Can you make money owning vending machines?

The Gumball Queen

by Sara San Angelo


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We've all seen them, standing like flashy sentinels in grocery stores, enticing children and adults alike with their rainbow assortment of candy and plastic capsules filled with toys and goodies. We pump quarters into them for a quick fix to quiet the tummy or an anxious child. Twenty-five cents is worth peace of mind in a busy store or laundry mat.

But what about the people behind the machines and the vast amount of quarters flowing through them everyday? Vending machines are a profitable, low-maintenance source of supplemental or regular income, depending on how involved you are willing to be.

A few years ago, I was looking for a way to supplement my income. I didn't have much time working 40 hours a week, so I wanted something that required minimal time and effort. What a pipe dream! I looked in the classifieds and saw an ad for vending machines. It gave me an idea. To my surprise, this is a multi-million dollar industry with hundreds of companies specializing in machines, candy and other products for use in the machines. And the prices were reasonable. The small machines could run as little as $200.

I also looked online and at wholesale outlets for candy prices. I found out I could fill the machine up for as little as $7 a head. This was starting to sound feasible.

Also, after some hands on research, speaking to business owners, I discovered that for a five to ten percent fee, the businesses rented out the space for the vending machines. Some didn't even want a fee as the machines were seen as a service to the customer.

I still didn't know how much profit I could be looking at, but considering everything I had learned, I decided to take a chance. I found a reputable company and gave them a call. For $195, I could have my own vending machine with a year warranty. The machine was double headed for two different products. I placed the order and it arrived five days later.

A small amount of assembly was required, but when I put it together, I was amazed. It was beautifully crafted. The machine itself weighed about 35 pounds empty and stood about three and a half feet tall.

So I was off to find a business to put my machine in. I decided the type of business would determine the kind of candy I bought. Boy, were there a lot of vending machines out there! A few businesses would let me put it next to existing machines, but I wanted someplace all to myself.

Then a friend of mine called and asked me out for drinks at a local pub. When I arrived, I looked around the small, crowned establishment and noticed something. No vending machine! I spoke to the manager and he agreed to let me bring in the machine. He wouldn't charge me for the space.

I rushed to the local wholesaler and bought peanuts and assorted candy. So for $24, I filled up the machine and brought it into the bar. In three weeks, it was empty enough to refill and extract the money. Quarters upon quarters filled the bottom. I went to the bank with my bag of change for the moment of truth. Eureka! The peanuts yielded $40 and the assorted candy brought in $35. Minus the cost of the products, I made a profit of $51. Not bad for three weeks of no work. The machine would pay for itself in several months.

I now have three machines in various establishments grossing $75-$100 a month each. My machines are making me an extra $200 a month with the very minimal work. My dad now calls me "The Gumball Queen."

Tips from "The Gumball Queen":

  • Always check your machine at least once every two weeks, depending on the traffic in the establishment.

  • Be sure to clean your machine before every refill.

  • While many vending candies have long shelf lives, some do not. Sample your products each time you check it to ensure freshness.

  • If you use chocolate, make sure your machine is in a cool environment. It will melt!

  • Some candies stick together. Online venders know what works best.

  • Make sure your machine is working properly each time you check it. Put a quarter in each head slot to ensure candy is dispensing.

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