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How to Start a Vending Machine Business

Owning and Operating a Vending Machine Business: The Basics

Welcome! Interested in starting a vending machine business? Great decision! According to Forbes Magazine, operating a vending route is one of the easiest businesses to start. And, the best part, this virtually recession-proof business has the potential to earn a return on investment the instant you set up your first vending machine.

Since 1993, Gumballs.com has supplied vending route operators nationwide with vending machines and supplies. Before diving in, thinking through a few basics will help you build a strong foundation for vending business success. Read on for some more tips from Gumballs.com on what works to get your vending business up and running! Customers frequently ask us, "What do I need to do to start my own vending business?" If you are just starting out, we hope this resource can answer most of your questions, while providing you with some helpful tips and tricks from industry veterans. We will be adding content on a regular basis, so check back often. The topics below without links are articles that are coming soon. And, we want to hear from you! If there is a topic you would like to see covered, please let us know!

Steps to Starting a Vending Machine Business

  1. Decide if Vending is Right For You
  2. Do Your Homework
  3. Find & Secure Vending Locations
  4. Target Your Vending Customers and Decide What you Want to Vend
  5. Choose the Right Vending Machines, Equipment & Supplies
  6. Service & Maintain Your Vending Machines
  7. Start Small With Vending

1. Decide if Vending is Right For You

Before making any purchases, consider if you have what it takes to operate a vending machine or business; here are some things to consider:

  • Do you want to make some extra money on the side?
  • How will you locate placements for your machine? Are you observant to notice trafficked areas and comfortable asking managers for permission to place your machines?
  • Can you dedicate a few minutes per machine for regular service?
  • Can you balance the costs of the business in addition to tending and filling the machines?
  • Do you know what the customers in your area like??
  • .If you can locate good places for your machines, know your customers, and have the wherewithal to tend machines and business, vending might be a good choice for you

2. Do Your Homework

Before setting up your vending machines, determine the cost of business and analyze the location. Some things to consider:

  • Find a reputable supplier of commercial quality vending machines (like Gumballs.com!).
  • How many potential customers might purchase an item from the vending machine? If your vending machine is in a public location, observe the foot traffic. If your vending machine is placed in break room, know the number of employees that will have access to the machine.
  • Determine your cost of business by adding together all the overhead costs, including the cost of the vending equipment, vending supplies, transportation (vehicle and fuel), etc. How much will you need to price your vending items to turn a profit? Remember that vending machines are a one-time cost and that the vending machines will need to be up and running for some time before realizing a profit.
  • Numbers will fluctuate depending on if you purchase cases of gumballs, bulk candy or toy capsules, etc., in bulk where you might get a discounted rate OR if you decide to sell a product that costs more. The beauty of a vending business is that it can be tweaked along the way to see what works and what doesn’t, while maximizing your profits. 
  • For a helpful formula to calculate break-even candy vends, refer to the formula at the bottom of the page here FAQ

3. Find & Secure Vending Locations

  • From now on, wherever you go, keep your eyes peeled for busy locations. Any location with a lot of foot traffic is a good location for a vending machine.
  • Approach the location owner and propose to set up your gumball machine, candy machine or other vending machine within their store, explaining to them that you will completely service the machine yourself. Let them know that the machine takes up less than two square feet of floor space, does not need any electricity, and will provide their customers with a great service. Best of all, they will earn a percentage of the gross sales (anywhere from 15% to 33%, its up to you).
  • Set up your machine and start making money! Once you set up the first machine, find another location and start the entire process over again.
  • .We firmly believe that the best way to secure quality locations is to do it yourself. If, however, you wish to use locating services, there are a number of locating companies that you can contact and hire independently. Gumballs.com does not promote, sell, or endorse locating services of any kind.
  • Certain types of businesses have repeatedly been successful locations. These include laundromats, restaurants, skating rinks, bowling alleys, shopping malls, Boys and Girls Clubs, high schools, movie theaters, colleges, markets, coffee shops, banks, automotive centers, taverns, and apartment complexes. Some surprisingly successful locations that we have come across include auction facilities, airports, casinos, bingo halls and horseback riding facilities. Remember, any place with steady foot traffic is a good location for a vending machine. Always keep your eyes peeled for more obscure locations that could prove to be really favorable.

