This authorized retailer has grown into a one-stop shop for television, internet and “smart” devices for your home. Learn how the owner built the business from the ground up and find out how he’s remained successful.
When Charles Zambrano was laid off from his job as a DirecTV installer in 2009, he never could’ve imagined the success that would come his way.
“I was struggling for a couple years, but then I decided to open my own business,” says Zambrano, general manager of EZ Satellite, 1000 Larkin Ave., in Elgin, and 6239 N. Second St., Ste. B, in Loves Park. “We rented a small office in Roscoe back in 2011, and that’s how everything started.”
That 300-square-foot office was just a starting point. Now, EZ Satellite occupies a state-of-the-art location in Loves Park, where Zambrano relocated the business four years ago.
“I’m actually glad I got laid off, in the end, because everything worked out for the better,” he says.
A native of Venezuela, Zambrano came to the United States 17 years ago without any knowledge of the English language or the country. He started working for DirecTV in Orlando, Fla., before the company asked him to travel north.
He was one of 20 DirecTV installers before the company laid off 12 workers, including Zambrano.
“I’ve always wanted to be a business owner because I’m a family man and I needed time for my kids, so I wanted to manage my own time so I could take care of my family,” he says. “When I got laid off, I also couldn’t find a job that could support me enough, so those were the two motivators that I needed to start this adventure.”
EZ Satellite is an authorized retailer serving residential and business customers with a specialty in television and internet services including DirecTV, Dish Network, Comcast, Spectrum and HughesNet.
Zambrano has adapted with numerous changes in the industry. Since more people are starting to use internet streaming services, including Netflix and Disney+, he’s put more of an emphasis on internet services and related products.
He figures it’s not only good business, but an insurance policy against shifting demands for television services. Satellite TV, he says, may not always be in high demand.
“We’re adapting to the new wave,” he adds.
Over the past several years, Zambrano has added on more services, including home security systems and smart devices that can interact with thermostats and doorbells.
“We do a lot, and we want to be a one-stop shop for our customers,” he says. “Our future is always uncertain, and I do my due diligence to update and embrace new technologies as they come along.”
Zambrano’s business strategy has been working. His company has blossomed so much over the years that he opened a second office in Elgin last year.
“We’re just trying to expand the business and cover as many areas as we can,” he says. “We’re doing what we can to get prepared for the years to come.”
He’s not in the business alone. Zambrano works with about eight employees, many of whom are his own family members.
“We’re a team and we help each other,” he says. “My 17-year-old son is involved, and I have my uncle and my brother. It’s a family business, and it’s all hands on deck.”
Zambrano says he tries to do more than push services on his customers. He lets the them pick and choose the products they want. At the same time, he also tries to give guidance and advice.
“If you’re a Comcast customer and you have TV, phone and internet and you’re paying $200, we’ll try to find some savings so you can get a better price,” he says. “We’ll take care of you, and we’re always willing to help because we want to keep our customers happy. We’re looking for their referrals, so they can bring their friends and family in here.”
At EZ Satellite, Zambrano says his team will always be upfront and ready to tell the truth, even if it’s something you might not want to hear.
“If I can’t sell something to you because you don’t like it, I’d rather show you that than make it look nice, because then you’ll buy it and get disappointed down the road,” he says. “We’re not perfect and we’ll make mistakes, but we’re always looking after the customer to make sure they’re happy. This is a personal experience, and it’s not corporate.”
And his customers appreciate it. It’s not uncommon for a customer to show their appreciation by giving Zambrano gifts.
“I’ve made plenty of friends in this business, and I’ve had customers who’ve come in to bring me chocolate and wines because they’re so grateful for the services that they received,” he says.
Zambrano says he’s made plenty of mistakes along the way, including marketing and staff decisions. He says the past several years have been a long training session for him and his team.
“Those years have been preparing me so now, we can start growing expeditiously,” he says. “I don’t see mistakes as a failure; I see them as a training. When I look back on the mistakes that I’ve made, I try to make sure I do something else the next time, so I have a better outcome.”
If anyone is interested in starting their own business, Zambrano says to go for it.
“When you come from zero like I did, you have to be persistent and dedicated in order to survive,” he says. “At the same time, don’t give up on your dreams. It hasn’t been easy and there’s been a lot of blood, sweat and tears, but it’s been well worth it.”
As he looks back on his struggles and his time as a business owner, Zambrano says he’s proud of what he’s accomplished and he’s looking forward to what the future holds.
“Even when everyone else may fail, God will always take care of me,” he says. “This country has opened doors for me, and it’s allowed me to have a business and a family. I’m a very grateful man.”