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"Fleshing out" the idea

I wondered, [i][color=#0000cd]Exactly which LEGO pieces would I sell in these capsules?[/color][/i]

The answer was obvious: [u]minifigs[/u]. Figs are among the most valuable LEGO parts. The cheapest, most common fig sells for $5 at these shows. Online Harry Potter, Star Wars, and the like sell for $10 to $20 per fig.

[url="http://www.BrickFair.com"]BrickFair[/url] already has vendors selling minifigures. One vendor has his own "build-a-fig" system, where kids pick the head, hair, torso and legs, and pay a flat rate. But my idea would be [i]different[/i] (there's that word again). With vending machines, I'd be selling [i]random[/i] figs. Kids wouldn't know what they'd get until... they got it. The [i]element of surprise[/i].

It's one of those ideas that grabs me, like a movie monster, sinks its teeth deep into my leg, and tosses me around. This idea just festered. I had to pursue it.

How to pack them? Whole figs? [color=#0000cd][i]No.[/i][/color] I couldn't do that. At $5 each, these machines couldn't handle the price. I would have to sell by the piece. This thought greatly discouraged me. It seemed it would limit the potential sales, or require too much refilling of machines. But a little bit of googling revealed that these machines could hold [i][b]hundreds[/b][/i] of capsules! Wow. So my brainstorming resumed...

I could set up 5 separate machines, each with small capsules:

[color=#006400]Machine 1) Hair or hat[/color]
[color=#006400]Machine [/color][color=#006400]2) Head (male or female)[/color]
[color=#006400]Machine [/color][color=#006400]3) Torso[/color]
[color=#006400]Machine [/color][color=#006400]4) Legs[/color]
[color=#006400]Machine [/color][color=#006400]5) Two utensils (frying pan, brush, gun)[/color]

All pieces would be random, of course.

Would the pieces fit inside the capsules? Would the pieces have too much space (ie: look cheap inside a huge capsule)? I had to test. So off to the grocery store I went. Bending one aging knee to the floor, I pumped a couple dollars worth of quarters into two machines, grabbing small and large capsules (which I hadn't touched nor looked at in decades - but they hadn't changed).

The small kids beside me were happy to take the crappy toys off my hands, leaving me with my valuable empty test capsules.

Back home I loaded the smaller capsules with individual parts. The heads were too roomy, as was the hair. But the legs and torsos were great. And the utensils, ranging from tiny brushes to long brooms, would vary in fit. Overall, it was good. The sight of them nearly made my mouth water. [i][color=#0000cd]I wish I was a kid facing machines full of these things. What fun that would be![/color][/i] My imagination raced.

Would a child get a random male face (stubble) with female top (bikini/dress)? It could happen. I suppose he'd just pump in another couple quarters to try again. Not a bad deal for me.

But with each machine holding 500 to 700 capsules, I would need 500 (or more!) complete minifigs just to fill the machines [i]one time[/i]. Yikes. Where would I get these?

I would need to think on this some more.




The Idea

I own and operate BrickFair ([url="http://www.BrickFair.com"]www.BrickFair.com[/url]), an annual LEGO fan convention held each August in Virginia, just outside Washington DC.

Each year I try to add a little something new and fun for the public. I recently realized I had no such thing this year. I do have a long list of tasks, things to buy, things to build, web pages to create, and debug. But none of this will be noticed by the public; it's all to help me pack faster, ship more safely, etc. So I got to brainstorming. With the months ticking down, what could I whip together for the public that would be cute and fun and easy?

[u]Vending LEGO pieces from bulk toy machines.[/u]

[color=#0000cd][i]That sounds cute and fun![/i][/color] I thought. Although I prefer to add things that are free for the public (having already paid to enter the show), like last year's self-serve photo booth. But this would be cute and fun and different - and would cost mere quarters.

The idea stuck, and I couldn't shake the urge. I talked myself into it, depsite the hurdles and economic reality.

This blog will be my journey to creating my unique vending station. I hope others on Vendiscuss find it interesting, as everything in my plan is a bit [i]different[/i] from the norm. My business, my requirements, my vision, my expectations - none of them match anything else I've read. This should be, at the very least, [i]different[/i].