4. Target Your Vending Customers and Decide What you Want to Vend

Once your locations are secured, place machines and vending products that appeal to the customer.

  • Vending temporary tattoos, stickers or toy capsules filled with items that are currently “hot” with kids and teens are great in areas that attract a young crowd. Gumballs.com offers the latest vending supplies targeted toward the younger population including bouncy balls, toy capsules, tattoos, stickers, gumballs, bulk candy and more.
  • If the location attracts older individuals, a soda and snack machine (just be sure you have access to an electrical outlet) is a great choice, or stock your vending machines with bulk chiclet gum, mints or nuts.
  • If placing your vending machine in a break room, ask your business contact what type of snacks and soft drinks the employees would like.
  • Before setting up any vending machines, be sure that you have adequate space for your machine as well access to an electrical outlet (if needed).
  • Remember that as the owner of your vending machines, you are responsible for keeping them filled and working properly.
  • Gumballs.com Tip! If your machines do not have bill acceptors, be sure that potential customers have a convenient way to get change. Gumballs.com offers a huge selection of the highest quality change machines!
  • Gumballs.com Tip!Note your key code in a secure location in case you ever lose the key and need to replace it.
  • Consider the demographic characteristics of those who are in the vicinity of the machine?
  • Are you in an area with a lot of playful children? children needing a reward or motivation? hungry children? hungry focused adults? certain ethnic groups with penchants for certain motifs?
  • The needs of the demographic may point to specific toys, gumballs, chocolate or other candies.
  • Gumballs.com Tip! Vending operators repeatedly say that certain types of items do well in certain geographic areas.

5. Choose the Right Vending Machines, Equipment & Supplies

What machine should I choose? How do I find a location? What product should I vend? Below you will find information that will help you as you build your vending route and establish your business. For more information on any of the topics below, simply click on the link:

6. Service & Maintain Your Vending Machines

Your vending route is only as strong as your machines, so servicing and maintaining the vending machines in your route is essential. There are many different types of vending machines on the market, but the topics covered below should apply to most vending machines.

7. Start Small with Vending

Once you’ve secured some locations, it’s time to purchase the machines and get them up and running! New to the vending business? Try starting with smaller machines that require a minimal upfront investment, such as gumball machines or triple-head candy machines. Maintenance on these machines is minimal when checked on a regular basis. Plus, no electrical hook-up is required.

Gumball and candy machines are small, but they offer mighty profit margins. Here's a basic breakdown (prices subject to change):

  • Purchase one gumball machine with a stand and a case of 850 assorted one-inch gumballs for a total first-time investment of around $190.98, plus shipping ($139.26 for a basic gumball vending machine with a stand and 44.12 for one case of Zed 1” assorted gumballs).
  • Assuming your gumball machine is equipped with a $0.25 coin mechanism, you will make $212.50 once all 850 gumballs are sold. The initial profit before shipping costs is $21.52. If you have a $0.50 coin mechanism on your gumball machine, you will make $425.00 once all the gumballs are sold, which increases your profit to $234.02!
  • As you continue, the profit margin will grow because now that you own the vending machines, you only need product to fill them. If you purchase another case of 850 assorted one-inch gumballs (starting at $39.99 plus shipping at Gumballs.com) and place them in gumball machines with $0.25 coin mechanisms, your profit once all 850 gumballs are sold increases to $168.38!
  • Gumballs.com Tip! If purchasing more than one gumball or candy machine of the same type, ask to have them keyed the same so one key can open all of your machines. Most gumball machines come with one key for each lock, so if multiple machines are keyed the same, you will have extra keys in case you lose one.

The above are just a few pointers to help get you started. Gumballs.com offers the most competitive prices on vending machines and vending supplies including gumballs, bulk candy, toy capsules, bouncy balls, stickers, temporary tattoos, mints and chocolate-covered espresso beans. Gumball Machines are a great business in that you can start with one machine and use the profits from that first case of gumballs to roll back into the business and it will pay for itself as you grow the number of vending locations that you offer.

Please also see our Blog & Articles and our Vending Business FAQs

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