Black entrepreneur Crystal Warren is helping others find their place in the vending machine business, a career that started as her side job.
A former full-time teacher, Warren started a side hustle operating a vending-machine business in 2016. Her first vending machine was a gamble; she bought one for $650 out of her then-available balance of $1,000, and it was placed inside a day care. Little did she know that her automatic-snack machine was valued at $1,250 and she would profit $450 in her first three weeks.
“I was not expecting that,” she told Business Insider.
Her second vending machine, which she got for a discounted price of around $1,100, was placed inside a private school, and it made her $550 in four weeks.
Side Hustle Becomes Main Hustle
Since then the side hustle has become more lucrative than her teaching, surpassing her salary of $60,000 at her job, which she decided to quit in 2020.
Eventually, she would advance her vending machine ambitions once more, gradually transiting from being a vendor to helping vendors by creating Vending Factory, a company that helps others opening vending businesses. Warren sells vending machines and locations through the company.
In 2022, Business Insider reported that Vending Factory made more than $242,000 in sales.
“I got up to five vending machines and five locations, then I learned how to find vending-machine locations for other people,” Warren told Business Insider. “I sold all of my machines and locations for about $5,000 each. That’s when I was able to scale my business, because I was making way more finding locations for people than I was actually owning the vending machines myself.”
Warren would go into forums, like Craigslist, asking people interested in vending machines where they want them. She would find them setup locations and buy the vending machines herself.
She then sells the locations and machines for $5,000 and up.
How Vending Machines Can Be Profitable
The vending machine game has become more diverse. Take for example, hair salon owner Melanie Day in Lexington, Kentucky.
Her vending machines at HBCU Berea College sell Black hair care products, each item is priced at $15 or less, ABC News reported.
It can be a profitable business.
According to NerdWallet, the average vending machine earns $35 a week, but well-stocked vending machines in high-traffic locations can pull in over $400 a month.
According to Forbes, there are five major points in order for vending machines to be profitable: 1) Creating a theme around products; 2) Finding the right location; 3) Buying the right type of machines; 4) Knowing the consumers; and 5) Stocking the machine.