client endorsement & social media. Post pics, put out deals, and start to engage with the public. I started with no money out of a garage in Queens and now I’m in the process of franchising my business model. Take the chance and put your idea out there!
Behind every business is a great story. Download the Yelp mobile app to find a great business in your area. Business owners, share your story on your Yelp listing by claiming your business page at biz.yelp.com.