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How this 31-year-old turned his side hustle into a $300,000 vending machine business: “I only work 4 hours a week”

Today, at 31, I have a flourishing life vending machine business which brings in over $300,000 a year in sales. But just a few years ago, I was living at home with my mom in Rochester, New York, where I worked in a $17-an-hour management job.

My goal was to save enough money to buy a rental property that could generate passive income. But one day, a new secondary commotion idea popped up when my friend saw a woman withdrawing money from an ATM.

I thought about how it could be a profitable business with little heavy work. So in 2018 I moved to Philadelphia and bought two machines.

Joyner Vending only made $5,000 in the first year. But I kept going, and now I have 21 ATMs in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Detroit, and Washington, D.C. I’m on track to generate $500,000 in sales by the end of 2022.

Here’s what I’ve learned along my entrepreneurial journey – and my top tips for anyone looking to start a similar business:

1. You need at least $4,500 to start.

I had saved $10,000 on my 9-to-5 job, but my start-up cost was around $4,000, which I used to pay for a snack dispenser, a drink dispenser, two players credit cards, food and beverages and delivery charges.

Due to inflation, things are much more expensive today, so I recommend saving between $4,500 and $5,000. Machines can run between $1,000 and $10,000, depending on whether they are new or refurbished. Delivery charges are usually between $200 and $500.

Although credit card readers are optional, I’ve found they can increase sales by up to 25% because you’re not just relying on customers to have cash on them.

2. Look for reputable machine suppliers.

Crane, ADM, Dixie Narco and Automatic products are all reliable manufacturers. Look to see if there are vending machine warehouses in your city and on platforms like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and eBay.

There are many types of machines. A refurbished Vendo 511 beverage machine, for example, which you might recognize as a classic Pepsi machine, can cost $1,500. A new one can cost around $3,500.

Gram’s top-grossing machine slot is an online gaming site in Philadelphia, which is on track to gross $100,000 this year.

Photo: Mickey Todiwala for CNBC Make It

If you only have room for one machine at a given location, I recommend using the Crane National 449 combo machine, which includes both snacks and drinks. A refurbished machine costs around $3,500 and a new one can cost up to $7,000.

3. Never buy a machine until you have a place to put it.

Location is everything. I always think of places that have a lot of foot traffic. Apartment complexes, hotels, dorms, and warehouses with lots of employees are great options.

When trying to determine if a location might be profitable, find out:

  • The opening hours of the establishment: The more days and hours that are open, the higher the chance of making sales.
  • What is the size of staff in the region: More people working in or around the building means more potential customers.

One of my best spelling investments is an online gaming site in Philadelphia, which is on track to gross $100,000 this year.

I don’t pay much to place a machine in a given location, which I found typical in this industry. Many companies just want the service and don’t want to have to pay for the machines or the installation. Of all my sites, I only pay one site 15% monthly profit.

4. Yes, branding and customer service are important.

I quit my full-time job three years after starting Joyner Vending and now only work four hours a week. Most of the time, I buy food and beverages online. And once a week, I restock a machine myself in Maryland.

Many people think that there is no brand or customer service involved in this business since the machines run on their own. But this is not the case.

What sets me apart from my competitors is my quick response time. I do my best to accommodate customers – both the places that house my machines and the people who buy items from them.

In the future, Gram hopes to open its own vending machine warehouse.

Photo: Mickey Todiwala for CNBC Make It

At first I spent $30 on a corporate polo shirt that I always wore and invested $20 in business cards. I paid for a website and had a business proposal ready at all times in case there was a machine placement opportunity.

5. Research what customers want.

Some of my top selling items are Coca-Cola, Red Bull, Peanut M&M’s, Doritos Nacho Cheese, and Lipton Iced Tea. I usually buy them in bulk from wholesalers like Sam’s Club, BJ’s and Costco.

There are also local vending machine warehouses that sell food and beverages, such as Pinnacle Sale in Philadelphia.

At Pinnacle, I can buy a bottle of Coca-Cola for $0.55 wholesale and then resell it for $1.75, earning me a profit of $1.20 per bottle. A bag of Doritos will cost me $0.60, which I sell for $1.50 and make a profit of $0.90.

Thirty percent of my income goes to product storage, 10% is used to pay my five part-time employees. Another 10% goes to miscellaneous expenses, and my net profit is 50%.

6. As your business grows, share your knowledge with others.

In the future, I want to expand to other states, grow my team, and eventually open my own vending machine warehouse.

In 2020, I started offering an online course on how to start a vending machine business and wrote an eBook based on the course. I’ve made $90,000 so far since these digital products. Next year I’m launching a one-on-one coaching and counseling program.

Joyner Vending has changed my life, not only for me, but also for my family. My favorite thing is that I have become an expert in the field and can share my knowledge with other people.

Marcus Gram is the founder and owner of Joyner Distributor.

Watch the video: This 31-year-old man makes $300,000 from his vending machine business. here’s how

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