I will strive to update frequently, as my project does have a firm deadline - BrickFair is the first weekend of August. I hope I don't regret starting this blog so early. It would be safer to wait until real progress is made. If I change my mind, or simply fail, this blog will haunt me. But I expect to have fun with this. So I'm diving in. I hope someone decides to follow along.

More to come...




This Wasn't What I Planned for My Life

When I lost my job last summer, I knew it was coming. My whole company knew that 90% of us would lose our jobs about 2 years before it actually happened. Such is the life of corporate buyouts.

We originally purchased a vending route for me to have something to do while I was looking for a new job. Vending was not what I saw myself doing with my life. I was almost finished with my bachelor's degree in Organizational Management, had experience supervising over 60 people in a call center, and saw myself continuing to climb the corporate ladder.

Our plan was for me to find a good new job, and pass the vending over to my husband to work full or part time, depending on what he wanted to do with it. I admit, I was a bit of a snob. I didn't see vending as being able to support us in the lifestyle to which I wanted to become accustomed.

As it edged toward winter last year, I was starting to feel discouraged and embarrassed about the job situation. I went on interview after interview, never receiving an offer. Discouraged because it looked like the recession had hit this area hard; embarrassed because I was giving references to several of my former employees, watching them find jobs and not being able to do so myself. I found myself avoiding talking to people about their jobs, because the topic would eventually turn to my job situation.

In December, my husband lost his job unexpectedly. Instantly, vending went from being something to do on the side to something that we needed to support ourselves. My husband immediately took over the grunt work of the route, taking care of the manual side of things.

Finding this forum has been a lifesaver for us and our business. It has encouraged us to do what needs to be done to make this a profitable venture. It has also been a great place to meet and talk to other vendors. I have learned there is so much more to vending than putting stuff in a machine and pulling money out. Since the start of 2012, we have created a website, added a catalog to our business offerings, and expanded our business with several new locations. We are working on even more, and I am excited to see where this can take us.

My feelings on this industry and our business has had a 180 degree turn. I feel that I am not wasting my time on this business, and I am using some of my skills and business knowledge to make our company a success. When someone asks about what I'm doing now, I say with pride that my husband and I own our own business. And now, I can see myself doing this for the rest of my life.




Expanded our Route

This has been a great week for Reed Co Vending. We have picked up 4 confirmed locations this week and hopefully will close a fifth tomorrow.

If we were having to purchase these machines, I would be very scared about expanding this fast, but with our third party operator contract we have with Coke, they are providing the machines for us.

The catch is we have to purchase our product from Coca Cola, and at a slightly higher price point than being able to purchase them in bulk at Sam's Club. But Coke also provides service if the machine breaks down for any reason.

Seems like a great tradeoff to me. I'll keep you posted on how they do.




How I'm doing

I have posted very little about my business on this forum. Numbers and things. I've certainly talked a great deal about working it though. With the help of Andy and this forum, I am finally getting close to being cash flow positive. While I have made money all along, you just can never seem to get ahead. There is always something you need to purchase.

About August of last year I decided to try a different approach to my purchasing habits. I wasn't buying enough product to get any discounts. I started putting all my charges on a credit card (instead of my debit card) so I could order more and get the cheaper price. This is a zero % card until August of this year. Equipment and parts I still use my debit card. The discounts are about $1.50-2.00 per bag

I took a hard look at my gumball usage as well. I dropped my Sams membership and started ordering 1080 and 1430ct gumballs with my toy orders. Keep in mind I was driving 90 miles to the nearest Sams Club. The small amount I pay for shipping and the higher count gumballs more than offsets the fuel and membership fee's I used to pay.

Every time I'm out now I look for empty capsules around other machines. I also visualize if some things will fit inside capsules to go in my mixes. Just yesterday I purchased over 1000 toys for $4.75

If you watch your pennies, your dollars will take care of themselves. By doing these 3 things, I am getting really close to being in the black overall in my business. Hopefully by mid summer I will be there.

Thanks everyone for all your help!!





The Catalog is Finished!

Anyone who knows me know that when I go for something, I go all out. This can be the bane of my existence sometimes, but today.... TODAY.... it has paid off.

A lot of vendors make a big to-do about OCS. When I was researching getting into OCS, I thought back to my corporate days and how many different places we had to order from to get office supplies, coffee supplies, cleaning supplies, etc.

So I thought why stop at office coffee?

