Making Geek Chic
The Webster Dictionary definition of the word geek certainly doesn’t fit self-proclaimed “Geek in Pink” Regina Miller. She is the polar opposite of the stereotypical nerdy guy with tape on his glasses and a shirt with a pocket protector who lives in his mother’s basement. Although she is certainly knowledgeable about computers, she has broken the mold on geekdom. She has broken the mold in many other areas, too.
Let’s start with the fact that she’s a woman in what is normally considered a man’s domain: Computers. And she got there in quite an interesting way, too. After graduating from Southport High School early and then going on to Franklin College, she crammed all the classes she could into her course load and graduated at the young age of 19 with a degree in Business Administration and Spanish. The plan was to follow the footsteps of her father in international manufacturing. One little thing got in the way: A baby. Regina married her high school sweetheart at 18 and had her first child at 19. She says it was being broke that led her to learn how to repair computers. It was the 1990s, and personal computers were still a bit of a novelty. Her father taught her to add memory to her computer and before she knew it, she was taking her computer apart and putting it back together again. “It’s amazing what broke will teach you to do” she laughs.
But computers, jobs, and business took a back seat to family for many years for Regina. Her husband, Ed, a 22-year Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer who is now a sergeant in the southeast district after spending eight years in homicide, supported the family while she stayed home, had another child, and wrote a book. The book entitled “Don’t Pay Retail: Indiana’s Discount Buying Guide” was inspired by her conservative, frugal nature. Before she could promote it, though, tragedy struck her family. Regina’s second child died of SIDS and she realigned her priorities. She had another baby and then, afraid that something terrible could happen again, they decided to have a third child so that there would never be the chance of having an only child. However, once again going against the norm, Regina had not one, not two babies; she had triplets. That is, obviously, a rare occurrence under any circumstances, but extremely rare when fertility drugs aren’t involved, as in her case. So, within a matter of a few years Regina’s family had grown to seven.
Her acumen for fixing computers grew, too, and she was gaining a reputation for her abilities. One night in 2005 at about 11:00 p.m., there was a knock on her door. She opened it to find a man and woman holding their sick computer. Someone at Office Depot who only had Regina’s address had referred them to her and they were desperate to recover data that they feared was gone for good. Regina worked a minor miracle and was able to recover the data for them. That was the pivotal moment she points to that made her decide to start her business. She had been repairing computers
free for people because she loved to do it. But that had to change. She says, “I had so many people coming to me at that point that the business pretty much started itself just because I couldn’t continue to take time away from the family and not give the family something back in return.” So over a bottle of wine during Labor Day weekend, 2005, Regina came up with “Geek in Pink” and her business was born. “What I wanted in the name was to relay a friendly, open resolution to your technology problems.” Ed suggested the more staid sounding name of “Miller Computer Associates” but Regina says that meant nothing to her. “It came down to me trying to find a word that would imply technology and a word that would imply females,” she says. She even designed her own logo making “Geek in Pink” uniquely hers.
She started with herself as the only employee, and a drop-off spot in Greenwood. Today, she has six employees including herself. She recently moved to the Sugar Grove Shoppes next to Hampton’s Market on Smith Valley Road, and she has a drop-off location in Fishers. She is about ready to reopen a storefront in Fishers. She closed the previous site when she realized that most of her north side business was being conducted at the customer’s location.
Geek in Pink has grown phenomenally. Her business has doubled every year since opening in 2005, except for 2010 when her business tripled. She’s been approached to consider franchising the model and she is actively pursuing that possibility, hoping to make Center Grove the world headquarters for a large “Geek in Pink” corporation. The name is trademarked, and she has done a great job of branding it.
Her success did not come easily. Not only has it required sacrifice and long hours away from family, but also as a “girl” in a man’s world, she has had to prove herself. She says in the beginning she would get calls from women and arrive at their home to find husbands that were dismissive of her abilities. Once she proved herself by fixing their problem, they often referred her to their businesses and that helped Geek in Pink take off in another direction. Tech repair is still a man’s world, which is evidenced by the fact that only one percent of all her job applicants are women. She’s doing her part to change that by teaching classes and doing career days in schools and at Central Nine Career Center. Four of her six employees are women; but she says she hires the most qualified applicant, regardless of their gender.
Regina compares her and her Geek in Pink techs to appliance technicians because they can do things like set up gaming and stereo systems and even reprogram garage door openers. She tells a story about a woman who called her to set up security on her computer to protect her from a husband against whom she had a protective order. While there, it came up that the woman had not reprogrammed her garage door opener and was going to call someone to do it. Regina, who charges by the hour, told her she could do that for her while she was there at no extra charge. As she pulled away, Regina says the woman was jumping up and down in the driving yelling, “Go Geek in Pink, you go!” That still makes Regina beam. “I try not to focus on the girl part, but it made me feel good that she felt empowered by what I was able to do,” she proudly says.
Regina Miller is the epitome of the classic American success story. She did build it. She built a small business with her own hands and hard work and smarts. She overcame tragedy and put her family first. In addition, perhaps the most amazing thing of all, she and Ed have defied the odds about marrying at such a young age and have stayed together for twenty-three years. She calls that their proudest achievement and says it all comes down to respect. “I think we have always been mindful of the risk factors we face for divorce. We married young. Had children young. He’s a cop. We suffered the death of a child. I come from divorced parents. All of these are very high risk factors for divorce. We just deal with the issues as they arise and recognize marriage is a very dynamic institution, and if we want to grow in our relationship we have to adapt to those dynamics.” Adapt or break the mold. Either way, Regina has done it and done it well. cg
Ann Craig-Cinnamon is a 30 year Radio & TV Broadcast veteran. You may recall her as the host of popular radio morning shows in Indianapolis for many years. She and her husband, John are also business owners. Her lifelong love of world travel led them to start a travel franchise, CruiseOne, in Center Grove. Ann is a writer, travel speaker and author of an upcoming book about her time spent living in Iran.