188: Vending Machines: How Matt’s Passive Income Empire Started With Just $36

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Note: Click here to download Matt’s top vending machine business tips.

An automated sales force that deals with customers and collects money without you being there. That’s the dream, right?

Well, that’s what a vending machine does.

And although vending machines have been around for decades and I use them all the time, I never really gave much thought about how they worked from a business owner’s perspective.

Actually that’s not true. For a business plan competition in college, some friends and I wrote out an entire business plan for a line of health-food vending machines we wanted to place in gyms and fitness centers.

But in the 10+ years since then, I hadn’t really given it a second thought until I met Matt Miller from SchoolSpiritVending.com at Podcast Movement last month.

Matt is a former Air Force pilot who was looking into various side hustles to support his family after some salary cuts at work. After hustling and selling used books (among other things), he realized it really wasn’t sustainable and took up too much of his time.

That’s when he found a candy and gumball vending machine for sale on eBay for $36. The seller was local in Houston so he drove over with two of his kids and picked it up.

(Vending is a business idea that kids can get involved with early on, since they’re probably familiar with what inventory is popular!)

Filling it with candy from Sam’s Club, he knocked on doors of businesses until he found a home for it at a local karate studio. A couple weeks later, he went back and it was filled with quarters!

Since then, Matt has been expanding his silent non-salaried sales force in earnest, quit his job, and has been pulling in “passive income” from millions of sales–one quarter at a time.

Today he has machines in 2000 locations and has helped raise $4 million for education over the last 8 years.

Free PDF Download:

start a vending machine business

Click here to download Matt’s top vending machine business tips.

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  • How Matt’s vending machine business got its start for just $36.
  • How he found a place to “park” the machine.
  • Why “bulk vending” is more attractive for side hustlers, and the types of products with the best margins.
  • How much a typical machine will bring in each month.
  • How many machines Matt had in operation when he quit his job (hint: fewer than I imagined).
  • How Matt sources inventory and the time required to run the “route.”
  • Why he chose the franchise model to expand.
  • Matt’s #1 tip for Side Hustle Nation.


Free PDF Download:

Click here to download Matt’s top vending machine business tips.

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starting a vending machine business

Stock photo by Joe Belanger via Shutterstock; gumball machine image source

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7 thoughts on “188: Vending Machines: How Matt’s Passive Income Empire Started With Just $36”

  1. Looking forward to listening to this one, Nick.

    Many people don’t realize that one of the first “non-kid” businesses Warren Buffet started was buying used pin ball machines and placing them in barbershops and other places people waited and hung out in Omaha. Nickels added up to quite a bit over the years …

      • Nick,

        Yeah I believe running a paper route was one of his first actual jobs/small businesses. I recall reading how he filled out what passed as a Schedule C back then and made a business deduction for the use and maintenance of his bicycle ;-).

        But I think of that as a “kid” job becuase back in those days kids earning from a paper route or newspaper sales corner was very common.

        But buying a machine and letting the machine collect nickels. even when you were home in bed? Why, that’s almost like having a website LoL.

  2. I like how Matt put the twist on selling stickers in vending machines by getting them into schools. I tried some years back to get schools to sell select sterling silver jewelry (class of type), but didn’t get too far. His one minute sales pitch with the idea that his company will handle everything sure seems to be a unique selling proposition that is hard to beat.


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