Chattanoogan: Jeremy Jarvis – A Hands-On Guy

Thursday, August 29, 2013 - by Jen Jeffrey

When facing life’s challenges and encouraging others, Jeremy Jarvis is a hands-on guy. He has worked with the blind and deaf teaching them to use their abilities and he has built his own IT company from the ground up.

Jerry and Sue Jarvis had raised their only son in the outskirts of Talladega, Ala. Jeremy observed his father, a business owner in construction, in building houses, restaurants and hotels, while his mother was a nurse. Jeremy would combine the traits of his parents to become the caring, yet meticulous, person that he is today.

Learning to work wood with his dad, Jeremy’s creative mind had an outlet during his youth, but he envisioned much more for his future. At 16, while building a fence, he had told his father, “Dad, I am going to have my own computer repair business one day,” to which his father didn’t take too seriously in 1986 when computers were not a household item.

Jeremy recalls, “Pretty much everything I did from that point forward guided me to this right here. I went to college and studied electronics instead of computer science - the nerds studied computer science and anyone that wanted to know hardware, studied electronics. That was the only thing available at the time.” 

He worked as a service manager at Handy TV and Appliance where they sold TV’s, VCR’s and appliances until the company began selling IBM computers.

“When we started selling those, I told my boss I needed to be IBM certified. So I got that certification and from there it was a domino effect for me,” Jeremy says.

Jeremy eventually worked for Wellborn Cabinets where Paul Wellborn would influence him a great deal. Paul taught him about business, how to gain a customer’s trust and introduced him to Truett Cathy of Chick-fil-A. Mr. Cathy was also instrumental in teaching Jeremy business ethics.

Taking over the corporate safety department of Wellborn, Jeremy brought the company from $85,000 in injury and loss time down to $25,000

While raising a family and trying his hand in a few other ventures, Jeremy joined the work adjustment department with the Alabama Institute for the Blind and Deaf (AIDB).

“I taught blind, deaf and mentally challenged adults how to build things out of wood and how to do it in a production setting,” Jeremy states.

Building toy boxes, birdhouses and crates for companies, the students didn’t just learn wood working skills – they also learned to use their abilities in the workforce as a blind or deaf person.

“Can you imagine a blind person with a table saw?” Jeremy asks. “I designed a jig to put all the parts in and the students would take the staple gun after they got all of the parts in and staple it together. They would put the staple gun in the holes of the jig and once they got it all stapled together, they would take it apart, take a router and find the edges and round over the edges of the wood all the way through.”

A chemical engineer with the Bush Hog Corporation had lost his sight from cancer surgery and was sent to Jeremy during his work rehabilitation process.

“When the surgeon removed the cancer he cut a nerve that had a blood vessel tied to it which led to the optic nerve. When a person first loses their sight, there are three stages they go through. First they are sad and have remorse and then they go through an anger period. Al was angry,” Jeremy remembers.

“He was a very intelligent individual and he had the ability to see and listen with his hands. I would explain things to him and he would know exactly what he would need to get a project done. At first, he was angry and I took him in the back and handed him a staple gun and told him that I wanted him to build me a cabinet. He said, ‘I can’t build anything – I am blind.’ I said, ‘Your brain is where your skills are – you have the knowledge and experience – not everyone has that. You know how to build things from the ground up.’ So I handed him the staple gun and I said, ‘Here’s the holes. Build the cabinet – don’t complain, just build’,” Jeremy instructed.

“After about the third one, he said, ‘You know… you could make this a lot faster if you put a turntable under it,” and I said, ‘There you go – that’s what I want!’ Jeremy says.

After Al made the suggestion, he was regaining confidence, yet he still expected Jeremy to make the turntable. Jeremy said, “No, you are going to build it.” Al started to question Jeremy and then gave in, trusting him while his own self esteem was building.

“We made the turntable out of marbles taking a router with a cove bit and a stick of wood and putting a screw in it. Then we took the router and cut a cove. We had a perfect circle and, on the bottom side of the jig, we did the same thing. Then we laid 25 cat's eye marbles in it, set it down and put a bolt through the middle of it. It would spin like a Lazy Susan. Al realized that just because he lost his sight didn’t mean he lost his ability to function. As he worked more, he would crank out 300 toy boxes in an afternoon – it was crazy! Most of the people that were sighted couldn’t do that many,” Jeremy insists.

“Once he learned he still had his ability – he gained back confidence. One of the things he enjoyed was elk hunting. He said he would never elk hunt again, but there were guided hunts that the students could go on. With an equipped truck parked in the woods, they have a guide that spots for the students using a scope. The guide lined it up, put the gun in Al’s hand and told him the elk was so many inches to the left or right and Al was able to shoot. He dropped a six by six elk that dressed out at 230 pounds. He was ecstatic. Now he owns his own engineering company. Just helping him to be able to acknowledge his ability was reward in itself.” 

He stayed with AIDB for three years and developed a true passion for teaching. He became an instructor for Talladega County Schools in computer electronics. Jeremy’s hands-on IT experience earned a reputation in the community and people were bringing their computer issues and business to him. He enlisted the help of his students and hired them to assist in a business that he called Corptek.

“I was making more money working for myself than I was teaching. I was at the school during the day and would train people at night. Mayor Watson’s daughter Jessica was also in my class and he had come to me with a problem. I said, ‘Jessica can fix that for you…’ He was a little apprehensive at first, but after she fixed his Power Point, he was excited and began telling others about Corptek.

In 2003, Jeremy eventually had to quit teaching and the company picked up the Hyundai plant in Montgomery. “We contracted with a company called Pomeroy to create the infrastructure in the Hyundai plant,” Jeremy states.

While experiencing a divorce, Jeremy buried the company, selling it to his friend Bennie for a dollar. He met his current wife Maria in an AOL chat room and they married in 2005. Eventually, he bought the company back, but had left it dead until 2006.

“We started in the basement of the house. I had hired two techs and we soon had four techs and were picking up contracts with different companies. Everything just spring-boarded from there,” Jeremy maintains.

When the economy took a hit in 2008, so did Corptek. That wasn’t the only hardship Jeremy would face.

Three years ago, his father had passed away and soon after the tornados of April 27th came barreling through, taking his house. He and Maria crouched underneath the stairs of their home, with Maria covering their small daughter Lexi.

Jeremy’s face was battered and Maria suffered bruising and nail holes in her hips as debris lunged into them during the storm.

With every storm comes a rainbow and business did eventually pick back up. Corptek has contracted with Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Texaco, Green Oil and several individual oil companies and medical companies.

“I knew what I wanted to do and my dad was always encouraging me,” Jeremy says. “I am living a lifelong dream. We get to meet people and grow our business and I like helping people.”

Hoping to expand with regional satellite offices, Jeremy already services customers across the United States remotely or by traveling.

Before Mr. Jarvis had passed away, Jeremy had been discussing the business with his father.

“I said, ‘Dad, do you remember when we were building a fence and I told you that I wanted to own my own business in computer repair?’ and he smiled and said, ‘Yeah, guess you showed me, didn’t you?’”

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