Now we have a full color catalog with almost 250 items to choose from. These will be provided to all of our current customers as a bonus for using Reed Co Vending.

While I have been slaving away for the last month on this catalog, making sure everything is perfect, my husband has been out getting interest building with our customers. Several of our accounts have expressed an interest in the catalog, and I can see it as a marketing tool for when we approach new locations.

It struck me about half way through creating this catalog, when I was out scouting for new locations. Most of the decision makers I spoke with didn't even know the name of their vending company. This is another way for our name to get out in our community and for us to diversify our income stream.

We just got the catalog back from the printers, and it is beautiful (if I do say so myself).

We've also updated our website to reflect the option for catalog ordering. While we are still small, we do not have online ordering, but we do have the form available to fill out and email to us. Eventually we will get to the place that online ordering will available. Baby steps.

Visit our website at [url="http://www.reedcovending.com"]www.reedcovending.com[/url] and tell me what you think!




New Website

This week I concentrated on building and polishing the brand-spankin'-new website [url="http://reedcovending.com"]reedcovending.com[/url]. And for building it myself, it's not so bad.

This step didn't make it into my list of things to do last week, but for some reason it stayed in the front of my mind until I finished it. That monster had been hanging over my head since I secured the domain back in August. I guess I was just scared of starting that project.

Now, the pretty, shiny new website is just waiting for some SEO assistance. And that is a scary thing that might also get pushed back. But in the meantime, I've established some Google Adwords and Facebook ads to hopefully generate traffic to my site. Who knows, it can't hurt, right?




Things to remember prior to a new installation

When it comes to obtaining a new location don't be tempted to install any old machine.
My preference is a fully glass fronted machine for maximum product exposure.
From my experience soda sales can be increased as much as 30% by using a glass fronted machine.
Bill acceptors are also a must to maximise sales.
Locations with high turnover deserve greater care & attention.
When the machines start looking jaded my advice is to rotate a newer tidier machine to that location.
Always, always, always pay the commission promised in full and on time with a smile.
Try to develop a concise website that isn't too text heavy.
Ours is www.vendingmachines.ie

vending services

vending services


Do you need locations ?

I can and will find you locations for youre snack / Beverage machines. I am experienced and know what im doing. If the location does not work out then I will be more than happy to replace it for you free of charge.

Im keeping this short and sweet because we will need to talk via phone to dicsuss the details. I am a people person and a very honest person that does not mind doing the leg work if im paid well.




Growing the business

This year we are focusing on growing our full line business. In an attempt to do so, here are the steps we are taking to acheive this goal:

1. Utilizing Manta.com to identify businesses in our area that has the employee count we want to target. We will be focusing on companies that have employee counts from 100 to 250. While it would be wonderful to go after businesses bigger than that, in this area, the largest competitor has a pretty strong hold on the larger companies. Five Star Vending, look out. We're coming after you soon.

2. Creating a "script" of a sort to make sure we have all our ducks in a row before calling the businesses identified in step 1. This script will identify common initial denials and reasons why a vending machine would not work in the business. Overcoming the initial denials will provide us a chance to show these companies that we can provide an excellent service to their employees.

3. Ordering used vending machines from one of several sources based on location needs, price and availability. Some of the sources we will be contacting are:

CraigsList - [url="http://knoxville.craigslist.org/"]http://knoxville.craigslist.org/[/url]
Vendors Exchange International - [url="http://www.veii.com/"]http://www.veii.com/[/url]
Betson Enterprises - [url="http://www.betson.com/"]http://www.betson.com/[/url]
A & M Vending Machine Sales - [url="http://www.amequipmentsales.com/"]http://www.amequipmentsales.com/[/url]
Automated Services International - [url="http://www.asiwebvend.com/"]http://www.asiwebvend.com/[/url]
Choice Equipment Sales - [url="http://store.choiceequipment.com/merchant2/"]http://store.choiceequipment.com/merchant2/[/url]
Ross Vending - [url="http://www.rossvendingsales.com/index.html"]http://www.rossvendingsales.com/index.html[/url]
Drops Vending - [url="http://www.dropsvending.com/"]http://www.dropsvending.com/[/url]

and any others that I can come across. The more sources I can access, the better my options and savings.

If anyone has any suggestions for script points or additional used vending machine purchases, feel free to post it in the comments section.




