A lot of people have a dream of owning their own home business and starting a vending machine business could make that dream come true. Although on the surface it seems so easy that a child could do it, there are a few concerns that you should be aware of.
Your first consideration should be the machines. You will want machines that are reliable. You don't want to pay someone to repair them constantly - that will quickly eat up your profits. If you can buy new from a reputable manufacturer, that is usually the best option. Some manufacturers offer financing programs. You may also be able to get financing for your business from your local bank or get assistance for a small business from the US Small Business Association. This is a business, so you will need to set up your legal structure. Give the business a name. Create a bookkeeping system for tax purposes. Obtain any required licenses and permits. The best place to check is your county office for business licenses.
Once you have decided on the products you're going to sell (snacks, hot coffee, soda, cigarettes, gumballs, candy, sandwiches, etc.) and you have your machines, your next steps are to find the perfect location and get a supplier.
It's All About Location
Where you place your vending machines will make the difference between sales success and failure. Place your machines where the market is highest for what you are offering. You won't have much luck selling cigarettes outside a church or a health club. Find a high traffic location with a high likelihood that some of those people will want your product. Drink machines seem to do very well outside of large stores like Wal Mart, or a grocery store or shopping mall. People get thirsty from all that shopping. Other places might be at rest stops, sports sites, or in the lobby of restaurants. Mints, gum and candies seem to do well at restaurants. Once you have decided on your list of potential locations, next you will need to contact the owner of the property to negotiate your lease of a spot for the vending machines. With the machines in place, then you can start testing to see which products sell best, the best season to sell what items, and how quickly the machine needs to be re-stocked.
Practice Makes Perfect
This business, or any business for that matter, will require a little bit of "tweaking" before reaching its optimum profit potential. Conduct market research. Find out what people buy from vending machines, when and where they buy it, and how much they are willing to pay for it. What is the competition in the area? What are they selling best? Test your product sales to find out which items perform the best in which location. Keep meticulous notes on what sells best and when. For example, you may find soft drink and ice cream sales soar in the summer when temperatures are warmer. Cocoa or hot coffee might sell better in the winter. Near a company with many employees, you might have a big seller with sandwiches, nabs, crackers or anything suitable for a quick lunch.
Starting a Vending Machine Business
Over a period of time, you may develop the perfect system to help this home business go onto "auto pilot." Barring machine malfunctions and vandalism (not as likely in a high traffic location), you should be able to turn a profit with very little effort once you get your system in place. Your main "work" will be ordering products, paying your leases, making the loan payment, re-stocking machines with products, performing routine maintenance and collecting your cash and quarters.
Beware of Fraudulent Claims
Some people make fraudulent claims concerning vending machine businesses. Many manufacturers promise unrealistic profits and there are unscrupulous sellers who may sell you low quality machines that are constantly breaking down. Do your due diligence and investigate thoroughly any manufacturer or loan company you deal with.
One resource for this business is Vending Connection. They bill themselves as the "no. 1 vending resource directory." One supplier is Vending Machine Business.com. They sell industrial strength soda and snack vending machines.
Becoming a Successful Business Owner
By carefully selecting your machines and surveying your location, you may find that starting a vending machine business is your ideal venture. The most successful entrepreneurs take careful notes as they go along, tweaking and changing the business plan as required by market research and analysis.