Often, when people think of starting a successful business, they envision high-profile clients signing big checks. But other aspiring entrepreneurs know it makes more sense to think in dollars and centsâ¦and weâre not talking about chump change, here. What weâre talking about is starting a lucrative vending machine business.
Vending machines are everywhere: hospitals, schools, office buildings, malls, and shopping centers. And each year, the vending machine industry brings in billions of dollars in revenue. The great news is you can get in on this profitable venture, whether you have previous business experience or youâre new to the game. All it takes is a little know-how, the right strategy, and one of the most critical pieces of the puzzle: financing.
In this post, weâll explore starting and financing your vending machine business. Weâll review the ins and outs of the industry, discuss two ways you can start your business, cover the benefits and drawbacks to vending machine businesses, and, of course, talk about how to get the financing you need. Read on to learn more and take the first steps towardÂ launching your successful vending business.
How Vending Machine Businesses Work
We all know how vending machines work from the consumer end of thing — if youâre hungry or thirsty, insert a dollar, some change, or even a credit or debit card to get an instant snack or beverage. Easy!
But, once the machine has your money, where does it go? Most of the money goes directly to the vending machine owner.
The vending machine owner enters into contracts with other businesses. These contracts include details like the commission that will be paid to the business owners in exchange for providing space for the machine.
Vending machines can be used almost anywhere, including but not limited to:
- Shopping Centers & Malls
- Apartment Complexes
After the machines have been installed, it is the responsibility of the vending machine owner to keep each machine stocked and in working order. Money made from the machines is used to purchase additional inventory, cover maintenance costs, expand the business, and pay business owners per the agreed-upon rate in the contract. After allÂ those expenses are covered, the remaining funds are profits for the vending machine owner.
Pros & Cons Of Vending Machine Businesses
While owning a vending machine business certainly has its benefits, there are some drawbacks to note as well. Letâs fully explore the pros and cons of owning your own vending machine business to help you evaluate whether itâs the right endeavor for you.
One of the best things about owning a vending machine business is the flexibility it provides. You donât have to always be on the clock making sure things are getting done. Simply monitor your machines (even easier when you have the ability to do so remotely) and refill stock or perform maintenance as needed. You donât have to worry about monitoring employees, keeping a watchful eye on your business 24/7, or devoting your entire life to your business. A vending machine business lets you bring in income while still allowing you to focus on family, hobbies, and other business ventures.
Lower Cost Than Other Businesses
Typically, when you start a new business, there are many expenses to consider. You have to find commercial space to rent, lease, or purchase. You have to hire employees. The list goes on. With a vending machine business, you can bypass many of these costs. Sure, you have to purchase your vending machines, keep inventory on hand, pay maintenance costs, and possibly hire an employee to restock your machines. But compared to other businesses, the vending machine business model has extremely low overhead.
Tried-and-True Business Model
In this business, youâre not bringing a risky new product to market that could possibly fail. Youâre not operating an overly complicated business that requires expertise and a business degree. Youâre using a tried-and-true business model that has been proven to work over decades. Of course, you do have to have a strategy, and you do have to sell yourself and your business to proprietors, but anyone can get started, no matter your previous experience.
Waiting For Profits
Even though the vending industry rakes in billions of dollars each year, youâre not going to become an overnight millionaire. In some cases, it could take a year or longer to begin seeing profit from your machines. Itâs important to go into the business with realistic expectations, a solid strategy, and plenty of patience.
Some Expenses Involved
Even though itâs less expensive to get into the vending machine market than other industries, there are some costs involved. To get started, you have to invest in at least one vending machine. An older, used machine may cost as low as $1,200. A new machine with all the bells and whistles might run you $10,000 or more. The more machines you plan to have, the more expensive it will be to get started.
Youâll also have operating costs, primarily inventory. You can save money by working with a vendor or even buying goods in bulk from big box stores, but this is an ongoing expense that requires capital.
If you plan to expand your business, you face additional costs. This includes hiring an employee or two to keep your machines stocked, purchasing a company vehicle to use for restocking, and upgrading or adding new machines.
While it is possible to start slowly using out-of-pocket funds, most new business owners will need a financial helping hand. This is where loans and other financial products come into play — something we will discuss in more detail a little later.
Two Ways To Start A Vending Machine Business
Does the idea of owning your own vending machine business still appeal to you? If so, itâs important to understand the two ways you can start your business: starting from scratch or buying a pre-existing business.
Option #1: Start From Scratch
The first option for starting your vending machine business is to start from scratch. This requires a little more work in the beginning because you have to scout locations and enter into contracts with other business owners.
Begin by traveling around your area to scout out the best locations for your machines. Strategic vending machine placement is critical to making your business a success. Vending machines should be placed in high-traffic areas where they will be most useful — for example, a coffee vending machine in an office building or a vending machine that dispenses detergent and fabric softener at the local laundromat.
Once locations have been scouted, youâll work out a contract with the business owner. This allows you to place your vending machines in their place of business at a cost — usually 10% to 20% of your gross sales.