Starting the New Year Right

Most of you don't know this yet, but when I get started in something, I have to jump into it whole-heartedly. Hence, a blog on a forum that I joined just a few days ago.

But be that as it may, vending is something I take very seriously because it supports me, my husband, and my mother-in-law. Hopefully, it will soon support us in the style to which we would like to grow accustomed.

This blog will provide me the opportunity to share some of the failures, and hopefully some of the successes we acheive through Reed Co Vending.

We currently have 14 locations, all with combo machines on site. When we originally purchased an already established route, it had 10 locations all with mechanical machines. Since then, we have adjusted, moved around, and generally made a nuisance of ourselves trying to accomplish everything we can to make this business a success.

2012 is an exciting time for our business. We have identified some additional needs with our current customers, and hopefully will grow with new accounts in the near future.

Our goal is to have at least 30 locations offering drinks and snacks by the end of the year. That averages out to a little over one new location each month. January is already passed, and we found our newest location last week. Yay on meeting that goal.

But we have miles to go before we sleep.




VIKDR update

I am now rebuilding the expense portion of my app. I had a simple dated list for people to enter each item purchased, and decided that wasn't good enough. I have redesigned and rebuilt that portion of my database, making it more complex, (for me,) but more logical, flexible, and powerful, and just need to redesign the interface.

Records will now be entered as receipts. You will enter the supplier, all products/services supplied, taxes (if any), and shipping (if any).

You will have 2 views of your expenses. The receipt view, and the traditional list view, with filters and searches available.

You will now also be able to build your own database of suppliers. And from each supplier you will be able to access all the receipts associated with that supplier.

The Mage

The Mage


Route Building update

And after my first demo, I have made some changes to the route building portion of my software.

The updates are:
Locations are now filtered out of the drop down list, and the map, after they have been added to the route. (Still available for other routes.)
A map was added showing the locations in each route.
Buttons have been added to move locations up and down in the list.
Delete is now an icon, and verification before deleting has been added.

Here is a quick demo of the updates running in Chrome:


The Mage

The Mage


First VIKDR demo

Here is the first demo video for VIKDR.

It may be a little small here, so you might want to watch it at Youtube, at least medium size. I recommend playing it at 720p.


The Mage

The Mage


Brown A&A

In my quest to remove all my triples this is replacing an 1800 triple in a busy beach restaurant, too bad the owner will not allow toys or this would be a double. The owner wanted brown to match the trim in the restaurant. The front is covered in a prismatic tape I got at O'Riley's Auto Parts. And yeah this is one of them nasty melted skiitles and M&M machines that I post ed pics of a while back.




Paint Box

heres a picture of what I had described in a previous entry only spent about 20 minutes on it and it seem to work fine. Got a couple ideas for cheap paint booth's when I have more time and money. Frame would be 2x2's with vizquene (not sure of spelling) as the sheathing and 3 box fans would have a paint station and a drying shelf.




A&A Refurb Continued

Just got back to working out all these A&A's, gonna try to get at least 4 done a week. Already got enough locations for a dozen or so, some new locations some swapping out triples. These 3 are a darker red or what I like to call Alabama Crimson, they need another coat of paint then cleared. Got another 5 sanded and ready for priming.




Week of November 13, 2011

This was a slower week. I tried to take a little more time for the family and other (non-business related) critical matters and as a result didn't do much apart from servicing a few routes. No new placements to report as I did little to no legwork this week.

I did speak with the Coke rep and am all set up and ready to go - I just need to send them a list of locations. Unlike Pepsi which wanted to review every location and only provide newer bottle vendors Coke is willing to try any location I want and will do can or bottle vendors.




Week of November 6, 2011

Finally heard back from Pepsi this week. My machines are now on order and should arrive within 2-3 weeks. Once they get here Pepsi will deliver them to my office and I will be responsible for moving them on location. Metro Vending sent me several extra locations (15 total I think - our contract was for 10) though a few of them appear to be duds. I've also located a few spots myself for 3PO machines (I'm out of cash to buy my own machines at the moment). I'm looking forward to getting these soda machines set up and the $$$ rolling in. Also heard from Coke - my paperwork was approved and I'm having a sit-down with the sales rep this week to talk about ordering machines.

