- Quinn Miller, 28, quit his corporate sales job in July 2020 to grow his vending-machine business.
- Miller spends five hours a week managing the machines but works full-time scaling his operation.
- Here’s how he went from buying the first machine to making $30,000 a month, as told to Emily Courter.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Quinn Miller, a 28-year-old vending-machine entrepreneur from San Diego, California. Insider verified the revenue from his passive income streams. The following has been edited for length and clarity.
In spring 2020 I worked in software sales, making approximately a hundred cold calls a day. The job was fine, and I was being paid well, but something about the position didn’t sit right with me.
I didn’t love the corporate environment and wanted more than just to chase cold leads all day.
I read on Twitter about people making solid profits from vending-machine businesses
These tweets piqued my interest. It seemed like a low-risk investment — between the machine, the products for the vending machine, and other miscellaneous expenses, the total cost was under $2,000.
I bought my first machine online, filled it, and, thanks to a friend, secured a spot at a local mechanic’s shop in June 2020. My company, Blue Agave Vending, was born.
The first month brought in very little revenue. However, July was a much better month, bringing about $1,200 in revenue.
I was dissatisfied with the corporate experience and wanted to see where the vending-machine opportunity took me, so I quit my day job in July. I had money tucked away in savings and was confident I could scale this business.
With all my cold-calling experience from my corporate job, it was easy to transfer the skills to reach out to locations where I wanted to set up a vending machine. The ideal location is where people congregate, like a laundromat, hospital, or large apartment complex. You want somewhere hundreds of people pass every day.
Once I have a location secured, I just have to have a machine to put there, fill it with sodas or snacks, then let it sit and make me money.
I increased my revenue from $1,200 to $4,300 in 6 months, but it really took off when I started acquiring routes
By March 2021 I was making $4,300 in revenue from the vending machines I had.
In April I acquired a new route of vending machines — several machines already placed in successful locations along an easy distribution route — and business started to take off. That month I made $11,500.
I only keep a machine in a location if it’s making me at least $900 in revenue a month. I try out new products and location types all the time. Not every experiment is successful, but luckily the size of my operation prevents me from suffering financially if one or two don’t work out.
Two years into the business, I’ve made over 250,000 cold calls to companies in the San Diego area to try and land a deal to put a vending machine on their premises.
I’ve had to contend with inflation as a business owner during the COVID-19 pandemic
When I began this business endeavor, I was able to buy cans of soda for $0.33 per can.
These days it costs $0.55 per can, which cuts into my margins significantly. I have to make the difficult decision of whether to raise prices or take the hit to revenue.
My business has expanded rapidly, as I recently purchased an extensive, established route of vending machines. This acquisition increased the company from 33 machines at the start of April to 56 in May.
Despite inflation requiring price adjustments, I am still scaling my business and making a profit. I brought in around $30,000 in revenue from 56 machines in both March and April.
I only work about 5 hours a week on the mechanics of vending
Working out what needs to be restocked and how to get it there doesn’t take very long. I spend the rest of my time cold-calling businesses and looking for places to set up my next vending machine. Procuring locations takes up full-time hours.
I have hired two contractors who load the vending machines, so I don’t have to drive long hours to make sure the machines are well stocked and working.
I also work with a virtual assistant. My virtual assistant helps me with bookkeeping, data entry, building out my profit-and-loss sheet, and compiling a prepacking list for the vending-machine restocks. I can’t say enough good things about working with a good VA.
My advice to anyone interested in vending-machine entrepreneurship is to just go for it. It has a low buy-in rate at or below $2,000 for the full setup needed to start vending.
Try it out and see if it’s for you. If it’s not, you can always resell the machine to recoup most of your investment, so there’s minimal risk attached to giving it a shot.