Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi there, I’m Lakinya, Founder of iKrave Vending. My background is quite simple. I went to college in Tampa, FL, at USF (University of South Florida). Upon graduating, I moved back home and was a middle and high school teacher for four years. I decided to switch gears and land a more secure job with the State government. This is when I got the urge to find something on the side to do! I decided to start a vending machine business.
After about a year of running my own vending machine business and realizing the lack of consultants that specialize in vending machine operations, I created a series of online training courses geared toward helping others achieve success in vending services. My goal is to eliminate the obstacles, frustrations, and costly mistakes that prevent many from enjoying a profitable business and guide them toward financial security.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Wanting to earn more money, I researched many realistic things to get started, were affordable, and wouldn’t compromise my day job. I discovered vending in 2016. Vending wasn’t a popular topic at the time. I started to observe places that had vending machines, such as my workplace at the time. Many people had to wait in the waiting area to be serviced and people would continue to use the machine throughout the day. Each time I would go somewhere I would look to see if the location had a vending machine just to observe people’s interaction with the machine. People will always eat and drink, this is what validated vending for me. Therefore, I just decided one day to purchase some machines and go from there.
Of course, when starting something with no knowledge or guidance, you’re then forced to learn from your mistakes. I started with five used vending machines located at a large manufacturer that produces tile and a mechanic shop located in Downtown Miami. I sold these machines off with the location included after two years. I was able to sell the machines with the location for $2,000 more than what I initially paid for them.
After that, there was a time when I didn’t have any machines until I saw the groundbreaking in my local city of a new entertainment district. This center would be a movie theater, bowling alley, restaurants, and family entertainment with indoor amusements. I researched, found the project manager, and pitched my vending services, and just like that, I landed this great deal with eight machines.
Since this was a large investment up front, I partnered with a family member to help with the cost and allow him to maintain the location. This location consists of a lot of teenagers every weekend and families, of course, so it’s always packed with people. These machines generate on average $7K to $10K a month. With vending, it’s all about having the right location! The key is finding a location where there are always people.
I was able to document my process and utilize it to create online training courses for others who wanted to get into the vending machine business. The vending machine business is a billion-dollar industry, and many people have started to realize that this is a great opportunity to create a semi-passive income.
Before creating my online courses, I started with a step-by-step ebook. I wanted to give readers just enough information to see if this was something they would be interested in. After launching the ebook I wondered what was next. At this point, I decided I can have a couple of consultations a day. I discovered calendly and set it up to take paid calls from the many people on social media asking me how to get started.
I discovered that courses were an even better way to deliver information. I started to research how to develop courses and host them. I created my website on my own with WIX before hiring a professional marketing agency to create what is now my current website. The course structure was broken down into steps of how an individual can start up a vending machine business from the ground up.
Below is the first website that I created to sell my online courses;
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and developing the course.
The demand for people wanting help to get started with their own vending machine business increased tremendously. So I created packages to help others get started. I have three packages, starter, standard and ultimate.
The starter package includes a course about getting started in the vending machine business. A course on how to find a location with a location proposal and agreement template. I included a 30-day startup plan to help with goal setting while getting started. There is a document listing where to buy vending machines, including direct contact with distributors who build the machines in the U.S. and offers to finance to those who are looking to finance.
In addition, included is a document on how to price your product with over fifty product samples and where to purchase the product. There is a document also that links to vending requirements in all States and how to form a business in each State.
You must have patience when it comes to looking for a location because many people will say no. However, that does not mean the business can't work or won't work.
The standard package includes everything from the starter package, but it also includes a one-time one-on-one consultation. Most people like to have a conversation to put all these things in place.
Finally, the Ultimate package is the most popular because it just makes sense to go with this one. The Ultimate package includes everything from the Starter package, but it also includes additional courses on how to start a school supply vending machine business, beauty supply vending, and CBD vending.
It also includes location proposals and agreement templates for these specialty vending types. I assist with helping find a machine and offer 30 days of mentoring. During the 30 days, the individual has access to my calendar to book calls, and text and email support.
Today, we have successfully helped 100’s get started and placed machines in many different locations. Such as, schools, malls, apartment complexes, gyms, colleges, banks, amusement parks, barbershops, hair salons, laundromats, outlet shopping centers, assisted living facilities, manufacturers, construction sites, and many more. iKrave Vending is the Ultimate resource hub.
Describe the process of launching the vending machine business.
Transitioning to “helping others” I was getting many inquiries through social media- Instagram, to be more specific. So this is how I expose my business and the services I offer. I later began to participate in podcast interviews.
So the million-dollar question for everyone was- How to start a vending machine business?
When advising anyone about starting a vending machine business the first thing we want to focus on is a high foot traffic location. Vending machine prices do vary, depending on if you want a refurbished machine or a brand new one. Do you want it to have a credit card reader on it or not? Let’s say you want to sell beauty products from a machine. You can get a used snack machine and add a credit card reader to it for about $2,000.
