The New Hot Side Hustle Is… Owning a Vending Machine? How This 31-Year-Old Used Them to Make $340,000 Last Year

The New Hot Side Hustle Is… Owning a Vending Machine? How This 31-Year-Old Used Them to Make $340,000 Last Year

Marcus Gram wanted to get into real estate, but couldn’t afford it because of his $30,000 salary. He invested in and restocked a refurbished vending machine instead. After some trial-and-error, Gram found his winning formula, and began to scale up; the 31-year-old now operates 25 vending machines across four states.

Growing up poor in upstate New York, Marcus Gram never imagined he could achieve financial independence . He just wanted to make enough money to give his son a better life.

“After graduating with a master’s degree, I struggled to find steady work in my field,” says the 31-year-old. “I kept getting laid off.” Gram eventually landed a steady job at an assisted living facility that paid $30,000 a year.

“On the outside, people thought I was doing well. In reality, I was broke and struggling to survive.”

As American households continue to grapple with inflation , some are turning to the sublet economy as a side hustle to make ends meet, renting out smaller assets such as cars, pools, bicycles, and even commercial appliances, such as vending machines. Gram began purchasing and leasing out vending machines as a side hustle while at his day job. After faltering initially, he found his rhythm, scaling the income stream into a full-blown business, Joyner Vending , that generated $340,000 of revenue in 2021 from 25 vending machines across four states.

Here’s how Gram got started in the very niche industry of vending machines — and how you can do the same to jumpstart your next passive income stream. When Setbacks Arise, Keep the Money Moving

To save money, Gram moved in with his mom. He also asked an uncle for career advice. The uncle introduced him to the real estate business, advised him on how to start, and suggested pairing up with someone who had experience in the industry. After scrimping and saving $10,000, Gram and a friend pooled their resources together to try their hand at landlord life in Philadelphia. The friend suggested Gram move to the city to increase his chances of success.

“It was a tough decision, because I was afraid of losing my steady paycheck, but I figured it was less risky to bet on myself than work at a job I could lose at any time for any reason,” he says. Gram found a new full-time job in Philadelphia and worked on his real estate aspirations as a potential side hustle.

Unfortunately, inexpensive real estate deals in Philadelphia were too few and far between. Gram needed more money to play the real estate game, so his friend tipped him off to an unexpected source of extra income: vending machines.

The business partner revealed that he owned snack food and soft drink vending machines that were generating thousands of dollars a month, so he showed Gram the ropes and helped him get started. Gram enrolled in an online course to learn about the industry, built a website , purchased polo shirts and hats branded with his logo, and ordered a few boxes of business cards. Take Action, Even When Things Don’t Go According to Plan

Despite the mentorship and information from the online class, Gram struggled at first. “It took a few months before I finally landed my first client,” says Gram. He eventually convinced a law firm to allow him to place two machines in their office. He spent approximately $5,000 to purchase two refurbished vending machines and stock them with snack foods and soft drinks purchased from Costco.

The location turned out to be a lemon: the machines made just $60 after operating for five months.

“I was so excited to find my first client and start making money that I didn’t do a proper site assessment to determine if the office had sufficient foot traffic,” says Gram. After learning from his mistakes, Gram canceled the contract at the law firm and moved the machines to another location with better foot traffic. The pivot was lucrative; the machines returned an average of $1,500 a month in revenue in their first three months. Vending Machines: Boring and Reliable with Little Competition

According to a market research report titled Vending Machine Operators Industry in the USA published by IBISWorld last May, the industry has a market size of approximately $10 billion. However, the industry is largely fragmented, with the top four operators accounting for only 3.2% of total industry revenue.

Gram says that anyone can buy a refurbished vending machine for as little as $2,000 to $3,500, and that the key to growing a […]

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