Starting a business is a great way to become your own boss and take control of your income. But, it can be daunting if you’re not sure where to start. Luckily a vending machine business can be quick to start if you plan ahead. So, if you’re wondering how to start a vending machine business, we’ll help you set up for success. 

This guide will cover how to start a vending machine business, including: 

  • Gathering what you’ll need 
  • Setting up your business
  • Organising for your operations and finances 
  • Marketing to find clients 

Gathering what you’ll need for a vending machine business

Before you know how to start a vending machine business, you need to plan for success and gather all the tools you need. Then, with the right preparations, you can pursue your business with purpose. 

Market research 

If you want to succeed with and profit from your vending machines, you’ll need to conduct market research. Market research is just what it sounds like; it will help you understand the industry you plan to enter. With detailed research, you can understand the vending machine market, who’s involved with it, and its overall demand. You can also get an idea of competitors in your area and estimate your profitability. 

Part of your vending machine market research could be venue checks. First, you may want to see if there are a lot of potential locations in your area for vending machines. Then, if you can, steak these spots out to see if they have machines already and who you could contact. 

Your research can also help you understand what popular vending machines have in them to stock your machines attractively. On top of this, research who the average vending machine customer is to plan locations well and focus on the buyers that matter. 

Consider narrowing down your ideal customer to improve your sales. For example, you may want to put your machines in schools and universities and fill them with supplies that specifically appeal to students. Knowing who you sell to can help you make more from your business. 

Equipment and supplies 

Of course, you’ll need vending machines to get started, which you could rent, lease, or purchase depending on how much you want to spend. At first, you may want to invest in only a few machines and grow your numbers as you start to earn a profit. For example, you could rent five machines and aim to purchase ten in the next year. 

When choosing which machines to get for your business, consider what you want to sell and what might draw in customers. For example, modern machines may be more expensive, but they also offer desirable features like contactless payments and reliable functioning. On the other hand, you could save money and get cash only machines, but you’ll miss out on people who don’t carry cash. 

You’ll also need to purchase supplies. There are many vending machine suppliers, or you could choose to bulk buy and stock yourself. Typical machines with drinks and snacks are always reliable. But you may want to find a vending machine specialisation that helps you stand out. For example, you could fill your machines with supplies like cards or headphones, coffee, or healthy snacks. 

You can find vending machine options and suppliers at places Klix, Ventrade, or NVCS.

In addition to this, if you plan to transport and stock these machines yourself, you’ll likely need a vehicle or van to get from one location to the next.

Vending machine locations 

To start your vending machine business and earn money, you’ll need to find locations for them. The earnings from your vending machines will primarily come from the purchases people make at the machine. So, they’ll need to be well-placed where people see them when they need a quick snack or whatever you offer. Depending on where you place these machines, you may need to give the venue a percentage of the earnings or pay rent. 

Consider where your machines may perform best. For example, snacks and drinks may work well at university campuses or office buildings. If you scout out these locations, you can contact the building management and make a deal that you both benefit from. Before you place your machines, make a list of the best places to put them and look at venues in your area that are worth contacting.   

Business plan 

Once you know what you want your vending machine business to look like, put together a business plan that outlines the essentials. You can refer to this plan as you set up and show it to investors and loan providers if you seek funding. This plan will summarise the purpose and focus of your business. 

Your plan should include: 

  • Business purpose and objective
  • Market research 
  • Vending machine quotes and contents 
  • Ideal locations
  • Target customer 
  • Short term and long term business goals 
  • Startup costs

Lastly, consider your budget for starting your business. This budget can help you outline your business’s startup costs and operating expenses. With realistic earnings goals, you can ensure that you don’t spend too much on your business at the start.

Setting up your vending machine business

Once you have everything you need, knowing how to start a vending machine business requires setting that business up logistically. A few essential steps will help bring your business to life. 

Register your business 

First, register your business with the UK government as either a sole trader or a limited company. Sole traders have fewer taxes and regulations, but you’re personally liable for your business. On the other hand, limited companies have more taxes and regulations, but they’re a separate legal entity from the owner. 

Prepare for taxes 

As a business owner, you’ll need to manage and report your own taxes, including income tax, dividend tax, and national insurance. Plus, limited companies need to pay corporation tax. If you expect to turn over more than £85,000 annually, you’ll also need to register for VAT and comply with Making Tax Digital (MTD). MTD is a government initiative to digitise and simplify the tax filing process. 