I've been working on placing more honor boxes and have had some moderate success targeting businesses where I already have candy machines. Some office-type locations where my candy machine does poorly appear to be doing much more volume with the snack box. I also hit up my local bank branch while making my deposit and got permission to place a box on the counter next to the teller stations.

At the owner's request I placed a Buzz-Bite machine in the trendy bar downtown. He wanted me to put chocolate covered espresso beans in my vendstar there but I doubt I can find them at a price to make a profit vending them at $0.25, so I offered him the Buzz-bites as an alternative way to keep his bouncers energized. Does anyone have any experience with energy chews in bars? It seems to me like a good location.

I have several places requesting snack machines but no machines to give them - and I'm out of cash to buy more. I told them there would be a wait and hopefully I can spring to purchase machines again in the near future. This week was my best week yet (in terms of gross revenue), though that isn't entirely unexpected as I collected on the soda machines and many honor boxes for the first time.




Week of October 30, 2011

I set up my first two soda machines this week (as discussed in previous posts). I don't think either of them are going to be top-performing locations but that's OK. My plan is to buy older used or refurb machines for slower locations and stock them with cans - then use my 3PO contracts with Coke and Pepsi for the better locations since they will supply newer and nicer looking equipment. The first machine I got is a single-price can machine - I placed it at an electrician office (10 employees on site, another 40 that come and go). The second is a Royal Vendors Merlin IV set to vend cans and energy drinks. This one I placed at a welding shop.

I placed several honor boxes this week and got approval to convert some of my mechanical snack machine accounts into honor box accounts. At this point I've visited nearly every honor box account and have started to collect on some. It's nice to have some positive cashflow from them finally as my bank account is really starting to run low. It looks like I may have to change my weekly Sam's Club run to twice-a-week simply so I can use the collections from the first half of the week to pay for the products needed for the second half I'll be visiting the last of the honor box accounts on this upcoming Monday.

A very busy week. Between running routes to first-time visit the honor boxes, running my regular routes in between, and doing inventory, stale sorting, and restocking of the honor boxes I've been putting in 16 hour days this week. Looking forward to slowing down a bit this upcoming week as once the initial inventory is complete on each box restocking them in the future should go much faster.

My goal for December? $8,000 gross. That's what I need to make to pay the bills. I'm hoping to hit $6k this month.




Week of October 23, 2011

Plodded along this week. Placed another honor box and hired a friend to place more for me at $20 each (he got one already).

Still waiting on the mover to move my new 4-wide snack machine and soda machine into place, that is supposed to happen this upcoming Monday.

I'm riding along with the previous owner visitng all the new honor box locations. It's taking longer than I hoped because the boxes take a while to fill (I have to sort through each box to remove the large number of stales the previous owner left behind, then enter the remaining items into my inventory system, and finally refill the box) and the prior owner can only spare a few hours every couple days. So far I've visited 70 accounts and there's another ~50 to go. I'm eager to finish visitng these so they can start generating revenue (part of the sale is that he's cleaning out the cash-box on each honor box as we visit it).

I'm purchasing a used bottle-vendor this upcoming Wednesday (assuming it checks out ok). The current owner is a vendor in a rural area ~200 miles away who lost his location and doesn't have room to store the machine. For the sale price of $500 he's willing to transport the machine to the location I have set up and help me wrestle it into place with his liftgate and appliance dolly.

Got my three bulk locations from Kickstart this past week. Though it took a little longer than I expected I was pleased with the quality locations. One is a chinese restaurant. The other is a phillsteak speciality sandwich-shop on the local university campus - when I brought in the machine the owner got excited and filled a bowl with jelly beans using a dollar's worth of quarters. He told me he was glad to have the machine so he didn't have to walk down to the restaurant a few doors down and buy from theirs. The last location is in a busy mall food-court. I'm a little worried about this one as there wasn't a lot of room for the machine (set it next to the counter but still in the common dining area next to the aisle) and I'm not sure the mall is going to approve of having the machine there. I'm planning on going by to check on it on Monday to see if its still there, but if it is (and they let it stay) it should do really well as this is likely one of busiest spot in our whole small city. I was able to place all three machines easily without trouble - many thanks to Kickstart.

