How I started my Ice Vending Machine Business that Made $33,000
- Steve Slagle, 42 years old, purchased two ice machines after spotting a need in his local marketplace.
- Slagle, a Florida resident, earned over $30,000 in the first year.
- He explained how he paid for the machines and why a captive market is so important.
This is the as-told-to essay. It is based upon a conversation with Steve Slagle a 42 year-old entrepreneur from Panama City Beach. The conversation was about ice vending machine. It has been edited to improve clarity and length. Insider has verified revenue.
After nearly a decade in hospitality and restaurants, I was able to see the demand for ice. I purchased a small restaurant and bar at the Panama City Beach beach in Florida in 2016.
Many beachgoers would stop by and ask if our company sold ice. We began packaging ice and selling it.
I sold the restaurant in 2019 but the demand for Ice Ice Cream remained.
After selling the restaurant I started a small construction business. Although the company was a success, I couldn’t resist the idea of selling ice.
I had lost my Panama Beach City storefront and moved to Florida. So I began looking into ice vending machines.
I researched the machines and the products they were made, as well as the places where entrepreneurs started ice-machine businesses, and the people who maintained them.
I noticed a need to serve what I call the “vacation market” in my area. There wasn’t much ice vending in Panama City Beach, except for the convenience stores and big-box grocery stores. This gap inspired me to start the side hustle.
After searching for ice vending on Google for four months, I found this. ice machineI wanted to purchase in October 2021.
I requested a meeting with the company to discuss investment.
Before finalizing the purchase deal, I made six calls to the ice-vending company. I knew from experience with ice-vending machines at my old restaurant, that they could have maintenance problems.
I purchased two vending machines in November 2021, three weeks after I contacted Everest, the ice machine company.
First, you sign an “intent purchase” contract. I bought two ice machines from Everest for $50,000 each.
The down payment is 50% of the machine price. The machine is then manufactured by the company. The remaining 50% can be financed through Leaf Financial, Everest’s financial partner. Terms vary depending on creditworthiness and risk.
I used $50,000 of savings I had in my construction business to pay the down payment for two machines. I have so far been able pay off 50% of my loan. The machines should be paid off completely by August.
The machines were ready in February 2022. We set up shipping dates and locations. Two large condominium complexes in Panama City Beach had the machines installed by March 1.
I had worked for them in construction and had established a rapport with them.
These complexes are often booked through Vrbo and Airbnb. We placed our machines there. The complexes have a captive customer pool of thousands of people who visit the complexes each week and are often on vacation to the beach.
Virtually all of my vending machine management can be done remotely
The machines can only take the exact amount of water or ice that customers have purchased. Customers can bring their cooler or our bags to collect the ice and water.
I saw a rapid return on my investment. After two months, the ice machine generated enough revenue to cover the expenses. It also showed a bottom-line profit.
The first profit was just a few hundred dollars. But it grew as the business became more popular. The machines now generate a monthly profit between $2,000 and $3,000.
People prefer to pay cash, rather than with a credit card. The summer is our busiest season for a Florida seaside business. These machines earned between $3,000- $5,000 per month in revenue. We collect money three times per week.
I can remotely manage the machines thanks to their technology. I can see how much cash I have in each device and whether it is possible to collect it. There have been no unexpected costs so far.
I can log into my computer to view the sales for the day, check for maintenance issues, and add bags.
Because it is located in a larger condominium complex, one of our machines performs better than the other.
I manage my side hustle by running ice machines.
I plan to manage the ice machines when I create my weekly calendar. I spend two hours per week cleaning and maintaining the machines.
I live just 15 minutes from them, but a friend could check on them if they aren’t available or if I’m away and see something that needs to be addressed remotely.
My construction company continues to be my main income. But the ice machines are a recession-proof side business. People will travel to Florida’s beaches and always want ice.
I am considering purchasing two or four more machines as I have received calls from other condominium complexes asking me if I would like to place our machines there.
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