School Spirit Vending A lucrative franchise opportunity

Notes Section

In the video we chat with Mat Miller owner of School Spirit Vending. He talks to us about how he turned a side venture into a thriving business that lets him spend more time doing what he loves to do.

If you would like to download Mat’s free ebook or speak to him directly about starting a franchise please click HERE

Dan: Hi and welcome to I think you’re going to really enjoy this segment today mainly because I think that a lot of us can relate to my next guest, a life experience. He started out with a lot of success as a young man. That turned into adversity which he then used as a catalyst to then grow very successful business, which he now franchises. My guest’s name is Matt Miller. He operates a company called School Spirit Vending. With that, I’d like to introduce Matt. Matt, welcome to the show.
Matt: Hey, Dan. Thanks for having me on.
Dan: I think it’s going to be an interesting segment because I think, as I mentioned in the intro, there’s a lot of people that can relate to your experience. We’re going to be talking about School Spirit Vending in-depth but before we do, do me a favor and get me a little bit of background about how you got to where you are.
Matt: I grew up in the Chicago area. I ended up going to college at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Got out of the service back in 1998, decided that I wanted to do some things in a corporate space. I thought I could make some more money and have some more control over my life. We made that transition and spent about a year and a half in the hospital medical world, then about a decade in the ad sales world as an ad executive. Along the way, just got fed up with the fact that I was never really in control that decisions were being made above my pay grade that directly impacted my family and most of the time the rules were changing and they were never in my favor. I finally got to the point financially where we were in a deep, deep hole and I needed to do something to get out of it and so started doing some stuff on the side.
First, anything I could do just to help keep food on the table and a roof over my family of five’s head, I collected aluminum cans for awhile. I sold used books online for several years. The challenge with all that stuff was I had read the book Rich Dad Poor Dad that I’m sure many in the audience have read. If you haven’t, by the way, I encourage you once you’re done with this interview to download it or to go to the local bookstore and get it because it is a book that will completely change your life like it did mine. I bought into Kiyosaki’s whole thought process of passive income and making money while you sleep. I started trying to figure out how to make that happen with no money in my pocket. He did most of what he did through real estate. I couldn’t even afford to buy my own house, let alone have rental properties.
I had a good buddy of mine at church one Sunday who mentioned the fact that he and his daughters had a couple of gumball machines and that conversation gave me hope I guess and I realized that maybe I can start a whole gumball business. Wouldn’t cost a whole lot to get going. The machines do the selling themselves. It’s a quarter at a time but the margins and gumballs are extremely high.
Anyway, I did some research, read up on vending for about a month, and then found my first used candy and gum ball machine on eBay for about $36. Between that, the ebooks and the stuff I needed and the candy and gum balls for the machine cost me about $100 to get the business started and set up a machine after going door-to-door for a couple of days at a local karate studio and waited to see what would happen. Two weeks later came back, normal service time for a machine like that is, I don’t know, 6 to 8 weeks because the capacity of such that you don’t need to go back more frequently than that. After 2 weeks, I was really, really anxious to see what was going to come of this whole thing.
I’ll never forget. I went by the studio on a Thursday night. The place was packed with kids in karate classes. Put the key in [that 00:04:41] machine, opened it up, and literally quarteres fell out all over the floor. I was like, “Wow, this is it. I’ve finally figured it out.” I took the money from that machine. I bought another one and, slowly but surely over the span of several years, built up a business on the side that I was working outside of my advertising career on nights and weekends.
By the time the recession of ’07 and ’08 hit, I had about 125 locations around Houston at that point in time. Then the recession hit. The revenue numbers went down and I was frustrated because I wasn’t making as much as I had been on a per location basis. Right around that time, I had a couple of young kids come knocking on my door selling stuff for the local school fundraisers and I kind of put two and two together, thought, “Well, hey, schools are where they all the kids are. And, man, with what we’re doing in vending, maybe we can get some kids off the street.” I came up with this idea of custom stickers with mascots and school colors and all that and then setting up a sticker vending machine in the school.
I had a buddy who was an elementary PE teacher, was able to get me a machine in his school to try this thing out and after a couple months we realized we were onto something. That first machine was placed actually the end of October of ’07, so right around 9 years ago today was when we set up that very first test school. Fast-forward to today, we’re in several thousand schools. We’re a franchise today. We’ve got about 76 different families that we work with across the country, serving those several thousands schools and are absolutely growing like weed right now.
Dan: That’s amazing, I’ve listened to another one of your podcast in which you labeled this hassle-free, year-round fundraising. Is that right?
Matt: Yes, sir. We do all the work. The schools just have to cash a check so it ends up being a win-win all around. The schools don’t need any volunteers or that type of thing and the money just continues to come in each month from the work that our franchise team does on their behalf.
Dan: As a as a parent and grandparent, knowing that I’m always hit up by the schools for donations, that’s got to be very attractive.
