The first question I’m asked when people find out that I own a vending machine business is, “How did you get into that?”
I would stumble around eventually getting to an answer, but to be honest, I never really thought about how it happened. To best answer this question, let me tell you about my journey in business.
When I was about 10, my Mom helped me and my sister start our very first business selling what we call “Dixie Cups” to kids in our neighborhood. She fronted us the money to buy all the supplies we needed, cups, syrup, and popsicle sticks!
We sold these for years, every Spring and Summer. I remember being so proud that we had our own spending money when we went on vacation one summer! When we got older and had better things to do, we stopped selling Dixie Cups.
It would be a long time before I thought about starting a business again. I always thought of a business as something you did “on the side” of your full-time job to make some extra money. One summer I was working as a co-op in my hometown and I went back to campus to visit friends. I was introduced to a Mary Kay Consultant who invited me to have a facial.
Enter Mary Kay.
I reluctantly went to have the facial, I knew she was going to try to sell me a bunch of old lady products that I wasn’t going to buy! To my surprise, I loved all the products I tried! The consultant explained how this was the perfect opportunity to make extra money, even while in school. I was sold and became a consultant myself! Since was working I had the extra money to invest to start a business. Smart, right?
However, being a junior in college and an engineering student at that, didn’t leave much time for working the business! So I ended up stuck with most of the products I purchased as inventory. Great! Now what?
Lucky for me, I ordered most of the foundation in darker shades, so with a little mixing I was able to use the products myself! I mean, what college aged girl is going to complain about having too much makeup?
After I graduated from college, I entered the working world like most people do. I got a job in a rotational program that landed me in my dream city, Atlanta!
I loved living in Atlanta, but the program I was in required me to move to a new city after a year. If I was going to stay, I would need to make some money and fast!
Re-enter Mary Kay.
After being approached in Target, I signed up again to become a consultant. This time, I was serious! I had a job so I could afford more inventory, I was living in a new city and didn’t really know anyone, so my social life was mostly non-existent, so I’d have time to really put towards being a consultant this time! I got a loan for $1,900 to buy inventory, threw my first party, and was going to the mall after work to pitch the opportunity. After a few months of not much success, I realized that I HATED being a consultant! I was a nervous wreck trying to approach people while they were shopping and I couldn’t convince anyone to book a party. I wasn’t selling anything! So, I quit. Once again I was stuck with ALL the inventory, $1,900 worth. Yeah, I could use some of the makeup like before, but I need to get my money back!
In my earlier years in college, I used to sell my old phones on eBay to get money to buy the newest Nokia phone that had just been released. It was my go to place to sell things I needed to get rid of. Naturally, I listed all the Mary Kay products I had on eBay. I know… I know, I wasn’t supposed to since it was against the rules, but I was no longer a consultant and I wasn’t able to return the product for a full refund. Plus, this time I had taken out a loan, so I needed the money!
Man, did that stuff move fast! I was able to sell everything I had! Up until that point, I never consider eBay as a place to run a business. That’s when the light bulbs came on! I did some research about selling on eBay, learned about Alibaba, and even ordered my first product! Long story short, that attempt didn’t go how I expected and I was stuck with the inventory AGAIN!
I gave up on business. I guess it just wasn’t for me.
A couple years later, I still had the entrepreneurial itch. I was back in Atlanta permanently and started belly dancing as a hobby.
For belly dance, we wore coin sashes and wrap skirts to class. I went online to order a fancier coin sash than what was available at the studio, after someone in my class showed up with a sash from eBay. I saw that people were also selling wrap skirts. The light bulb was back on and after doing some research, I found that I could buy the wrap skirts for $3.25 each and they sold for $28! I only needed to sell a handful of skirts before I made back the money I invested. I about 100 skirts and I was finally in business! I sold about 30 skirts before I realized… I didn’t like selling clothes on eBay! I had already made my my money back and then some, and I finally accomplished something that I had not be able to do before. So I felt okay about walking away from things. (Later I did come back to eBay and drop shipped successfully for about 7 months before I had to move on. But that’s for another day.)
After finding that eBay wasn’t going to work for me, I began to look into other opportunities. I mentioned this to my sister one day, which prompted her to send me this article titled, 4 UNIQUE SIDE HUSTLES THAT BRING IN BIG BUCKS. First on the list, Vending Machine Investor. It seemed simple enough that even a business reject like myself couldn’t screw it up!
In October 2014, I began my research on the vending industry. Two months later I had purchased five brand new vending machines! Now four years later, I have grown that small part-time opportunity into a full-time six figure business!