After your locations are mapped out, itâs time to purchase your machines. Only take this step after you figure out locations and what type of machines best fulfill your needs.
Many vending machine business owners invest in machines equipped with credit card readers. Although this equipment is more expensive, these machines have advantages over traditional machines that only accept cash. One of the primary advantages, of course, is that youâll have access to more customers. Fewer people are carrying cash, so these systems allow them to purchase your merchandise with credit cards, debit cards, or their smartphones. According to Vending Market Watch, consumers spend 32% more when paying with a card versus paying with cash.
Not only is your potential for profits much higher, but these advanced machines come equipped with remote monitoring systems that allow you to keep track of sales, check your inventory, and monitor maintenance needs. This saves you the hassle of having to frequently visit each location in person and helps you ensure your machines are fully stocked and in working order from the comfort of your home or office.
The final step is to make sure that you always keep your machines stocked and well-maintained. If your machine is out of order or out of items, you wonât make money. Evaluate what products are selling well and what items are flopping to maximize your profits.
One last thing to note is that you should always understand the rules and regulations in your area. Laws surrounding vending machines vary by state, so do your research online or contact your local chamber of commerce to learn more about local regulations before diving headfirst into your business.
Option #2: Buy A Pre-Existing Business
The second option is to buy a pre-existing business. Instead of doing the initial setup work yourself, you take over an existing business that already has equipment and, in most cases, locations secured with contracts.
The obvious advantage is that this automatically gives you a more turn-key operation. A major drawback is that this is often the most expensive option. After all, you arenât just buying the equipment and inventory — youâre also taking over existing contracts.
If you choose this option, itâs best to have some business experience under your belt since you need to hit the ground running. Youâll also need to ensure you can secure the capital needed to purchase the business.
How To Finance Your Vending Machine Business
Whether youâre starting from the ground up or youâre in talks to purchase an existing business, thereâs one thing you need before you take the leap into entrepreneurship: money. Even if your business is already off the ground, youâre going to need additional capital to expand and boost your profits — capital that you can receive with a small business loan.
Starting A Vending Machine Business
Starting a vending machine business can be surprisingly low-cost. After all, you donât have to worry about paying for commercial space or utility bills. However, there are still startup costs associated with this type of business.
Some of the costs you may incur when starting your business include:
- Vending Management System
- Commercial vehicle used for restocking machines
Unfortunately, qualifying for traditional business financing options is difficult for startups. Many business loans, including those from banks, credit unions, and the Small Business Administration, have time in business and annual revenue requirements that you just wonât meet.
This doesnât mean youâre out of financing options. Instead, you can use a personal loan for business to cover startup costs.
With a personal loan for business, youâll use your personal credit score, income, and other information to prove your creditworthiness. Since this isnât a business loan, you donât have to worry about annual revenue, business credit score, or other requirements.
Recommended Option: LendingPoint Personal Loan
Through LendingPoint, you can receive up to $25,000 as quickly as the next business day. Interest rates are between 15.49% and 30%. Your loan is repaid twice a month over terms of 24 to 48 months.
One of the advantages of LendingPoint is that you donât need a perfect credit score to qualify. These personal loans are designed for fair-credit borrowers. To qualify, you must:
- Be at least 18 years old
- Have annual income of at least $20,000
- Have a verifiable bank account
- Have a personal credit score of at least 600
- Live in one of the 34 states where LendingPoint operates
Unsure if you qualify? Check out our list of the best free credit score sites to review your credit score. Then, head over to our LendingPoint review to learn more about receiving a personal loan.
Purchasing A Vending Machine Business
If youâve decided that purchasing an existing vending machine business is right for you, the next step is getting the capital you need to acquire the business. Unfortunately, if you donât already have an existing business, qualifying for a business loan can be difficult.
As a startup, you may qualify for startup loans or other types of business financing. Learn more about how to get a business acquisition loan.
However, personal loans used for business expenses are also an option. Just as we discussed above, you can use your personal information to qualify for financing to acquire an existing business.
Our previous recommendation, LendingPoint, can only provide up to $25,000. If you need more capital, consider Lending Club personal loans.
Recommended Option: Lending Club Personal Loans
Lending Club issues personal loans up to $40,000 to qualified borrowers. APRs range from 6.95% and 35.89% and are based on your credit score and history and the amount and term of your loan. There are no prepayment penalties. Repayment terms of up to 60 months are available.
To qualify for a Lending Club personal loan, you must:
- Be at least 18 years old
- Have a verifiable bank account
- Be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or live in the U.S. on a long-term visa
- Have a credit score of 600 or above
Ready to learn more? Check out our Lending Club personal loans review for more information.
As your business grows, youâll want to add more vending machines to your lineup. You may also have to replace broken or outdated machines to maximize revenues. Unfortunately, vending machines donât come cheap. While a used, basic model may cost just over $1,000, newer machines run several thousand dollars apiece. Though this seems like a big investment, you could easily increase your profits and see a big return with more expensive specialty machines or equipment that comes with credit card readers.
