Would you like to start a gumball vending machines business? In this complete guide, I’ll walk you through everything you need to run your own operation. At the end of the guide I’ll give you my verdict on whether or not this is a good business idea.

Owning a gumball vending machine business looks like a great way to start making some passive income quickly. There will always be a market for the candy machines as long as there are kids (and adults) who like sweet treats and bubble gum.

So let’s get right into it.

The basics

Before you do anything about starting a vending business in the United States, you need to get some basic questions answered. Like any business, there is some risk involved in running a gumball vending machines business. So before you commit to anything when it comes to candy machines, think about the following.

Is a gumball vending machines business for you?

It’s a sensible question. If it isn’t you could be facing years of trouble chasing a business that just won’t work for you. There is a lot of hard work in running an operation like this, so you need to think about:

  • Do you need to earn some extra money? This is not as straightforward as it sounds. You will have to work hard and invest both time and money into the business. If you really need to earn extra money, that’s fine. But your need has to be great enough to make the kind of sacrifices required
  • Do you know where you would place a machine? Have you spoken to local businesses that might like a machine inside or outside their premises? If you haven’t, would you be comfortable and confident enough o approach business people?
  • Have you got the time for basic maintenance of each machine you own?
  • Do you know what the costs are for the business and can you manage these (especially in the early days?)
  • Would your local area benefit from such a machine? Are there many around?

It’s important to take the next few steps very carefully. A well-planned business leads to good execution.

Find a supplier of gumball vending machines

Before you start launching into a huge list of suppliers, know that there may be a few duds in there. It took me some time to find a supplier I would trust with my money.

After looking at the various options online, I found a site called Gumball.com. I’m not an affiliate, so don’t worry. This is a genuine site I found that offers a good range of brand new commercial gumball machines and stock for the machines. It also has a handy set of resources too. 

It also has contact details and a guarantee. These two aspects are what I always look for first when choosing a candy vending machine supplier. The company is in California.

I’ve also taken a snippet from the site’s FAQ section to show how it calculates profit:

How much money will a gumball machine make?

Revenue varies from machine to machine. The success of your machine will be dependent upon one key factor: location. The higher the traffic area & the right kind of clientele for the product you’re vending, the more product you will sell. The products themselves have different rates of return. Gumballs will typically have the highest rate of return.

Example: one case of gumballs will make $220 in profit?

Here’s how…

– Buy one case of gumballs (1080 pieces) = $50 product cost

– Sell one case of gum or 1,080 pieces x 25 cents each = $270 revenue

– $270 revenue – $50 product cost = $220 Profit in your pocket

From Gumball.com

I’m not going to go into suppliers much more in this post, but suffice to say, when sourcing machines, due diligence is important. The best way to make sure you are buying from reputable suppliers is to contact them. 

Supplier list:

Candymachines.com

Gumball Machine Factory

Gumballs.com

Toy Vending Supplier (Europe)

The above suppliers seem to have a wide range of machines, including carousel gumball machines and other candy dispenser units. There are also giant gumball machines as well as classic machines that you will remember from your childhood.

Look at the foot traffic 

Unless you have a clear idea of the foot traffic in the area where you are planning to install your gumball vending machines, as a business owner you could be setting yourself up to fail. 

You could simply just hang around the area for a while and see how many people pass through. But there are other ways to do it.

I’ve pulled together a small list of sites that can help you zero in on the foot traffic and/or general demographics for your local area. Use these to start your search for a good place to set up shop with your machine.

Placer 

This site focuses on existing businesses (like stores etc.) so you can gain a good idea of which places are best for foot traffic.

Area Vibes 

Here you will find demographic data so you can take a look at the lifestyle of a local area. Good for a general view of the people in a place or zip code.

Location One

Plenty of information here. Some has to be paid for though, but probably one of the best and most detailed services.

Tips on finding locations

This is perhaps the most difficult part for some entrepreneurs. But you won’t get the best results unless you take a proactive approach to finding high traffic areas for your candy machines. 

So let’s get into it.

Now that you are committed to building a gumball machine business, it is important that you stay on the lookout for good locations. Foot traffic is key, but if you see a gumball machine somewhere, it may be worth thinking being somewhere near that location or place of business. It’s usually a good bet that people are used to buying candy from machines in that area.

There are some locations that I have found to be particularly effective for gumball machines. For example, you could investigate:

  • Shopping malls
  • Bowling alleys
  • Restaurants
  • Movie theaters 
  • Colleges
  • Coffee shops
  • Office buildings

As you can see, manufacturing is by far the most popular location.