Matt: Yeah. We found that it’s really a no-brainer within a lot of the schools. Some educators on occasion don’t see the tie between stickers and education. I get that, many of them come around later after all of their peers in the area are working with us and their peers end up convincing them otherwise. We found a niche where there’s a real need and have really been able to do a lot of good over the last 9 years. To date, we’ve raised about four million dollars for schools during that 9-year period of time, $0.50 at a time.
Dan: You mentioned that you basically do this across the country through franchisees.
Matt: Correct.
Dan: Give me an idea of what your typical franchisee profile would look like. Is there there a specific type of person who is well-suited for this?
Matt: They’ve got to have at least a little bit of time during the school day, at least a couple days a week to make this happen. Otherwise, just somebody who loves to work with people and is willing to get out and get to know people and work in and out of the local schools in their area. Other than that, Dan, we’ve got folks in age group from 18, brand-new adults, to folks in their late 60s or early 70s that are doing this. We really have a demographically across-the-board our team. We’ve got professionals that are doing this on a part-time basis, just so they can create some additional income and more security for their family. We’ve got retirees that are doing this to supplement their retirement. We’ve got folks that this is all they do today because they took time to put this thing together in a big enough way in order to be able to completely provide for their family.
Dan: That’s amazing. Now tell me. Give me an idea of a day in the life. I mean, how much selling is involved? What’s the average franchisee do on a daily basis to manage and grow [this business 00:09:44]?
Matt: We promote and teach a multi-pronged marketing approach. There really isn’t a whole lot of “selling” involved. We share what we do. We’re dealing with school administrators, volunteer moms, front office personnel, etc. We just spent a lot of time getting to know people and share in the power of our idea. A lot of what we do today is online over email, using postcards, trade shows, a variety of different tools, not just face-to-face with people. The simplicity of our program is such that the conversation is normally very, very, very short. Most of my business that I built on top of my ad career before I walked away from that about five-and-a-half years ago was done either on the phone or email.
We’ve got tools that we’ve put together for our team as an example. We have a marketing video we use that we customize to each franchisee so they can utilize that with the schools in their area. The video literally explains the program for front-to-back, so by adding that to an email or sending a link to someone or what have you, it allows us to much more efficiently share what we’re doing. Then the schools get back to us and say, “Hey, this looks pretty good. I’ve got a couple of questions.” Then the next step is to get them started.
Dan: You’re building up on an ongoing cast of essentially a passive income. Once the machines are in place, then it’s a matter of simply going back to the schools and continuing to make sure that the machines are full and that you’re collecting the money. Is that right?
Matt: Yes, sir. Many of our operators early on are doing that themselves. We’ve got a pretty decent sized group though that has gotten to the point where they’ve decided to hire people to come in on a part-time basis to help out with a lot of that servicing and work in and out of the schools. I, myself, I’ve got 110 schools that I work in and out of and I’ve got a route driver that does that for me today. I actually haven’t been into handle the day-to-day service of those schools in about 4 years or so.
We keep doing our thing and got some really great people that help out in that regard. It gives them a part-time income with a lot of flexibility and it allows me to spend more time doing what I really need to be doing which is establishing the direction of our company, looking out 4 or 5 years in advance and making sure we’re all headed in the right direction and that we continue to innovate for our schools and provide more and more value every day for the kids that our customers.
Dan: I think that’s fantastic. This is Boomer Income Ideas and that’s both boomers and seniors. Someone was looking for a full-time income or trying to replace a full-time substantial income, some of us are just looking for a supplemental income that is a few thousand dollars a month, more than what we’re bringing in right now, to supplement our retirement income. It sounds like this type of program lends itself well to both of those types of scenarios. Is that right?
Matt: Yeah. We’ve got about a third of our team that will always do this as a supplement to some other income that they have. We’ve got about a third of the team that this is all they do and they were all you know successful professionals doing very well in their careers. This got to the point where it didn’t make sense for them to work 40, 50, 60 hours a week when they could work less than that many hours a month for the same or more money. There’s definitely the flexibility there.
My philosophy, because I came from a sales background in the ad world, I took a lot of the things that I hated about being in a sales team and we got rid of them, Dan. Then the stuff that I really liked we kept. One of the things that I hated was the fact that memories were very short. It was a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world. There was always quotas and all that kind of stuff and we don’t have any of that here. In fact, I’ve had outside experts tell me that, “You know, I’m leaving a lot of money on the table by not doing that with our team,” but here’s the thing, my goal is for this to be a blessing for all of the families that we’re working with. If I’m setting arbitrary quoted numbers for them, then it’s about me, it’s not about them.
We let them grow at whatever pace that they choose. We’ve got some that are out there absolutely tearing this thing up. We’ve got others that are taking a much more slow, steady pace. We are good with either of them because we’re willing to go out and do whatever we need to do every day to continue to provide and do what needs to be done in support of the team. That allows all of our families to put this together at their pace in an environment that is here to encourage them with a community that is supportive and is really a lot like a family with us being willing to help each other out, share best practices and those kind of things along the way.