Metro Vending sent me 5 more potential locations. I've only had time to check in on two of them so far. The first is an off-road auto-parts store. They have an old Pepsi machine out front that they are hauling off to allow room for my machine. The second is an assisted living center. They said I could place my machine if I got rid of their existing machines that were abandon by their previous vending company two years ago (they have been sitting empty). The abandon soda machine has cooling problems according to the staffpeople I spoke too, but apparently the snack machine works fine. The manager was out but I intend to ask her if I can drill the lock and start stocking the machine again for them. I'll put a 3rd party bottle vendor in place of their old can machine and hopefully trade it to my contact that works on machines as credit toward a refurbished one. The remaining three locations are an auto-parts shop, an auto service center, and a truck wash - all three are in a city an hour away that I won't be visiting until later this week.

I having trouble getting Coke to return my calls so I still don't know if my 3PO account is set up. Pepsi was rather responsive until last week and was working on getting my first few machines ready - though now I haven't heard from them in a week regarding final approvals. I'm hoping my machines have been ordered as I have locations waiting!




VIKDR moving along.

I have been updating on Facebook, but then I realized I should be updating here, for all my peeps. (I remember when they only sold peeps around Easter.)

I took time off, right before my wife's surgery. This was so I could help her out, and I have. Since she was unable to put any weight on her foot for 2 weeks, (and being all doped up on Percocet,) it was best if somebody was around to help her out with everything. (Don't want her to end up on one of those "fallen and can't get up" ads.) Anyway while I have been doing what I can, I have plenty of time between those bell rings. (Well if this was a 70's sitcom we would have gotten her one.) And have been stuck at home, so I spent a lot of that time working on getting VIKDR up and running.

While sometimes I feel like I will never get this thing done, I have made some decent progress on it. The one thing that keeps slowing me down is wanting to do things I don't know how to do yet. As an example I recently had to figured out how to format the products grid so they are displayed similar to how they will look in a machine, so if a person has a triple head, they get 3 products in a row. If they have a 5 way rack, it will show up 2 products over 3. And if a person has a machine with 5 over 5 over 5 over 10 over 10 over 5, (based on one full line image,) it still works. Or maybe a person needs a 10 by 10 grid.

I got this to work, but now I need to figure out how to move it to a better location on the page. (Not an HTML problem unfortunately.)

So far I have made plenty of progress on the Location manager, and the Machine manager. Products are pretty much ready, but not the associated inventory system. I have part of the Expense manager set up, but I am thinking of making a change to it. I am thinking of adding a pop up "receipt" to the columns, so you can fill in multiple purchases made at one time, along with shipping, tax, and tracking any mileage. Either way I will need to make sure it updates the inventory automatically.

Speaking of inventory, if dealing with bulk food items, you will need to decide on grams, or ounces for each bulk item, the dispensed measurement, and how much the containers hold. You will decide what containers you use, (anything you want really,) but if you use the bags the candy comes in, it should be fairly easy. 56 oz bag is 56 ounces. 2.04 kilo bag is 2,040 grams.

If you purchase in case's, or pallets, you can set up those sizes also.

Everything else should be sold by the unit. In those instances you simply put in the quantity. 1 bag of 27mm mixed superballs, 250. 10 bags, 2,500.

And now that I think of it, I should add a coffee product section for those who sell coffee. This would also need to be measured in bulk.

The Mage

The Mage


Week of October 16, 2011

Some success this week. I picked up my first full-line placement - and Electric company that wants a soda machine ~50 employees. I purchased a refurbished can machine and will be having it moved in sometime next week. Also placed an honor box there.

I'm working on replacing some of the older mechanical machines I've acquired - especially the ones still set at $0.50. The hotel account I gained at the end of last week has an ancient electrical machine (early 80s model). I purchased a refurbished 4-wide with a DBV to replace it and plan to move the old machine to a truck stop where it will replace a $0.50 mechanical.

One of the accounts I gained last week is a mechanical machine that sells out 2-3 times each week. I'm having to service it every other day and at the present rate it will do over $200 for the month. I'd love to replace this with a full-size machine but there's not much room and the manager made it real clear to me he doesn't want a machine any bigger than the small mechanical one. I've considered an honor box (or two) but apparently the previous route owner had trouble with a mentally handicapped employee methodically destroying all the snacks so I'm not certain that would work well.

I received 4 locations from Metro Vending, and Pepsi has approved 2 of these and declined 1 (waiting on an answer for the 4th). They should be providing me with another 7 locations this upcoming week.