While many of us are still in quarantine due to the pandemic that has taken the world by storm this past Spring and wondering what’s next, three childhood friends did not let this moment pass them by, and discovered how to utilize their time. Mansur White, Josiah Skeete, and Dion Braxton are all young Black men who decided to put their heads together and enter an entrepreneurial space that may seem uncommon in the Black community. Vending machines.
We had a chance to talk with the owners of The Vending Bros to discuss their start during the pandemic, their hustle and what’s next.
How did this idea come up?
We’ve been friends since childhood. As part of our transition into adulthood, we decided that we needed to start building and making money together, instead of only hanging out and spending money. The opportunity came about when a shop owner — someone that we knew, told us that they could use beverages for their customers and employees. Since we were already exploring group business ventures, we did some research and found that starting a vending machine business can be profitable. It also made sense for the shop. So we decided to take action.
Where was your first location and how did you secure that spot?
Our first location was a shop for small vendors located in our neighborhood of Hempstead, Long Island, but the first location that we secured apart from that was actually the bank where we opened our business account. While opening and going through the process we asked a representative if they were in need of our service. Sure enough, we were able to install a snack machine the following week.
It is interesting to see three Black young men come up with the idea of investing in a vending machine business. Is this a market that you have found other Black people in?
Initially no, but once we took our business to social media we found that there are quite a few other Black vending machine owners.
Who was it that instilled in you the power of ownership and entrepreneurship?
This answer varies for all of us. However, growing up where we came from, we saw a lot of our peers go down paths that left them dead or in jail. At the same time, we’ve seen our parents struggle, and have heard our coworkers complain about their lives because they hate the job that they work. We looked at each other and decided that we had to do things differently. Ownership and entrepreneurship allow us to live the lives that we dreamed of as kids.
What are the obstacles the company has faced while learning and executing the vision for The Vending Bros?
Coronavirus! We actually started our business during the pandemic. With so many businesses being closed, we weren’t able to reach out to them as fast as we’d like. We’re happy to see that things are opening up again.
What's one fact that people may not know about the vending machine business?
Although the idea of selling snacks and sodas sounds simple and easy, running a vending machine operation requires a lot of people skills, networking and marketing. Once you have those skills, you possess the ability to grow a million-dollar vending machine business!
What are your entrepreneurship goals for the future?
We’d like to continue to expand our business with more vending machines, products and services, and we’d like to eventually teach others the ropes so that they can see the benefits of ownership and entrepreneurship too. This is just a start — we plan to take our earnings from this venture and start another one when we see the time is right. As for now, we’re focused on leaving our mark on the vending machine industry.