How I Started My $33,000 Ice Cream Vending Machine Business

  • Steve Slagle, 42, bought two ice cream vending machines in 2021 after seeing a gap in his local market.
  • Slagle, who lives in Florida, made over $30,000 in revenue in the first year.
  • He explained how he financed the machines and explained why finding a captive market was important.

This essay is based on a conversation with Steve Slagle, a 42-year-old entrepreneur from Panama City Beach, Florida, about ice cream vending machines. It has been edited for length and clarity. The insider verified earnings.

I bought two ice vending machines and started selling ice and water in February 2022, because a second source of income. From October, the vending machine brought in $33,000 in revenue.

I saw the demand for ice cream after working in the hotel and restaurant industry for almost a decade. In 2016, I bought a small restaurant and beach bar in Panama City Beach, Florida.

Beachgoers often stopped and asked if we sold ice cream. We started packing ice cream and selling it.

I sold the restaurant in 2019, but the demand for ice cream stayed with me

After selling the restaurant, I started a small construction business. The business was successful, but I couldn’t stop selling ice cream.

I no longer had a storefront in Panama Beach City, Florida, where I live, so I started researching ice cream vending machines.

I looked at the companies that made these machines, the products that existed, where the ice machine contractors set up their machines, and how people maintained them.

I noticed a gap in serving what I call the vacation market in my area. Outside of big-box grocery stores or convenience stores, there wasn’t much ice cream sales in Panama City Beach. Noticing this discrepancy convinced me to pursue the side hustle.

After four months of googling ice cream makers, I found a ice machine I wanted to buy in October 2021.

I have requested a sales call with the company to discuss my investment

I had six calls with the ice cream vending company before making the purchase. From my experience with the ice machines at my old restaurant, I knew they could have maintenance issues.

Three weeks after contacting Everest, the ice machine company, I purchased two vending machines in November 2021.

You first sign an “Intent to Purchase” contract. The two ice machines I purchased cost $50,000 each as they are the largest ice making models on Everest.

You then pay 50% of the cost of the machine as a down payment. The company then starts the production of the machine. You can fund the other 50% through a company called Leaf Financial that Everest works with; conditions vary depending on the creditworthiness and risk of the individual.

In total, I paid $50,000 from my savings from my construction company as a down payment for two machines. So far, I have been able to repay 50% of my loan. The machines should be fully paid for by August.

The machines were ready in February 2022 and we agreed dates and places of shipment. In early March, they were installed in two large condominium complexes in Panama City Beach.

I had built a relationship with the management of the resorts, as I had done construction work for them.

We put our machines in these complexes because they are booked on Airbnb and Vrbo. The resorts have a captive clientele of thousands of people each week who are often on vacation and heading to the beach.

Almost all the management of my vending machines can be done remotely

The machines sell precisely the amount of ice or water a customer buys. Customers can pick it up with our bags or their cooler.

I saw a return on my investment quickly. After about two months, the ice machines generated enough revenue to cover expenses and show a net profit.

At first, the profit was a few hundred dollars, but it increased as the business became more popular. Now the machines generate a monthly profit of $2,000-3,000.

Most people pay cash instead of a credit card. Summer is our peak season as a beach business in Florida. The machines brought in between $3,000 and $5,000 in revenue per month during those months. We collect money three times a week.

The machines have technology that allows me to manage them remotely. I can see how much money is in each device and if I need to pick it up. Fortunately, there have been no unforeseen costs yet.

I can log into my computer and see today’s sales, if there are any maintenance issues and if I need to add bags.

One of our machines works a little better than the other because it is in a larger condominium complex.

Ice machines are a side hustle that I comfortably handle on my own

When I create my weekly schedule, I schedule time to manage the ice machines. I spend two hours a week maintaining and cleaning the machines.

I live 15 minutes from the machines, but I might ask a friend to check them out if I’m on vacation and see something remotely that needs fixing.

I still have my construction business, and that’s my main income, but the ice machines are a recession-proof hustler. People will go to Florida beaches and they will always want ice cream.

I am considering buying two or even four more machines as I have received calls from several condominium complexes asking me to put our machines there.

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