- Steve Slagle, 42, bought two ice vending machines in 2021 after noticing a shortage in his local market.
- Slagle, who lives in Florida, made more than $30,000 in revenue in his first year.
- He explained how he financed the machines and why it was important to find a captive market.
This essay is based on an interview with Steve Slagle, a 42-year-old entrepreneur from Panama City Beach, Florida, about ice vending machines. It has been edited for length and clarity. Insider checked the revenue.
I bought two ice vending machines and started selling ice and water in February 2022 as a second source of income. By October, the machines brought in $33,000 in revenue.
I saw the demand for ice after working in hospitality and restaurants for almost a decade. In 2016, I purchased a small restaurant and beach bar in Panama City Beach, Florida.
Beaches would often stop and ask if we sell ice. We started packing ice and selling it.
I sold the restaurant in 2019, but the demand for ice remained with me
After selling the restaurant, I opened a small construction company. The company was successful, but I couldn’t shake the idea of selling ice.
I no longer had a storefront in Panama Beach City, Florida, where I live, so I started researching ice vending machines.
I studied the companies that made these machines, the products that existed, where the ice machine entrepreneurs put their machines and how people serviced them.
I noticed a gap in serving what I call the vacation market in my area. Aside from large grocery stores or convenience stores, there wasn’t much ice cream in Panama City Beach. Noticing that gap convinced me to continue the side hustle.
After four months of researching ice sales on Google, I found an ice maker that I wanted to buy in October 2021.
I requested a phone call with the company to discuss my investment
I had six calls with the ice machine company before I made the purchase. I knew from my experience with the ice machines at my old restaurant that they could have maintenance issues.
Three weeks after contacting Everest, the ice machine company, I purchased two machines in November 2021.
First, you sign a contract of intent to purchase. The two ice makers I bought cost $50,000 each because they are Everest’s largest ice-making models.
Then you pay 50% of the price of the machine as a down payment. The company then begins production of the machine. You can finance the other 50% through Leaf Financial, a company with which Everest cooperates; conditions vary depending on the individual’s creditworthiness and risk.
I paid a total of $50,000 from the savings I had in the construction business up front as a down payment for the two machines. So far I have managed to pay back 50% of my loan. The machines should be fully paid off by August.
The machines were ready by February 2022, and we agreed on shipping dates and locations. By early March, they were installed in two large condominium complexes in Panama City Beach.
I built a relationship with the management of the complex, because I did some construction work for them.
We put our machines in these complexes because they are booked on Airbnb and Vrbo. The complexes offer a captive customer base of thousands of people every week who are often on vacation and going to the beach.
Almost all of my vending machine management can be done remotely
The machines sell exactly the amount of ice or water that the customer buys. Customers can pick it up in our bags or in their cooler.
I quickly saw a return on my investment. After about two months, the ice machines generated enough revenue to cover costs and show a bottom line.
At first, the profit was a few hundred dollars, but it increased as the business became more popular. Now the machines generate a monthly profit of $2,000 to $3,000.
Most people pay with cash instead of a credit card. Summer is our peak season as an offshore business in Florida. The machines brought in between $3,000 and $5,000 a month in revenue during those months. We collect money three times a week.
The machines have technology that allows me to control them remotely. I can see how much cash is in each device and if I need to come get it. Fortunately, there have been no unforeseen expenses so far.
I can log into my computer and see sales for the day, if there are any maintenance issues, and if I need to add bags.
One of our machines works a little better than the other because it is in a larger apartment complex.
Ice machines are a side hustle that I can easily manage
When I create my weekly schedule, I plan time to operate the ice machines. I spend two hours a week on maintenance and cleaning of machines.
I live 15 minutes from the machines, but I might call a friend over to check them out if I’m on vacation and see something from afar that needs fixing.
I still have my construction company and it’s my primary income, but the ice machines are a recession-proof side hustle. People will travel to Florida beaches and always want ice.
I am thinking of buying two or even four more machines, as I have received calls from several apartment complexes asking me to put our machines there.