Find insurance 

The right business insurance will protect you from financial risk. For example, public liability insurance will defend you against damage, injury, or loss that your business is found responsible for. You may also want to insure your vending machines to protect them from damage or loss. 

Organising your operations and finances 

Once you set everything up, knowing how to start a vending machine successfully requires excellent organisational skills, from daily operations to finances. 

Business management tools 

If you want to stay on top of your timetable, communications, and tasks, you may want to use a business management tool. Platforms like Google Workspace or Microsoft Office help you gather daily tasks into one place. You can appear professional to clients and suppliers by staying on top of your meetings and emails. Plus, with a designated business email, you’ll be more accessible and easier to contact. 

Managing payments 

Another key to good organisation is knowing how to manage payments well. When starting a vending machine business, you could limit your machines to cash-only. Cash-only payments will make it easier to manage your earnings, but it may reduce your sales as people often rely on credit cards. 

Luckily, many machines accept card or contactless payments today, which you can connect to your bank account. Still, if you take cash, set aside a time each week to cash out your machines while ensuring there’s enough change in them for customers to use larger bills. 

Bookkeeping 

To track your earnings, you’ll need to stay on top of when and what people purchase from your machines. To do this, focus on your bookkeeping and tracking the movement of your inventory. 

There are some tools you can use to manage inventory more efficiently than counting each machine yourself. For example, a tool like Vending Metrics can help you track the sales and inventory with compatible machines. 

Also, update your books and your business expenses, such as stocking, rent, and machine maintenance. You’ll need sufficient cash flow entering and exiting your business to cover the operating costs. Plus, knowing how much you earn and spend will help you maintain accurate accounts for your taxes and understand your business performance. 

Business current account 

Vending machines transactions may be more challenging to maintain than other businesses since there will likely be many small purchases. You’ll need to separate your business finances from your personal ones to manage these. 

To do this, open a business current account. This way, you won’t have to shift through personal transactions to find your business ones. It will help you track card purchases that customers make on the machines. Plus, you can use your business card to purchase necessary supplies and make payments. 

Accounting software 

Staying on top of your business finances can be a challenge for even the most seasoned business owner. That’s why you should invest in an accounting software that simplifies the process and saves you time, like Countingup. Trusted by 40,000 business owners, Countingup is an app that combines a business account with accounting software. 

Unlike most tools, Countingup gathers all of your business finances in one place, making them easier to manage. The Countingup app offers tools that make it easier for you to understand and organise your finances, including automatic expense categorisation, the receipt capture tool, and unlimited invoicing. 

Even more, the app generates tax estimates and ongoing cash flow insights. Ultimately, it will make your vending machine financial management straightforward and stress-free.  

Marketing your vending machine business to find clients 

Once you know how to start a vending machine business, you’ll need to market your machines to find locations and customers. 

Brand your business  

To make your vending machine business stand out, consider how you can develop a brand identity that people remember. Your brand is the tone and design that represents your business. For example, you may want to pick a colour scheme and design an appealing logo to put on the side of your machines. Consider looking at other vending machines businesses to see what you can do differently. 

Create a website

Next, create a website for your business to increase your accessibility. This website should outline your business’s purpose and services. Make sure your website has photos, contact information, and any social media handles. 

Also, think about who your website is for. For example, you may be marketing your business to property management to place your machines. Or you may want to rent your machines to private locations for a fee, such as events or parties. 

Network with the right people

To earn sales from your machines, you’ll need to be smart about placement and customer targeting. So, you’ll need to network with the right people to find these locations. You may want to use social media to find people that could agree to house your vending machines. For example, if you want to put them in office buildings, you could seek people on LinkedIn to build relationships that can lead you to property managers.

With the right approach to networking your business, you can sell yourself to people that can take on your machines. Be sure to write up a contract so these are legitimate agreements. Once you have your machines placed, you can start earning from them. 

Simplify your new business finances with Countingup

Financial management can be stressful and time-consuming when you start a small business. That’s why thousands of business owners use the Countingup app to make their financial admin easier. 

Countingup is the business current account with built-in accounting software that allows you to manage all your financial data in one place. With features like automatic expense categorisation, invoicing on the go, receipt capture tools, tax estimates, and cash flow insights, you can confidently keep on top of your business finances wherever you are. 

You can also share your bookkeeping with your accountant instantly without worrying about duplication errors, data lags or inaccuracies. Seamless, simple, and straightforward! 

Start your three-month free trial today. 

Find out more here.