How to Start a Vending Business

So you think you’d like to start a vending business. Do some soul searching and make sure you are the right type of person. Ask:

  • Are you an entrepreneur? This is someone who must assume all the risks of a business, but can also guarantee the benefits.
  • Are you self-motivated? There is no 8-to-5 in the vending business; you work until everything is done. On the other hand, there are days when the hours just fly. The really great thing about vending machines is they conform to your schedule: They can be installed just about anywhere, generate sales 24/7 and can be serviced most any time. But it’s up to you to make it happen.

Best ways to get started
The more information you can get about vending, the better off you will be.

  1. Contact NAMA, the National Automatic Merchandising Association, the trade association that handles issues involving the food and beverage vending industry. They have information on all aspects of the business, including education, health and safety, government affairs, NAMA-certified vending machines, publications, expos and careers. You can reach them at (312) 346-0370 or www.vending.org.
  2. Work for a vending company. You’ll find out if you like the business, and learn valuable shortcuts to installing and loading vending machines, buying product, inventory and accountability. Of course, you can learn all that on your own after starting a vending company, but it takes time.
  3. Check with (or find) appropriate business counsel:
  • Accountant – How best to run the paperwork for the best return – on profits, as well as taxes. Also ask if you should set up your company as a sole proprietorship, corporation or LLC.
  • Attorney – To set up your corporation and advise on any legal implications
  • Banker – Open new accounts solely for the business (don’t use your personal accounts)
  • State, county and federal governments – Any licenses, permits and other paperwork

Some people avoid all this; they just jump in, set up a couple locations, find out they like the business. . . and then have to go through all this. What a hassle. Do it right from the start and you’ll be able to focus your newfound excitement and energies on building your vending business.

A few words of wisdom
Buy the right brand of vending machine – this can make or break your company. Look under NAMA-certified vending machines and buy one of these. Call a vending company in your town and ask what brand of vending machines they use. If you have decided to buy a particular brand of machine, ask the vendor if he has heard of it or has any experience with it. There are only 5-7 brands that I would buy, personally. See my article: “What types of vending machines should I buy?”

Look at what Coke and Pepsi buy when you’re considering drink machines. They have more machines out than any vendors. Brand names are located on the left side of the door, on a manufacturer’s plate with brand name and model number. Make sure there is more than one company distributing the parts. If there is only one source and it goes out of business, the machine will no longer be useful to you when replacement parts aren’t available.

Watch out for “biz op” guys. These are the unscrupulous companies that try to rip you off by selling a vending franchise with substandard vending machines, bad accounts, and a franchise that is little more than name only. These companies last only a short period of time. They steal your money, bankrupt out and laugh all the way to the bank.

The people who stay in this business stay in it for life. Every day is different; you have new challenges and new ways of making money. I seldom see vendors retire, but if they do, they’re back to work in just a few weeks. Compared to running a vending business, golfing and fishing just aren’t enough.

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