Prior to the widespread COVID-19 shutdowns, the vending machine industry in the U.S. reached $8 billion, and global vending machine revenue topped $23 billion.
The vending machine industry took a hit during the beginning of the pandemic but is expected to rebound fully and even continue its pattern of growth now that more people are back to work and traveling more often.
Jasmin Smith is the CEO of Anchorage, Alaska based Baby Vend, a network of vending machines equipped with baby supplies. We caught up with her to find out more about her business.
What inspired you to start your business?
I have always been involved in entrepreneurship and owned businesses in Alaska from business development consulting to coworking spaces and incubators but BabyVend LLC is truly special.
I found myself stuck in a mall with my twins who were babies at the time and I really needed a diaper because I didn’t pack as many as I thought.
I ran all over the mall looking for help to no avail and it was at that moment I thought I gotta do something about this. Not just something, but something unique. So, I did extensive market research to see how I could make a product that served traveling families.
Tell us about being Black in Alaska.
Black Alaska is small and unique. People often forget and sometimes can’t believe we are here but there are many (like myself) who grew up here!
We have an extensive history and deep roots in Alaska to include business owners, elected officials, military, community activists, and more. We celebrate Black community milestones like Juneteenth and Black History Month, Kwanzaa and we also are n solidarity with movements like Black Lives Matter and had our own civil rights moments here.
We have organizations like the NAACP and Black Chamber of Commerce and Alaska Black Business Directory & Expo and many other organizations and we literally have Black community members from all walks of the diaspora. For folks who are new to Alaska, it can be hard to adjust but once you get acquainted with the community I think many see we have a lot to offer.
Being Black in Alaska is not for the faint of heart but we have a community committed to making sure we are seen and heard and empowered.
Based on research and feedback, what type of locations are these vending machines most in demand?
Definitely airports, trains, hotels, amusement parks, and anywhere else you may want to visit and don’t have quick access to leave if you find yourself without something.
What can we expect from BabyVend in the new future?
We recently launched new machines that take technology to a whole new level. We expanded to more locations and are currently in 8 states with 2 more on the way and aspirations to be in 15 by the end of 2021.
We finalized our supply kit division for locations that cannot accommodate a full vending machine. We also launched our own shipping and receiving department to get our machines placed faster.
In addition to that, we are in the process of holding a huge nationwide custom vending conference to help other people launch their own companies to include getting one of our machines.
How can we support you now and going forward?
By investing and supporting our campaign, most importantly. We are one of the largest Black owned custom vending companies in the country and the financial support will allow us to grow, hire new key departments and finalize some much needed research and development
Lastly, if you know of any airlines, Amtrak, or other transit locations that would be interested in various sized machines and products kits, contact us!