When starting a business many people seek the “overnight” success ventures and the truth is, there is no such thing. There is indeed work to be done,
Now if you want to brand your machine with your logo or brand colors add $500 to that. If you want a brand-new machine with all the bells and whistles that will cost you about $5,000 including a credit card reader installed.
Knowing the prices of the machine up-front helps us calculate our investment price. Although we won't buy the machine first it is helpful to identify the price and where you will purchase your vending machine from. The most important aspect of this business is acquiring a high foot traffic location to place your vending machine. It’s no secret that acquiring a vending machine location can be the most challenging aspect of the business.
Here is where people will spend most of their time establishing your place in this business. Looking for a high foot traffic location isn't magic. It’s hard work to reach out to businesses offering them our machine in their place of business. These were the things that I was using my social media platform to start educating and gaining interest from those following.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
As technology advances and we as humans become more creative, the outlook on the vending machine business increases. Today, I have had the opportunity to collaborate with vending machine distributors, locating companies, and many others in the vending machine industry to help others get started. Being creative and giving individuals the hope for a piece of business ownership has certainly helped to attract clients.
Most people who own vending machines have 9 to 5’s to attract others to the business model. The great part about vending machines is that they can be maintained within just a few weekly hours. For example, to maintain five machines in two separate locations would take a total of about 2 to 3 hours. That’s traveling to the locations and stocking the machines.
Many business owners who may sell items or are in the beauty industry have leveraged their current business to generate more income with vending machines. Such as someone who has an online beauty supply store, can now sell some of the products in a physical location from the vending machine. Or providing college students with beauty products or even convenience items inside of the vending machines located in the dormitories.
Being able to help others be creative and incorporate vending machines into their lives is continuing to attract everyday people to the vending machine business.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Today, I have helped 100’s people get started in vending and maintain a monthly income of $10,000 from courses and mentorship. The outlook for vending is exciting for iKrave Vending. We will continue to primarily focus on helping others. However, we are looking to maneuver into specialty vending.
This is where you can generate massive opportunities in vending. My brother is an active fisherman and came up with the idea of placing live bait and tackle vending machines throughout Key West, Florida. This is something we are currently working on, of course finding a location is the most important part. Our goal is to focus on live bait and tackle vending machines in Key West and other prime fishing locations in South Florida.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Throughout my journey of entrepreneurship, I’ve learned that when starting a business you need a plan. Regardless of the type, you need to have some sort of plan in place so that you are working towards something concrete and not freelancing.
When starting a business many people seek the “overnight” success ventures and the truth is, there is no such thing. There is indeed work to be done, this is why I always let people know up front that when it comes to vending the most challenging part is finding a location.
One thing I have learned is that you will never know everything and there is always room for improvement.
You must have patience when it comes to looking for a location because many people will say no. However, that does not mean the business can't work or won't work. It means you need to keep offering your service and be patient, a location will eventually come.
One of the most important parts of forming a business is seeking mentorship. Yes, you can learn it on your own through trial and error but why not seek advice and guidance from someone who has already gone through it. Just like investing in a business to get started, mentorship is an investment as well.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Currently, I use a few different tools to carry out my business.
- First, my website is hosted by WordPress. I have managed to automate the entire process.
- I use Calendly to schedule my one-on-one consultations with people who are looking to enter the vending machine business.
- I offer free training which is powered by an easy webinar and most importantly I continue to keep in touch with my audience through Convertkit.
Social media is a super powerful tool. About 95% of the clients I work with find me on some social media outlet such as Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. Believe it or not, this is also a way to let businesses know that you have vending services available and to connect with them. When people are looking for something they usually go to Google or their preferred social media outlet and search for that service or product. This is why all business owners regardless of the business type should have some sort of social media presence.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
In today’s world, most people are now on social media or listening to podcasts. There are a few podcasts out there that help get the mind thinking. Such as The investor's podcast network. They discuss many types of ways to make money and interview those who are doing it well.
I learn so much from other people’s stories and take it to build my own. In the vending industry, there are groups on Facebook that I like to explore just to see what other people are experiencing in the industry. One thing I have learned is that you will never know everything and there is always room for improvement.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
The biggest mistake that I have seen new vending machine operators do is buying a machine before having a location. The first step is to secure a location first. You don't want to tie up your investment by having a vending machine sitting with no location. Another thing to consider is the type of products you sell in comparison to the location you are placing them.
Think about it when you go to the kid's section in a department store they have clothes for kids. When you go to the plus-size section they have clothing for plus size. Many skip the research part and learn the demographics once you obtain a location. What we sell is just as important as the location itself.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
One of the things I am always looking for to improve my business and reach more people is new marketing strategies. I struggle to find someone who is completely a Facebook Ads expert. I am looking to hire someone who can run Facebook Ads completely.
Where can we go to learn more?
If anyone is looking to connect with me I can be reached at
Email any questions to [email protected]
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