Another piece of equipment that may be critical to your business is a commercial vehicle. A van, car, or truck that is used to drive to your locations and restock or manage your machines may be something you consider purchasing as your business grows.
When it comes to buying equipment, thereâs one option that stands out from the rest: equipment financing. Just as the name suggests, this type of small business loan is used to purchase equipment, breaking down huge price tags into smaller, more manageable payments.
With equipment financing, you have two options: equipment loans and equipment leases. With a loan, youâll pay a down payment that is typically 10% to 20% of the cost of the equipment. Youâll take immediate possession of the equipment, and youâll pay your lender on a weekly or monthly basis over a set period of time. Once youâve fully repaid the loan (plus interest), the equipment belongs to you.
With a lease, youâll also pay a down payment and take possession of the equipment. However, your lease period will be for a shorter period of time — usually 2 to 3 years. Similar to loans, youâll make regularly scheduled payments to the lender. Once your lease is over, you can sign another lease for new equipment. Some lenders even allow you to pay the remaining balance at the end of your lease to take ownership of the equipment. Leasing may be a good option if you plan to upgrade equipment frequently. However, this could be the more expensive option over the long term.
Recommended Option: Lendio
If you need equipment financing, Lendio has options. This isnât a direct lender. Rather, it is a loan aggregator that connects you with its network of over 75 lenders. Whatâs great about Lendio is that you can compare offers from multiple lenders with just one application.
Lendio offers $5,000 to $5 million for the purchase of equipment. Terms are between 1 to 5 years with rates starting at 7.5%.
To qualify for equipment financing through Lendioâs network, you must have the following:
- A time in business of at least 12 months
- A credit score of 650 or above
- At least $50,000 in annual revenue
Credit scores below 650 may be accepted with proof of solid cash flow and revenue from the last 3 to 6 months.
Through Lendio, you can also apply for other types of financing including Small Business Administration loans, business credit cards, short-term loans, and lines of credit. Check out our Lendio review to learn more.
One of the few ongoing expenses youâll have in your vending machine business is inventory. Itâs your responsibility to keep your machines well-stocked at all times, so youâll need to have inventory on-hand to keep your machines full.
Sometimes, incoming cash flow has slowed or you may need more inventory than usual due to an increase in sales. Itâs not uncommon to fall a little short financially from time to time, but when this occurs, you can be prepared with a business credit card or a line of credit.
Business Credit Card
A business credit card works just like a personal credit card. The issuer of the card sets a limit. You can make multiple purchases up to and including the credit limit online, at retail stores or with vendors that accept credit cards. Each month, youâll make a payment that is applied toward your balance plus the interest charged by the lender. As you pay down your balance, funds will become available for you to use again.
Recommended Option: Chase Ink Unlimited
Chase Ink Business Unlimited
15.24% – 21.24%, Variable
If you want to go with a business credit card, Chase Ink Unlimited is available for borrowers with excellent credit.
The Chase Ink Unlimited card comes with a 0% introductory APR for 12 months. After the introductory period, the card has a variable interest rate of 15.24% to 21.24%. This card does not have an annual fee.
As a new Chase Ink Unlimited cardholder, youâll receive $500 cash back if you spend $3,000 within the first 3 months of opening your account. But the rewards donât stop there. Youâll receive unlimited 1.5% cash back for every business purchase.
To qualify, the recommended credit score is 740 to 850. Learn more by reading our Chase Ink Unlimited review.
Business Line Of Credit
A business line of credit is very similar to a credit cardÂ and can be a great option for purchasing inventory. A lender will set a credit limit based on your creditworthiness or the performance of your business. Instead of using a card, however, youâll initiate draws from your line of credit. Funds will then be transferred to your business bank account, usually within 1 to 3 business days. Lenders charge fees and/or interest on the portion of funds youâve borrowed. As you pay down your outstanding balance, funds become available to withdraw again.
Both credit cards and lines of credit provide you with on-demand funding, ideal for those times when you need to purchase inventory but come up a little short financially.
Recommended Option: Fundbox
Through Fundbox, you can receive a line of credit up to $100,000 to cover inventory and other business expenses.
Fundbox offers pricing thatâs easy to understand. With each draw, youâll pay a one-time fee. Fees start at just 4.66% of the amount drawn. If you repay early, all remaining fees are waived. Payments are made weekly and are spread out over 12 or 24 weeks.
Fundbox looks beyond your personal credit score during its approval process. The lender evaluates the performance of your business to determine whether you qualify for a line of credit.
Requirements to qualify for a Fundbox line of credit are minimal. You only need:
- A business based in the United States
- A business checking account
- At least $50,000 in annual revenue
- 2 months of activity in supported accounting software OR 3 months of business bank statements
To learn more and determine if this product is right for your business, check out our Fundbox review.
Starting your own vending machine business can be a very lucrative venture with the right strategy in place. This includes calculating the cost of owning and operating your business, doing your research, and getting the right financing.
Understand the potential expenses youâll encounter, read up on your local laws, then check out our Beginnerâs Guide to Small Business Loans to explore more financing options available to you.
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