Michael Smith spent years in the insurance industry before launching Savvy Vending (savvyvending.com) with fiancée Dawn Jackson in 2016. Based in Duluth, the growing business now offers coffee and water service in addition to its high-tech vending machines. Georgia Entertainment News recently caught up with Smith for this conversation.
Georgia Entertainment News: How’d you get started in the vending machine business?
Michael Smith: Our kids were getting older and time was freed up for Dawn. We also were looking for another business that would create predictable, recurring revenue. We researched many industries and franchises and came upon healthy vending. We are confident tomorrow’s consumers will be more responsible with their diet than today’s consumers, so we thought this could be a nice service for schools, businesses, etc.
GEN: Are you still involved in the insurance industry?
MS: Yes. I’m president of TFP Brokerage, a life brokerage general agency. We help insurance brokers place life insurance on their clients utilizing our 20 carriers. We specialize in the “hard to place” risks.
GEN: Give me an example of a “hard to place” risk.
MS: That would be someone who has serious health issues, making it difficult for them to buy life insurance. In 2014, I wrote a guide to life insurance called “Tread Lightly.” Anyone who is interested can find it on Amazon.
GEN: Are you a native Georgian?
MS: I moved here from Virginia in 2003.
GEN: What brought you here?
MS: I bought the John Hancock General Agency from the retiring general agent and merged that agency into our existing agency.
GEN: Is there anything unique about your vending machines?
MS: We deploy AirVend devices on all of our machines. This device remotely monitors the machine stock and gives alerts when certain fill levels are exceeded. It discloses the nutrition label and ingredients on all products stocked in the machine. It also provides a web-based coupon code reimbursement program for any failed vends or expired products. We call it, “healthier vending with superior technology.”
GEN: How many machines do you have?
MS: We currently own and operate 25 vending machines throughout greater Atlanta.
GEN: What’s the most interesting location you serve?
MS: Crane Worldwide Logistics. They will tell you we made their break room marvelous with top-of-the-line Starbucks beverages including cold-brewed ice coffee. We provide them with purified water and ice in a couple of locations, as well as healthier vending choices.
GEN: Why did you add coffee and water services?
MS: It was natural. Coffee and water purification amenities are often offered in the break room. We didn’t just add those amenities – we added the top of line in each. Waterlogic enjoys almost 50% market share in the U.S. and Canada, and the Starbucks Serenade machine is the best coffee experience you can have on site.
GEN: And I understand you don’t need a handful of quarters to use the vending machines.
MS: We accept coins, bills, credit and debit cards, and mobile pay such as Apple Pay and Google Pay. We can also set up credit card readers for our Starbucks single serve machines.
GEN: How do your coffee and water services help the environment?
MS: Our water machines tap straight into a water source, so there are no plastic bottles or jugs. Waterlogic is the only water machine manufacturer that uses filter cartridges that have the filter component replaced – not the entire filter. Starbucks cups, lids and sleeves are all biodegradable and we deliver the beans in 40-ounce, recyclable containers – once again virtually eliminating the use of plastic.
GEN: What kinds of opportunities does the entertainment industry present for your business?
MS: We can install our Starbucks coffee machine and Waterlogic water purifiers right on the sets, so all actors, actresses and staff can enjoy 100% purified water and Starbucks coffee using 100% purified water. These two services will offer participants the best quality available, right on site.
GEN: Who else is involved in the business with you?
MS: Our office manager, Merdie Walters, has been part of my team for 25 years. We took on a partner last year – Rick and Nicole Walters – so now it is both of our families running and operating Savvy Vending. We divide and conquer responsibilities but provide top self-service in all three lines of business.
GEN: What’s the best part of your job?
MS: Networking and promoting our company and the high-quality products and service that we provide. Our customers are very happy, so we enjoy visiting them.
For more information visit savvyvending.com or call 678.313.2346