6 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. 

The climb

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.   


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