Startup Costs: Under $2,000
Home Based: Can be operated from home.
Part Time: Can be operated part-time.
Franchises Available? No
Online Operation? No
If you want a retail operation that you can run at just about any location, 24 hours a day, without having to be there yourself or hire a single employee, one that can service thousands of customers without complaining, getting aching feet or having to take a bathroom break, then vending machines could be the business for you. These days vending machines can take not only coins, but also paper money and credit cards, and pump out an astonishing variety of products. Via vending machine, you can sell everything from artwork to Internet access, imported cigars to CDs, popcorn, pantyhose, perfume, temporary tattoos, golf-club cleaning, and of course gumballs--and a whole lot more. You'll set up your machines wherever you determine the market for their products is best--at airports, college campuses, movie theaters, arcades, skate rinks, supermarkets, restaurants, offices, warehouses, factories, tourist venues and even at seemingly snooty locations like Bloomingdale's. Some locations like large corporations will allow your machines on-site for free because of the convenience to their employees, but most 'hosts' will require a small percentage of your sales as rent. The advantages to this business are that you can start part-time with minimal costs and you don't need to put in much time--a visit to each machine once a day to once a month (depending on how much it takes) is usually sufficient. All you really need is a good working knowledge of what types of vending machines are available and the reputations of their suppliers or manufacturers. You should also have enough mechanical aptitude to fix ailing machines without help or to be talked through a repair operation by a supplier's techie.
Who your customers are will depend on the products in your machines and their locations. Think about where you'll find people who'll want your goods, then case the site at different times over a two-week period to get a feel for traffic flow and customer demographics. Then approach suitable hosts about placing your machines on-site.
You'll need a few fix-it tools like screwdrivers and pliers and a car to take you on your rounds--and, of course, your machines. That's it!
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Every cloud has a silver lining. When other stores close shop, you can buy their products wholesale.