2018 was a record breaking year for vending machine operators, the industry reported $23.5 billion in revenue as more people start to consider vending machines as a business. People are always on the go, which makes conveniences like vending machines, more important than ever.
This is likely why the industry is gaining popularity with entrepreneurs. It’s a home-based business, that and be done full or part-time and have many people interested in trying their hand.
Is the vending machine business opportunity right for you?
A few things that attract entrepreneurs to this type of business are listed below:
- Low startup costs – A vending business can be started with almost any budget. Some get started with just a couple hundred and other are willing to spend thousands. Aside from the machines, it’s likely you already own most of the equipment you need to start and run your business, like a car, a phone, and a computer.
- Flexibility – You control when and where you place your vending machines. This way you can fill before or after work, or even on weekends. You also can choose the day of the week and time of day you go as well. This makes vending a great option for families, since you can easily train your spouse or children.
- Grow at your own pace – This businesses is great whether you’re looking for additional income to save for vacations or replacing your current 9 to 5, you can get as big or stay as small as you like. Time and available finances will be major factors in how fast you are able to grow when you choose to do so.
- Simplicity – The vending machine business doesn’t require any special training, that’s what makes it appealing to most! As long as you can read the owner’s manual you’re on the right path! You will want to maintain your machines on a weekly basis by keeping them in good working condition, restocking the machines, and of course collecting the money! There are also a few administrative tasks that need to be done like recording business expenses, customer services and of course, paying taxes.
What’s the best way to start a vending machine business?
There are different ways you can get started, each having its own advantages and disadvantages.
1.Buy an existing vending machine business for sale
Buying an existing business it the fastest way to hit the ground running. You are starting immediately with established accounts and a revenue stream. This can be a bit risky if you don’t know the appropriate questions to ask the seller. You want to know why they are selling and if they can provide financial data for their business. Check out my Vending Machine Route Buying Guide to learn how to price and buy locations and routes by asking all the right questions.
2. Purchase a vending machine business franchise
A franchise is a great way to start a business because all the work has been done for you. You just follow an established business model based on a specific vending category. Healthy vending machines are popular franchises in vending. Others include, ice cream, movies, and even pizza! Franchising can sometimes limit the flexibility you have when it comes to buying products, equipment, and even locations. This can also quickly become the most expensive way to start.
3. Start your own vending business from scratch
Starting your own vending machine business from scratch is the easiest and cheapest way to get started, but requires the most work. You have to find vending machines for sale, source your products, and find money making locations. But because you are building business from scratch, this method offers you the most flexibility and is the preferred way for many operators when cash is limited.
No matter which option you choose, the cost will vary greatly as you consider vending machines as a business. The method you choose, the number of vending machines, the type you use, and the products you sell will all have an affect on how much you have to spend to start and keep your business going. Let’s walk through the steps of starting your vending machines business from scratch!
Register Your Vending Machine Business
The most common question I get from people when starting a vending machine business is, “Do I need a business license?”
My answer is always going to be, YES!
However, laws and regulations vary from place to place, so the best thing to do is check with a professional in your area, like a lawyer or accountant who knows the laws in your area so that you get started on the right foot.
Read my post on state vending license requirements for more infomation!
Establish a Legal Business Entity
Depending on where you live, you may have to chose a business structure BEFORE you register with your state or local governments. The business structure you choose determines everything from taxes, daily operations, and even how much of your personal assets are at risk. The most common types are listed below:
- Sole Proprietorship – You are automatically considered to be a sole proprietorship if you perform business activities but don’t register as any other kind of business. This is also a good option for low risk businesses or if you want to test a business idea before making it more formal.
- Partnership – For two or more people to own a business together
- Limited Liability Company (LLC) – Has benefits of both corporation and partnership structures and in most cases protect your personal assets against bankruptcies and lawsuits.
- Corporation – Best for high or medium risk businesses and offer the strongest protection for its owners from personal liability.
Get help choosing the structure that works best for you by working with a professional.
