Six Years Later...
It's been a minute since I last wrote a blog entry. Six years if anyone is counting! Somewhere between getting pregnant and discovering instagram, I fell away from blogging. But in these Covid times where I rarely leave my house, I've been reflecting on life and my business, and I want write about what I have learned in 7+ years of creative vending.
Hands down the best thing about vending is its flexibility. Since starting my business in 2013 I have run The Venderia in a few different ways depending on what else I was juggling in life. Here's the evolution and a brief recap of what's been going on while this blog was dormant.
PHASE I. Happy Fool ~2013
I knew nothing about machines when I got started, as the previous posts on this blog illustrate! But it was fun. I was making lots of weird product. Money was coming in. And with only a few machines in operation & very few obligations (no kid, no house, no health insurance), I was able to just play around, reinvest my earnings in more machines, grow my fleet to 5 machines in less than a year and figure the business out slowly while working part-time at a bar & in a tax office. (By the way, H&R Block SUCKS.)
Me & my man at The Venderia launch party, Beulahland June 2013
PHASE II. Pregnant. Need Health Insurance. New Mom. Need Help. Tired. ~2014-2017
This was a rough time. Pregnancy meant I needed to be responsible and get health insurance, which meant I had to get a 'real' job. So I started working full-time as an administrative assistant in an accounting office. The job was pretty great as far as 9-5s go- easy workload, nice coworkers, good pay, pleasant commute, but I was strapped for time. I was able to do all my computer-based business work while on the clock (hell yeah!) but finding time to shop for products, develop products, package products and stock machines was a challenge. I hired help- a picker to scour the Bins for books, cds & VHS for me, and a high school student to do the packaging. During this time I developed very few new products myself, but I fine tuned my old designs to make them simpler to assemble. I also started relying more heavily on outside artists to supplement my inventory.
I did not try to expand my business at this time. Not only was I short on time, I didn't have a lot of money to reinvest in the business. Paying for daycare & a mortgage made my life more expensive, while relying on outside vendors for products and paying for labor made my business less profitable. This was a grueling few years, but in a lot of ways, the best. I learned so much about time management when I was a new mom, working full-time, and running The Venderia.
How I felt most of 2015-2018
PHASE III. Escape Plan ~2017-2018
My office job changed for the worst. My firm was acquired by a larger firm. I hated everything about the company except that you could work just 3 days a week and get full medical coverage. So I took out a bank loan to buy more machines. I expanded the empire. As I made more money from vending, I cut my hours at the office, first down to 4 days, then 3. Eventually, I was making enough that I didn't even need the company health insurance so I tried to drop down to just 2 hours a week. But no, they didn't go for that.
I lost my office job around the same time my assistant moved on to her own full-time self-employment (https://laurenmilesphoto.com/). I was in a weird place- not making enough money to do vending full-time, but my business required more time from me than most jobs would allow. With no assistant, I was back to doing all the work myself.
I took on a series of disastrous part-time jobs, got FIRED 3 times in a row and was really questioning my sanity when I went back to the Lucky Lab, the brewpub where I worked when I started The Venderia.
PHASE IV. Dream Scheme ~2018-2019
Life was good. I loved working at the Lucky Lab. It was such a nice change of pace to be working on my feet in a bar with music and cool people after so many years of working at on a computer in an office. Best of all, The Venderia was thriving.
I took out another loan to buy 8 machines from a guy liquidating his business & almost doubled my revenue in 2018. I was making all kinds of new products, getting featured in the media & adding locations monthly. I started wholesaling my products to other vending machine operators & helping them get started in creative vending. Everything was coming together.
When my daughter started kindergarten, I quit my job at the Lucky Lab. It was hard to balance her school schedule (7:45am -2:15pm) with shifts at the pub. And free from daycare expenses and with 20 machines in operation, I didn't even need to work another job anymore. I could FINALLY just focus on vending. I enrolled in a fantastic business development class and wrote a 5-year growth plan for The Venderia. I was so excited about 2020.
Fancy photo by Lauren Miles (best employee I've ever had)
for a talk I gave at Design Museum
PHASE V. Covid-19
Here we are. 2020 has been a helluva ride! The pandemic closed all my locations in March. My revenue plummeted to $0. I panicked. It took 5 months for me to get PUA. I tried out a bunch of new business ideas to stay afloat- online sales, yard parties, launched a piñata company. It was a whirlwind. Locations opened again, then closed again. Some of my locations went out of business. More might. Or they might reopen. Or both. I decided to stop worrying about anything or make any plans until we get through this Corona crisis.
I restarted my blog.