Arranging to install

Tell the owner of any establishment you’re planning to set up in that you’ll completely service the gumball machine, bouncy balls machine or candy machine in their store when you set it up. 

Let them know that the machine doesn’t require electricity, takes up less than two square feet of floor space, and will provide great service to their customers. Plus, they get a cut of your sales (anywhere from 15% to 33%).

Create a written agreement describing your agreement with the location and offer a commission. You could offer the location manager a percentage of what the vending machine makes. It’s hard to tell how much money a machine will make until it’s operational.

iKrave Vending

By offering a percentage, you won’t lose all your earnings if your machine doesn’t work. Your written agreement has to be of high quality and it may be worth seeking some professional service provider to create this.

After setting up the first machine, find another location and repeat the process.

Choose what to vend

After taking care of all of the above, it’s now time to work out what you are going to fill your machines with. Later, you can even branch out into bouncy balls vending (they’re great fun) but focus on the candy first.

The most popular size for a gumball from a machine is one inch. This does mean that you will have to make sure that whatever machine you buy has a dispensing wheel on it for those 1-inch gumballs. Machines will come either with a gumball wheel or a candy dispensing wheel. You can sometimes even have both and change them when you need to.

When it comes to the one-inch gumballs inside the machine, you have a huge variety of choices available to you. A couple of pointers though. Don’t buy chocolate candy if your machine looks like it will be exposed to sunlight. This is a beginner mistake. 

Also, be aware that it may be a little while before you find the candy that sells well in the area you have chosen. Be ready to spend a bit on experimenting and testing your gumball vending machines. You can purchase bulk candy and it won’t be too expensive so you can test as much as you need to. Search around if you’re worried about cost for the lowest possible prices.

You can buy hard shell candies that will do well even in the harshest of sunlight, but just check with the supplier to make sure they can manage the heat just to be sure.

The break-even amount

Once you have the machine and location, as well as your bulk candy, it’s time to work out the costs involved and the break-even amount. 

Here are the numbers you’ll need:

  • A- The total cost of getting the candy to you (price of candy plus shipping).
  • B- Amounts accepted by your coin mechanism (.25, .50, others)
  • C- The number of pounds of candy you are getting 
  • D = The number of pieces of candy in a pound (found by searching Google)

Calculating the result:

  1. Take A and divide it by B. You will get the number of vends needed to break even = E
  2. Multiply C by D. Using this figure, find the total number of pieces in the candy box = F
  3. Take F and divide it by E. That’s the number of pieces per vend that will break even.

Toy capsule machines

As an additional idea, toy capsules are great fun. There are plenty of options out there for toy capsule machines that come in bright colors and really grab the attention of people passing by. It is well worth considering adding to your gumball machines business with some toy capsule machines as your business grows.

Gumball vending operator spotlight

Before I finish up, I thought I’d take a look at a couple of companies that offer machines and replacement parts.

Global Gumball

This company has been operating for a while (since 1993) and has a huge range of machines and replacement parts. I’ll let them introduce themselves:

We are, Global Gumball, inventor of the original Wizard spiral gumball machines. We have been manufacturing the original Wizard spiral machines since 1993 and are known worldwide for our quality and our professionalism. For years our company has lead the bulk vending industry with unique high quality products. Customers and partners have entrusted their businesses to our machines. All Wizards are manufactured and assembled in the USA.  Most of the components are produced in the USA.  Global Gumball obtains some components from only the best suppliers, such as, Beaver Vending and Oak Mfg.

Global Gumball website.

Rhino Supreme Bulk Vending Machines

Rhino has a huge range and plenty of support. They say:

See what makes our bulk vending machines the best in the industry. From metal sheet fabrication to metal alloy casting, from durable powder coating to elegant chrome finishes, we do it all.

Rhino website

So is a gumball vending machines business worth it?

Like all business ideas, good planning and discipline pay off. If you don’t choose a good location for your gumball vending machines, you only have yourself to blame. If the location is good and you look after the machine, it will make money.

It really is all down to location. I could place a $100 machine outside a car dealership and make $2 a week. Or, I could install one in a shopping mall and make $200 a week.

My advice? Test it. Buy one and research your location well. Then install it and wait and see. After a month, even if it’s made just $50 you’re breaking even after two months. Once you’re in profit, buy another.

They don’t go out of style, and they make money all year round.

Just remember. It’s all about location.

Want to know about setting up your own ice vending machine business? Head on over to this post right here.