Americans soaked up an average of 11 gallons of bottled water apiece in 1995--up from 10.4 gallons in 1994, according to the Beverage Marketing Corp. (see "Reader Resources" on pg. 78 for contact information). Water-vending machines offer an environmentally friendly start-up opportunity that can be run from home.
You can purchase a vending machine for between $3,000 and $6,000, depending on the water vended, from any manufacturer listed with the National Automatic Merchandising Association in Chicago (see "Reader Resources" on pg. 78 for contact information). Service for the machine is based on the condition of the water in the area and the machine's usage. A machine should net between $100 and $400 per month, depending on its location.
Look for a supermarket with no water-vending machine and at least 15 feet of shelf space featuring bottled water, which shows the product sells well in this location. Explain the advantages of a vending system--no ordering, no stocking, a larger profit margin--to the store manager, and offer a six-month pilot program, making it clear you will own the machine. The store gets 20 to 40 percent of gross sales and provides electricity, a drain, and a source of water from the public water system.
Jerry Soost, owner of Clear Choice, a Mankato, Minnesota, water-dispensing machine business, says, "To develop a market, offer free water to a super-market's customers for several weeks. Some will develop a taste for water with no organic matter and virtually no natural salts or other minerals, and will be willing to pay about 35 cents to a dollar per gallon for water from your dispenser."