We don't typically think of operating vending machines as a high tech business. But Todd and Seden Harrison, owners of The Smart Source Vending Company, have found that electronic monitoring devices attached to vending machines allow them to focus on better customer service and operating efficiency.
It has becoming a winning combination for the entrepreneurs as they grow a client list that already includes (Suwanee) and Lanier (Sugar Hill) high schools.
The Harrisons use remote monitoring on vending machines to gather intra-day data on sales and inventory. Each machine reports data to a central database, which allows the Harrisons to view and interpret the information via an Internet application. This helps them to know exactly how much inventory to pull from their warehouse when they restock the machines. The data also provide quick feedback on sales at the product SKU level so that the Harrisons can separate top sellers from those not generating enough sales.
The Harrisons, both having business backgrounds, were a natural fit for entrepreneurship. Todd Harrison has experience with distribution management and sales in the construction industry, and Seden Harrison has experience as a freight broker.
In 2009, Todd Harrison was in the market for a job, and the Harrisons saw an opportunity to start their own business. It was something they had always dreamed of doing. They began researching businesses and industries and were attracted to “healthy vending.” Using their knowledge of business and through meticulous research, the Harrisons determined they could start a vending business themselves without operating as franchisees. “We educated ourselves on the industry “ Todd Harrison said. “The remote monitoring for machines was attractive because it allows us to automate servicing and inventory management.”
The business name “Smart Source” came from the outsourcing model. They kept the name generic because they knew they might get into other lines of vending services such as water and coffee.
“Healthy Vending is a gray area” Seden Harrison admitted. “Baked potato chips vs regular, Granola bars vs Candy Bars. Depending on the who are, you may consider different levels of healthy from reduced calories to lower fat content.” Some typical healthy alternatives in a vending snack machine include Veggie Straws, Pirate's Booty (baked cheese balls), Pop Corners (baked corn, low calories), protein bars, and smart snacks (reduced calorie).
But the healthy choices have been tough to sell in the vending machines. End customers do not choose the healthier alternatives, at least not within the schools. So the Harrisons had to modify their original business plan to meet the preferences of the customers. “I would love to see the healthy vending take off more, but everyone makes their own choices.” says Seden.
Sales data shows the consumer prefers to make this point. The best selling snacks are Snickers, Sour Skittles, Flaming Hot Cheetos, and Bix Texas Cinamon Rolls. The best selling drinks are Coke, Diet Coke, and bottled water.
With a warehouse located in Suwanee, the Harrisons provide quick service to clients in the area. Their primary clients thus far have been local schools, but they are beginning to service more private businesses as well. They have already expanded their business to include servicing of coffee and coffee supplies.
Through their journey of entrepreneurship, Seden says they have learned “perserverence and to believe in yourself and don’t give up.” Todd describes his learning as “Put your head down and work. Do what’s right for the customer. Don’t cut corners.”
For more information find Smart Source Vending on the internet.