Open a Business Bank Account
You should open a business bank account as soon as you start accepting, but more realistically and commonly, start spending money as a business. Bank accounts provide a layer of protection and professionalism to your business. Business bank accounts often offer features and perks not available to personal accounts and prep your business to grow by applying for credit cards or merchant accounts. You will need at least the following in order to open a business bank account:
- Federal EIN or SSN if sole proprietorship
- Business License
- Business Formation Documents
Check with the bank you wish to open the account with for all the required documents to ensure you have everything you need. Be sure to shop around at different banks to find the best introductory offers, lowest maintenance fees, and other services that will be beneficial to your business.
Create a Website
Even though you will be doing business in person, you need a way for people to find you! Yes, I understand that you can create a Facebook or Instagram page, but in my opinion it’s not as professional as having your own website. Also, the people who are searching for vending machine businesses, aren’t heading to Facebook to search, they use Google!
Your business’ Facebook page most likely isn’t going to rank on Google and therefore go unseen. You can create a full website if you like or just a simple landing page. There are so many tools that can help you quickly and easily accomplish this goal. Your website should include at least the following items:
- Description of services your vending machine business offers
- Service Area – List neighborhoods, cities, or zip codes
- Sample Product Selection
- Hours of Operation
- Contact Form
- About Section
Find and Secure a Location
Location, location, location! This is the heart and soul of your vending machine business! This is also the pain point of many new operators. Many people find a machine first, only to be defeated and give up by not being able to easily find a place for machine or one that makes money! You want to target places that have high foot traffic like schools, hospitals and malls, or a large captive audience, like office buildings, and apartment complexes.
This will give you the best chance to make sales. To get an idea of places near you, download a free copy of 50 Full Line Vending Machine Locations to get started!
Since finding a location is the most important part of your vending machine business, it deserves the most about of time. I highly recommend that you get a copy of The Ultimate Locating Guide to learn more about finding locations, negotiating commission, and more!
Buying in bulk from Sam’s Club, Costco, or other wholesale stores will help you to maximize your profit. Many new operators start out and buy their products from their local grocery store. Bad idea!
While sometimes you can find items on sale and get a good deal, you’re setting yourself up to be DOUBLE TAXED! Yes, double taxed! You pay sales tax when you buy the products at your local grocery store and then you pay tax AGAIN when you report your sales to the state! In a business where you literally make cents on each product, you need to save where you can!
You also want to make sure that your product selection make sense for each location. For example, you don’t want to put a vending machine full of chips, soda, and candy in a Fitness Club. You’re definitely not going to make much money and you might even be asked to leave!
Buying a Vending Machine
Once you have found and secured a location, now it’s time to buy a machine!
New vending machines start around $3,000 and depending on the type, brand, and features, can cost as much as $10,000+. That’s why I recommend buying your first machine from a vending machine distributor that refurbished used vending machines.
Used machines can range between $1,300 -$3,500, which is a little more than if you buy from Ebay or Craigslist, but you will have peace of mind knowing the machine will be reliable and you can call someone for help when you need it.
Many distributors provide some sort of warranty, tech support, and even training. You’ll also know where you can go to buy parts if you need them and more machines for when you’re ready to expand. Save the bargain machines for later when you have a little more experience and know what questions to ask and things to look out for.
Service Your Vending Machines
This is the one and only thing that will keep you from being kicked out of any location! No amount of commission, cheap prices, or product selection will ensure your spot! You will keep your locations, by servicing your machines, making sure they are filled consistently, working, and most of all CLEAN!
Be sure to check out my Vending Machine Tool Kit so you have everything you need to service your vending machines and make the job a little easier!
However you decide to start your vending machine business it’s important to be realistic. Just like with any other business, you will not get rich quick. It will take time and patience to grow your business.
I hope this quick guide helps to get you pointed in the right direction to start your new vending machine business! Join my Facebook group, How To Start a Vending Machine Business for more information and support and don’t forget to subscribe to my email list!