Dan: I get that. It’s unique to have a no-pressure environment in any kind of sales environment, so that’s an attractive feature. On average, what kind of capital is involved, in getting involved if you and I know that franchise regulations limit you and what you can talk about and the specifics that you can talk about. Can you give us an idea about what kind of capital requirements someone that wanted to get into this is looking at?
Matt: Our franchise today, the start-up costs is anywhere between $17,000 and $23,000. Very, very low compared to most franchises. In fact, the average franchise in America today I read recently cost about $125,000 to get started then. We intentionally keep that low for a reason that get somebody set up. There’s a range there because we offer the ability to acquire two protected territories at the beginning or for those that want to start out smaller, just one. The cost involved, about half of that, is the franchise fee. We have a mentorship program where we put our new franchisees together with a veteran on our team and they spend 6 months coaching and mentoring and take that new franchisee through a training program, as well as actually come out to their area and help them get out and start learning how to promote this to schools locally. Then about half of that is equipment and product for the first five schools.
After that fact, it’s between $1,100 and $1,300 per school to set an individual school up. That’s the equipment, the product, the customization that we do for each school with the design and the printing of custom stickers specifically for their institution. There’s a lot that goes into it but it’s a real simple process once you get going.
Dan: Great. Give us three pros of working in your environment and three cons that someone needs to be careful of or look out for. In other words, what would three things that would indicate that this person would not be the right person to pursue this kind of opportunity.
Matt: Do you mean attributes?
Dan: I think that, right off the bat, one of the pros is that it’s your own time, it’s your own pace, you can determine how much money you really want to make, you really want to go out and hit it. Do you want to just go out at it slowly and either one is fine. I think that’s one of the pros of working with you. What are a couple of other strong pros of working with you and your franchise?
Matt: The first one would be just a passive nature of what we do. Our schools only need to see us every 4 to 5 weeks. You get a school setup, you get the machine up and running, and then you do whatever you want for the next 4 or 5 weeks. It allows a lot of flexibility of time, the ability if you’re a retiree, to continue to do some of the traveling and some of the other things with family or friends or whatever that you might want to do. Money keeps coming in.
You and I are talking here right now, Dan, and I have machines all over Texas and Oklahoma where kids are putting quarters in them right now. I’m actually in Virginia right now spending a few days with my oldest daughter who’s a freshman at Liberty University. Number one, the passive nature of what we do for sure. Number two, like you talked about, the flexibility of schedule, the fact that you can fit into the cracks of your life, whether this is all that you do or whether you’re doing something else and this is just something that you do in addition to that. I would say that the number three thing is just the ability to give back to schools in your area.
On the negative side, it is a business that requires some time to put things together. You can’t just flip a switch and have 20 schools. It takes a little bit of ramp up time. I don’t encourage people unless they have like a pension or another income stream, in most cases, to just jump in and expect to live off of this immediately because it takes a little bit of time. You don’t want to pressure it to begin with especially if you’re in a new area that is never heard of us before. I would say that’s the number one thing. This is more of a long-term play. Long term meaning 2, 3 years, not the next 6 months. I would say that’s the first one.
The second one is the fact that you’ve got to be willing and able to get out and work and deal with people and accommodate them in their schedules. This does occur during the school day so you got to be available at least a few days a month to be in the schools while school is in session. Let’s see, number three, just the fact that there is a capital outlay on the front end that there’s some people that that’s just it’s not a possibility. It’s not a lot of money in the whole scheme of business but for many people that is an obstacle. We’ve intentionally kept the costs down as low as we possibly can but there are costs of operating a franchise like we do. We do have to still charge some of those costs in order to continue to do what we do for our team.
Dan: That’s great. I think this has been a great interview. I really appreciate your time. We’re going to put links to your website and your phone number and so forth in our notes section so that our viewers have an opportunity to get to directly with you and talk to you about the opportunity. I want to, again, thank you for being on the show.
Matt: Dan, if you wouldn’t mind, I’d love to give anybody in your audience that’s interested a free ebook that I wrote.
Dan: Sure.
Matt: It’s called Live Your Dreams: The Top 10 Reasons Why You Need to Own a Vending Business. We set up a landing page just for your audience. They can go to and they can download that for free. Hopefully, that’ll get the juices flowing and get them thinking a little bit about vending as a means of making some additional income whether it’s just a franchise with us or just starting out with gumball machines like I did in the early days. Then if anybody wants to begin a dialogue to talk more in depth about what we do and to take a look into our franchise, I’d love to chat with them.
Dan: Fantastic. Again, know I appreciate it and I appreciate your time.
Matt: Yeah, Dan. Thank you. God bless you.
Dan: Thanks for joining us on this episode. I hope that you found it informative. Please check out the notes section for more links and relevant information. If you like what you’ve seen, please make sure that you like us on Facebook and also subscribe so that you’re up-to-date on a weekly basis of what we’re doing. Thanks again. Hope to see you next week.


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