PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – When looking at a vending machine, you can usually see gum or candy, but a vending machine business in Portland is adding unusual items to the mix.
The Venderia is a collection of vending machines that sell local art, mystery bags and other funky items. You can find 15 of these vending machines in the Portland area at various bars and vintage shops.
Taylor Valdes, the owner of the business, said her machines average $550 a month with her best machine bringing in $1,500.
“I have some that have cash and credit card,” said Valdes. “The ones that have cash only make a lot less money than the ones that accept more form of payment. So, it really depends on how old the machine is in addition to how busy the location is.”
Valdes first started her business in June 2013. Within one month, the first machine more than paid off the initial investment, she said.
The name of the business also carries some significance for Valdes.
“I’m Cuban American, and I wanted a name that had my initials,” she recalled. “When I first started, I had a lot more Latin American products in the machine. … As I’ve grown and added more locations, I can’t fill it with knickknacks from Costa Rica because I don’t go home often enough to.”
Valdes remembers struggling with the packaging to hit certain items into a vending machine and losing inventory at the beginning due to unsecured items.
The Portland resident now offers a guide to teach people how to package certain items, how to pitch to locations and any other issues a vending machine business owner needs to know. She created the guide in March 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S.
“It was a blessing in disguise because I had time to compile all of my knowledge, all of the questions I’ve been asked over the years, and I made an online course,” explained Valdes.
The pandemic also forced the entrepreneur to think outside of the box – literally. Valdes’ vending machines located at multiple bars were no longer getting the same attention.
“I pivoted to yard parties, where people could hire me to hide strange things in their yard, which was my excess inventory that couldn’t go in the vending machines,” she said.
Despite no longer holding scavenger yard parties, Valdes remembers the idea being a big success.
The Portland business owner is also moving on to bigger projects, such as collaborating with the Portland Trail Blazers on a custom vending machine.
“I’m curious to see what they want to put in it. We’ve talked about so many ideas and still – this is new for me because it’s not 100% my machine,” Valdes said.
The machine will feature Blazers gear and other merchandise and will be available at the Moda Center on Oct. 20.
Editor’s Note: Taylor Valdes’ last name was spelled incorrectly in the original copy. It has now been updated with the correct spelling.